With the shortened regular season reaching its mid-point this week, every remaining game takes on an even greater importance. Several teams will be making their league debuts this week, including #3 Kit Carson, and fellow unbeaten Peetz. PHOTO BY BOB SCHECTER
Before getting into this week’s action, an update on a key injury from last week is warranted. During the first quarter of #2 Stratton/Liberty’s 66-27 victory over #7 Eads, standout running back/linebacker Jaret Lichty suffered a left arm injury that required a trip to the ER. It was determined that he had a broken elbow that was repaired on Monday. The procedure included a partial joint replacement, removal of five bone fragments, and the repair of two ligaments. According to Lichty’s family, the doctor is optimistic that he will make a full recovery. We send our best wishes to a young man who is not only a great athlete, but a even better person.
This week’s schedule includes a pair of top-5 match-ups, between 2-0 teams. The first takes place on Friday in the North division, where fifth-ranked Prairie hosts #1 Fleming. For the Mustangs, it will be their second game this week, as their week two game with Briggsdale was played on Monday. The Mustangs trailed 20-8 at halftime, and had to score on fourth down in the final minute to claim a 35-32 victory over their rivals.
Junior quarterback Andy Long led the comeback, tossing all three of his touchdown passes in the fourth quarter, including the game winner to David Speicher with 38 seconds remaining. His other two scoring passes went to Isaac Doll. Arek Wulf added two TDs on the ground, the first covering 70 yards to open the scoring.
Fleming picked up a league win of its own last Saturday, as the Wildcats defeated North Park 56-6. That game saw the first quarter end with a 14-6 Fleming advantage. The Wildcats would capitalize on five takeaways, as Chris Goss and Joel Muller each registered a pair of fumble recoveries, and Muller also added a pick-six. Special teams also got involved in the scoring, as Brady Kuntz recorded his ninth career kick return for a touchdown, putting him alone in second place, just one back of the all-time record.
After dropping two straight to the Mustangs, Fleming responded to take two wins last season, outscoring Prairie 126-26. That includes a 66-6 victory in the quarterfinals. Cade Comstock threw three touchdowns for Fleming, who also got two rushing scores from Charles Hobbs, one from Nolan Japp, and a defensive score from Kuntz. Wulf provided the only scoring for Prairie. Overall, Fleming has won 11 of the last 14 meetings.
The week’s other clash of unbeatens takes place on Saturday afternoon, when fifth-ranked Kit Carson opens East division play at rival Cheyenne Wells. The fourth-ranked Tigers picked up a 66-38 win over #9 Hi-Plains on the road last Saturday, with Evan Worley provided six touchdowns to the cause. The junior ran for just over 200 yards and scored five TDs, plus he scored on a five-yard fumble recovery on the final play of the first half. That was one of three non-offensive scores for the Tigers in the contest, with Blake Gilmore recording the other two. Gilmore returned a kick-off for a touchdown early in the first quarter for one of those scores, and then picked up a lateral in the second half and returned it 65 yards for another TD. The Tigers are without the services of Cade Mitchek, who had offseason surgery to repair a shoulder injury that occurred in last year’s playoffs.
Kit Carson spent the first two weeks of the season in non-league contests, posting a pair of lopsided wins over Miami-Yoder (56-18) and Kiowa (40-6). The Wildcats got a strong effort from junior QB Brett Mayhan in the win over Kiowa, as he threw for four first half touchdowns and finished the night with nearly 200 yards. Two of the scoring tosses went to Sullivan Farmer, who also ran for a TD.
Kit Carson has won each of the last two meetings with Cheyenne Wells, including a wild 51-43 shootout last year. The Wildcats led that one 31-8 at the half. It came down to an onside kick with eight seconds remaining. The Tigers had won the two prior match-ups, but Kit Carson owns a 5-2 edge since the series began in 2014.
Saturday also sees a first place showdown in the Southwest, as preseason favorite Cotopaxi visits Sierra Grande (game to be played at Sangre de Cristo HS). Both teams are 1-1 on the year, with Cotopaxi having played a pair of non-league contests. The Pirates held off Manzanola 44-34 in week one, but was unable to find success against #8 Cheraw last week. Cotopaxi dropped that game by a 46-0 count, as the defense allowed four touchdowns through the air.
Sierra Grande grabbed an early share of the league lead by blasting La Veta 62-0 last week. A.J. Ojeda ran for one TD and added two more as a passer, and Isiah Chairez scored four total touchdowns for the Panthers. Richie Atencio spurred the defensive effort, recording nine tackles (two sacks), and a scoop-and-score.
Cotopaxi has had the upper hand in the series, winning six straight. That includes each of the last four years (teams did not play 2010-2015). The Pirates intercepted Ojeda twice last year, and limited the Panther offense to just 19 rushing yards in a 48-14 victory. Ty Coleman threw four touchdown passes in that win.
The weekend slate has a pair of big games inside the Southeast division, with Cheraw visiting Walsh on Friday night and Granada traveling to Branson/Kim on Saturday. Walsh leaned on its defense last Saturday, until the offense got going in the fourth quarter against Branson/Kim. The Eagles, down 12-0 heading into the final frame, got a pair of touchdowns with two-point kicks to grab a 16-12 league win. Freshman Leyton Jones played a role in both scores, as he ran for one and threw for the other. Senior Saul Carrillo supplied both PAT kicks, which proved to be the difference in the contest.
Through two non-league games, Cheraw has yet to yield a point. The Wolverines have outscored their opponents 105-0, with the defense recording six takeaways in those games. That unit has also recorded two safeties. Tatum White leads Cheraw with 22 tackles this season, with Trey Pearce right on his heels with 19. Offensively, Pearce has turned half of his team-high eight receptions into touchdowns. Cade Phillips has more TD passes (6) than incompletions (4). Braeden Harris has rushed for six of the Wolverines’ eight touchdowns on the ground. Walsh has had Cheraw’s number, winning five of six meetings, including the last four. The winner will own at least a share of the league lead.
Sixth-ranked Granada can keeps its share of the lead if the Bobcats can keep things rolling against Branson/Kim. The Bobcats backed up a 58-13 week one victory over La Veta by hammering Manzanola 74-13 last week. Granada only led 16-13 at the end of the first quarter, and then exploded for 58 unanswered points Dominic Coleman and Brandon Gonzales each threw three TD passes, while Ivan Yanez and Lupe Martinez each were on the receiving end of two strikes. The Bobcat defense, which held Manzanola to just 28 rushing yards, forced four turnovers.
Branson/Kim’s defense has been stout through the first two weeks, allowing a total of 35 points. The Bearcats have been stingy against the run, allowing an average of 63.5 yards a contest, but they have struggled at times on offense. Branson/Kim has scored six touchdowns so far, all on the ground. Sophomores Joe Autry and Peyton Cranson have each accounted for two. Cranson is the team’s leading rusher with 130 yards on the campaign.
Heading back to Friday, Peetz finally gets to face a fellow North division opponent, as the Bulldogs opened the season with non-league wins over Weldon Valley and Flagler. They will host #10 Briggsdale, who is coming in off that loss to Prairie on Monday. Peetz has been without the services of QB Sterling Sorensen, so Aiden Curtis has been asked to handle a bit more of the offensive load. The senior has rushed for 174 yards and two scores, and also thrown for 165 yards and four more touchdowns. Add team-leading totals of two interceptions and two fumble recoveries, and a kick return for a touchdown, and the senior has been the team’s Swiss Army Knife. Freshman QB Chance Segelke has made the most of his playing time, completing 10 of 12 passes for 160 yards and three TDs.
Briggsdale will have to shake off the disappointment of that late loss on Monday, but the Falcons have an explosive offense led by juniors Malik Carlson and Braden Krise. Krise threw for 228 yards and three TDs in the game against Prairie, and Carlson tallied more than 160 yards from scrimmage as a passer, runner, and receiver. Briggsdale scored 55 points in week one, and is averaging 76.5 points in the last two games against Peetz. The Falcons are 1-1 in those games, taking a 67-28 decision last year, after dropping the 2018 meeting 101-85. Overall, Peetz has won 12 of the last 17 match-ups.
Other key contests on Friday include 1-1 Eads visiting 1-1 Idalia in a non-league game that came about after both teams had their scheduled game canceled. Eads got 241 rushing yards from Damien Barnes, and another 158 passing yards from the talented senior, in the loss to Stratton/Liberty. The Eagles were slated to host Hi-Plains on Friday, but the Patriots are dealing with COVID issues within the school district. Idalia earned a hard-fought 31-27 win over Arickaree/Woodlin last week, with Yahir Enriquez running for 169 yards and three scores. Idalia was originally scheduled to host Flagler, who only had five players available this week after having one go down with an injury.