8MAN FOOTBALL CONFERENCE RUNDOWN

Most of the playoff field has been set, with only a few spots truly up for grabs this week. Three of those spots will be locked in as champions will be crowned in the Northwest, Southwest and Southeast divisions.

 

CENTRAL

Rocky Mountain Lutheran (6-2, 10th RPI) has already sewn up the division title, thanks to a win over South Park (5-3, 14th RPI) in week five. Even if the Eagles lose to Justice (4-3, 23rd RPI) on Saturday, they would be tied for the division lead and have the tiebreaker over South Park. As for the second place Burros, their position in the final field looks good, but there are scenarios that could knock them out.

If they were to lose to Miami-Yoder (1-7, 38th RPI), the Burros would definitely slide in the final RPI standings. Even with a win over the Bruins, South Park could still have some issues. Three teams below them face teams higher in the standings and all would gain significant points with upset victories. Also, a potential division winner currently sits outside of the top 16. Should that team win its division and still finish outside of the final 16, they would bump the team in the 16th spot.

Pikes Peak Christian (4-4, 21st RPI) and Justice are tied for third in the division. The Phoenix could boost their postseason chances with an upset of Rocky Mountain Lutheran, but they would also need a lot of help. Pikes Peak Christian looks to be out of the final field, as they finish the regular season against Belleview Christian (1-4, 30th RPI).

 

NORTHWEST

Two top-five RPI teams will meet in Kremmling on Friday night to decide the Northwest Division. Sixth-ranked Gilpin County (7-1, 5th RPI) will visit #2 West Grand (8-0, 3rd RPI) with the winner being guaranteed a home game in the first round.

West Grand is fourth in scoring offense with 344 points, a total that would be considerably higher if the Mustangs had not received a forfeit victory over Nederland (0-6, 35th RPI). The 14 points they have allowed is by far the fewest in the classification. The Mustangs have posted four straight shutouts and are only a late safety against Pikes Peak Christian away from making it five consecutive goose eggs. Josh O’Hotto leads that unit with 75 tackles, averaging 12.5 per contest. Marcos Ramirez has a team-high seven sacks, and Hugh Wheatley leads with five interceptions.

Gilpin County found itself in a closer than expected contest at Rangely (1-7, 27th RPI) last Friday. The Eagles trailed 28-24 at the half, but put two third quarter touchdowns on the board and held on for a 36-28 victory over the Panthers. Austin Boulter struggled throwing the ball, but was a beast on the ground. His 347 yards and four touchdowns boost his season totals to 1777 yards and 23 TDs. Gilpin County is just 1-4 against West Grand. The Mustangs won last year’s meeting 46-0.

Third place Soroco (5-3, 13th RPI) looks to be safely in the field, but the Rams have a huge game with Hayden (5-3, 18th RPI) on tap. The winner of the rivalry game finishes alone in third in the division. A win by the Tigers could push them close to the final spot in the field, depending on what happens immediately ahead of them. The Rams nail down their place in the postseason with a victory. Soroco has won four straight over Hayden, including a 56-28 decision last year. Jace Logan, who has rushed for 2117 yards this season, ran for 312 in that victory over the Tigers.

 

PLAINS

Top-ranked Sedgwick County (8-0, 1st RPI) would likely lock up the top overall seed for the playoffs with a win over Dayspring Christian (4-4, 16th RPI) on Friday. It would be their third straight year as the #1 seed. The Cougars have won 34 of their last 35 games and have not lost a divisional game since 2014.

Dayspring Christian has lost four of its last five games this year, including a 14-12 loss at Merino (7-1, 2nd RPI) last week. The Eagles scored a touchdown in the fourth quarter, but could not convert the two-point PAT and the Rams held on for the narrow victory. Holding down the final spot in the field entering this week, the Eagles almost certainly need a win to reach the postseason. Four teams behind them are close enough to knock them out. One of those teams is Caliche (3-5, 17th RPI), who owns a win over the Eagles this season.

The Buffs host Akron (3-5, 22nd RPI) on Friday, looking to end a two-game skid overall and a two-game losing streak against the Rams. Adam Zink, whose 1841 rushing yards is almost 1500 more than any other Caliche player, was held to a season-low 151 in the 40-8 loss to Sedgwick County last week.

Akron snapped a three-game losing streak with a 36-34 win over #9 Haxtun (6-2, 9th RPI) behind a career-high 261 rushing yards from Derrick Poss. The junior scored three touchdowns and lead the Rams with 18 tackles.

Haxtun not only looks to rebound from its second loss in three weeks, but the Fightin’ Bulldogs can claim second place in the division with a win over Merino. Haxtun has the home field advantage in the clash against the Rams, who have won four straight in the series and 13 of the last 16. While a Haxtun win would likely give the Fightin’ Bulldogs a first round home game, Merino could secure a top-three seed with a victory.

 

SOUTHEAST

Springfield (5-3, 19th RPI) heads into the final regular season game leading the Southeast Division, but the Longhorns don’t currently hold a playoff spot. They can lock one up with a win over McClave (6-2, 11th RPI) on Friday. The Longhorns put themselves in position to earn the division crown with a 32-26 overtime victory over #5 Holly (6-1, 7th RPI) three weeks ago. Both Holly and McClave seem to be locks for the postseason, but this game has a lot of bearing on their seeding.

If Springfield wins and still finishes outside of the top 16, they would bump whoever finishes in that final spot. However, the Longhorns would not get a guaranteed home game in the first round. They could be the last division winner off the board, forcing both Holly and McClave down the board, giving them tough road games in the opening round.

Things get messier if the Cardinals win on Friday. That would create a three-way tie for the division title. In that case, Holly would likely be the highest seeded team from the Southeast, while Springfield could be left out of the equation.

 

SOUTHERN

Fourth-ranked Hoehne (7-1, 4th RPI) has locked up the Southern Division title and can secure a top-five seed for the playoffs with a win over Swink (3-5, 26th RPI) on Friday. The Farmers have won five straight since a loss to Holly, and they’ve claimed wins in 10 of the last 11 meetings with the Lions. Swink has not defeated Hoehne since 2009.

Seventh-ranked Fowler (7-1, 7th RPI) is in the mix for a first round home game. The Grizzlies visit Kiowa (2-6, 32nd RPI) on Friday night needing a win to maintain sole possession of second place in the division. They have won two straight since suffering a heartbreaking 34-28 loss to Hoehne in overtime, and are 2-1 against Kiowa.

 

SOUTHWEST

The Southwest Division comes down to a fight between #8 Mancos (7-1, 6th RPI) and #10 Sargent (5-3, 15th RPI). Sargent is one of those teams in danger of falling out of the playoffs with a loss, as the margin from 12th to 18th is just .026. The Farmers have won five consecutive games, but the last one was tougher than many expected. Sargent was tied with Sanford (1-7, 29th RPI) midway through the fourth quarter before taking a 26-20 lead with five minutes to play. The defense came up with a red zone interception in the final minute to seal the victory over the Indians.

Mancos had no such drama in its game against Dove Creek (2-7, 34th RPI) last week. The Bluejays posted their second straight shutout, blanking the Bulldogs 54-0. That was the fourth time this season that the Bluejays’ defense held an opponent scoreless. They have not lost to an in-state foe this year, and if they keep that streak alive this week, someone will be making a long trek to the southwest corner of the state to open the playoffs.

Norwood (6-2, 12th RPI), who will finish third in the division, has already received a forfeit this week from Dove Creek. The Mavericks appear to be safely in the final field.

 

 


Kerry Sherman

Kerry Sherman

Kerry Sherman is a lifelong resident of eastern Colorado. He started covering high school sports in 1991, focusing on the smaller classifications. He has also coached boys basketball at Woodlin, Otis & Weldon Valley. In his spare time, Kerry substitute teaches at area schools. He and his wife, Colleen, live on the family farm near Anton, along with their three Corgi mutts, Selene, Caesar & Helios.

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