Chalk held in the quarterfinal round, putting the top four seeds into this weekend’s semifinals. Two of the four teams are looking for their first state title in six-man, while the other two are looking to get back to the championship game for a potential rematch of last year’s epic clash. Fleming, the defending champion, is shooting for its second back-to-back reign, while Stratton/Liberty, the team they beat in 2019, is aiming for its second title in three years, and a fourth straight appearance in the big game. Cheyenne Wells, the 2016 runner-up is looking to end that run for the Knighted Eagles, and recent six-man participant, Granada, gets its shot at avenging a loss to Fleming in the regular season finale.
Both semifinal games are scheduled to kick-off at 1pm on Saturday. The winners will meet next Thursday, Dec. 3rd at CSU-Pueblo for the championship game. PHOTO BY BOB SCHECTER
#1 FLEMING WILDCATS (6-0) VS #4 GRANADA BOBCATS (6-1)
It’s a second straight cat fight for Fleming, who downed #8 Kit Carson (Wildcats) 58-14 in last week’s quarterfinal round. Fleming saw Kit Carson score first to put the hosts in an 8-0 hole. Fleming then reeled off the next 58 points to get the mercy clock rolling late in the third quarter. The Wildcats had five scoring plays of more than 40 yards in the first half, with two covering at least 70. Kolten Houser, a sophomore who lost his father on Thursday, scored the touchdown that put the running clock into play.
Three backs finished with 100 or more yards in the contest, with Chris Goss leading the way. The senior fullback went for 144 yards and two scores on just six carries. His total was aided by a 75-yard scamper. Charles Hobbs added 119 yards and two TDs on five carries, and Nolan Japp finished with 100 yards on five attempts. He had a 70-yard TD run in his tally. Those three are closely bunched on the season, with Japp having a team-high 418 yards, Hobbs checking in with 392, and Goss at 355. The trio has combined for 22 rushing scores. Goss is also one of the top receivers for QB Kade Comstock, with eight receptions for 159 yards. Brady Kuntz is tops, hauling in 10 passes for 190 yards and five touchdowns. Comstock has thrown for 457 yards and eight touchdowns.
Goss leads the defense with 71 tackles, just short of 12 a game. Kuntz is next with 55 stops, including a team-leading six sacks. He’s also returned three kick-offs for touchdowns this season, including one in the first meeting with Granada. Kenny Bandy has nailed 22 of 30 PAT kicks, and the sophomore also drilled a 32-yard field goal in the week six match-up against Granada.
The Bobcats had a much tougher quarterfinal contest, as one would expect in the 4 vs 5 contest. Granada got the early lead on a Dominic Coleman TD pass to freshman Lupe Martinez, but needed a Coleman touchdown run and Martinez kick late in the first half to take a 16-14 lead into the break. The third quarter proved pivotal as the Bobcats pushed their lead out to 38-14 in the frame. A 55-yard TD run by Eads freshman Porter Spady in the final minute of the period looked like it might allow the Eagles to seize momentum, but Coleman threw his third touchdown of the game early in the fourth to put the Bobcats up 44-22. Eads would get two more scores on the board, but Granada held on for the 44-35 victory.
The three touchdown passes pushed Coleman’s season total to 28, and he was intercepted for only the second time all year. He has 1221 yards through the air and 654 on the ground, with 11 scores. The junior finished last week’s game with 136 yards rushing. John Hainer had his fourth straight game with more than 100 yards on the ground, posting 102 on 13 carries. His 681 yards lead the team. He’s also the leading receiver, snaring 20 passes for 396 yards and six TDs. Martinez has 16 catches for 252 yards and seven scores. Despite missing the last game and a half due to an injury, Ivan Yanez still leads the squad with nine receiving touchdowns He’s expected back this week.
Bailey Hernandez pushed his season tackle total with an even 50 with eight in the win over Eads. He also secured his fourth sack and first fumble recovery of the year. Martinez (45), Coleman (43), and Hainer (43) aren’t far behind in the tackle category. Coleman has intercepted three passes and recovered three fumbles, while freshman Jonus Guevara has recorded two of each. Yanez is 31 of 44 on PAT kicks.
When the two met two weeks ago, Fleming recorded a takeaway on the opening kick, but was held to the Bandy field goal. The Wildcats would eventually go up 12-0, before Granada got things rolling. The teams would trade punches all the way to the final play. A late touchdown by the Bobcats put them up 44-41, but they could not get the point after. Fleming responded with a short run by Hobbs with under 30 seconds to play, and their PAT kick gave them a 49-44 advantage. After an incompletion on first down, Kuntz came up with a sack of Coleman to secure the victory.
Japp finished the day with 97 yards rushing to lead Fleming, while Hobbs (95) and Goss (71) not only provided balance, but both scored a pair of touchdowns. Hainer had a career day for Granada, running for 219 yards and four TDs, and also adding another touchdown as a receiver.
Fleming is 6-7 in its previous semifinal contests, while Granada is 13-4. However, all of those for the Bobcats came while playing eight-man. It’s the first time they’ve been to the semifinals since 2014.
#2 STRATTON/LIBERTY KNIGHTED EAGLES (5-0) VS #3 CHEYENNE WELLS TIGERS (6-0) AT STRATTON
This was supposed to be a regular season rematch, as the two sides were originally slated to face off in week six. It would have decided the champion of the East Division. However, COVID issues around Stratton led to school going remote, and the Knighted Eagles just returned to in-person learning in Stratton late last week.
Stratton/Liberty got off to the hottest of starts on a cold and windy day last Saturday. The Knighted Eagles spent the entire first quarter on Briggsdale’s end of the field and scored four times to lead 28-0 after one quarter. They were outscored the rest of the way, 39-30, but still cruised to the comfortable 58-39 victory. Alex Cruz topped the century mark with 108 yards on 23 carries. He scored once on the ground and again through the air. Charlie Clapper ran for three touchdowns in the first half, and freshman QB Charlie Tagtmeyer completed six of eight passes for 68 yards and two TDs.
Cruz leads the team in rushing yardage with 465, while Clapper edges him on getting to the end zone, seven touchdowns to six. Clapper has 339 yards so far. Freshman Cyler Notter has become the third back, running for 150 yards and five scores. Tagtmeyer has only thrown 22 passes, but has completed 15 for 184 yards and six touchdowns. Cruz, and Logan Breyer, each have five receptions and two TDs.
The defense, which allowed 328 yards and six touchdowns through the air last week, held the Falcons to just 21 yards in the running game. Riggin Williams had a team-high 12 tackles in the contest, giving him 31 on the year. Breyer is hot on his heels with 27 tackles, and has a team-best six sacks. Notter, and Will Witzel, each have three sacks. Braden Wedel is nearly automatic on PATs, kicking 17 of 22 this season. He was also successful on his only field goal try of the year.
Cheyenne Wells saw its opponent drive right down the field and grab and early lead last week, but by the half, the Tigers were up 20-15 on #6 Prairie. Prairie would spend the early portion of the third quarter deep in Tiger territory, but could not score. In fact, it was the Tiger defense that came up with the momentum changer. Blake Gilmore stepped in front of a pass at his own nine-yard line and outran everyone for a 71-yard pick-six. Cheyenne Wells would go on to capture the victory by a 43-22 count.
Gilmore not only found a way to contribute points on defense, but in his move to quarterback, the sophomore threw for 152 yards and two scores. Most of that went to Preston Hernandez, who shifted from QB to running back. Hernandez, who was one of the top receivers for the Tigers last year, finished the day with six catches for 143 yards and a touchdown. Evan Worley caught the other TD, and tallied 113 yards with two scores in the ground attack.
Defensively, the Tigers held Prairie to fewer than 100 yards rushing on the day. Most of that was due to the quick penetration of Dillon Ball, Wyatt Ball, Kody Ryser, and Ty Scheler. Those four were in the Prairie backfield all day, not only making plays against the run, but also putting pressure on the Mustangs in the passing game.
This will be the fourth time in the last five years that Stratton/Liberty has met Cheyenne Wells in the semifinals. The Tigers won the first match-up, 64-30, back in 2016. They finished second in the state that year. Stratton/Liberty won the next year (46-14) and also finished second. Last year, the Knighted Eagles came from behind to capture a 62-32 win. Again, they went on to finish second in the state.
The Tigers are 3-4 overall in semifinal contests, and are seeking the first state title in program history. Stratton/Liberty is 4-1 as a co-op in this round, and is aiming for the third state championship as a cooperative.