Nearing the midpoint of the regular season, the fourth week of the eight-man schedule has a pair of games with ranked opponents in the Plains highlighting the slate. Also, Sanford’s Kelton Gartrell will be looking to back up another stellar performance, and Calhan plays its first game as a ranked squad this season.
PHOTO BY RICK KREHBIEL
Starting off in the Plains, second-ranked Sedgwick County (1-1) will open league play at home against #9 Merino (1-1) on Friday. The Cougars are coming off their bye, that followed a 46-0 blanking of Hoehne (1-1) two weeks ago. Usually, the meeting with Merino is later in the regular season, but this time around, they hook up to begin the league calendar. Sedgwick County’s last loss to an in-state opponent was to the Rams in October of 2018. Merino won that contest 27-24. Three weeks later, the Cougars avenged the loss with a 32-0 victory in the semifinals.
Merino fell to #3 Mancos (2-0) 49-8 last week. The Rams trailed 14-0 after one quarter, but righted the ship a bit in the second quarter and went to the break down 22-8. Mancos put things to rest with a 21-0 fourth quarter, squelching any hopes of a Rams comeback.
Sedgwick County has won four straight match-ups with Merino, and eight of the last nine. Overall, the Rams hold the slight edge in recent history, taking 12 of the last 21 meetings.
Fifth-ranked Akron (3-0) picked up a 41-0 win over Fowler (1-1) last week at home, giving the Rams as many wins this season as the last two, combined. That contest was scoreless after one frame, and then Akron scored twice in each remaining quarter to grab the victory. Half of Ryan McCaffrey’s six completions went for touchdowns, as the senior finished with 143 passing yards. Evan Pieper hauled in three balls for 88 yards and two scores. Ivan Losa powered the ground attack with 135 yards and two touchdowns on just three carries. Defensively, Xavier Livesay recorded four sacks, giving him eight on the season. McCaffrey registered an interception and a fumble recovery, while Evan Vogt and Anderson Filla each picked off a pass.
The Rams will be traveling to #6 Dayspring Christian (2-1) on Saturday to kickoff the league schedule. Dayspring Christian bounced back from its week two loss to Sanford by beating Byers (0-3) 42-0 last week. Garrett Krehbiel struggled throwing the ball, only hitting on one of his seven attempts, but the Eagles didn’t need much through the air, as they amassed more than 300 yards on the ground. Wyatt Eichmann led the way with 105 yards and two touchdowns. The defense registered three sacks and two takeaways, as they pitched their second shutout of the year.
The Eagles have owned Akron in recent history, winning five straight and six of the last seven in the series. Akron has been held to 22 points in each of the last three games against Dayspring Christian, and has only topped 23 once in those last seven meetings.
As is the case at many schools, this is Homecoming week at Sanford (3-0), and the top-ranked Indians will be hosting Sargent (1-2) on Friday night. Sanford has won two straight in the series, outscoring the Farmers 113-0 over those two games. The Indians had their hands full with Simla (2-1), as they trailed the Cubs 44-34 entering the fourth quarter. The aforementioned Gartrell tied a national record with nine touchdowns in the come-from-behind 74-50 victory.
Sargent dropped its contest with Las Animas (1-1) last Friday at home, despite only allowing 20 points, as the Trojan defense was even more stout. Conner Holmes accounted for the lone touchdown for the Farmers in the 20-6 loss, recording a rushing score. Holmes had his best game of the season as both a passer and runner, hitting on four of five passes for 30 yards and tallying 39 yards on the ground. His 16 tackles, one off his career-high, was second to sophomore Trenton Lovelace, who established a new career-best with 20.
Fourth-ranked Haxtun (3-0) was slated to play Wiley (0-0) last weekend, but after the tragic accident earlier in the week, the Panthers had to pull out of what would have been their opener. That left Haxtun looking for a late-week replacement. They found one just up the road, as Fleming, one of the top six-man programs, was also looking to fill a slot. The neighbors agreed to play it as a straight eight-man contest, which the Fightin’ Bulldogs controlled from the beginning, scoring 32 first quarter points on their way to a 46-0 win. Owen Knode tossed a pair of TDs and Isaac Andersen added two on the ground, and Victor Knapp recovered a pair of fumbles to help preserve the shutout.
Caliche (1-2) will visit on Saturday and the Buffs enter the contest on a high after picking up a bizarre 24-18 win over Rangely in overtime last week. Down 18-16 in the fourth, Caliche tied the game on a safety and the defense provided the winning score in the OT session, forcing a fumble and then having Tanner Gerk return it the distance. Seth Marick was the offensive workhorse, gaining 239 yards on 36 carries. The Buff defense was strong against the run, holding the Panthers to 54 yards on 24 carries.
Haxtun snapped a two-game skid in the series with a 40-38 win last season, scoring 24 fourth quarter points to grab the victory. Kyle Fryrear had three rushing touchdowns for the Fightin’ Bulldogs, who have won four of the last six meetings with the Buffs. Overall, Caliche owns a slim 9-8 lead since 2004.
Seventh-ranked Dove Creek (2-0) steps up for an 11-man clash with 1A Gunnison (2-0). The Bulldogs, who will travel on Saturday, had last week off. They’re averaging 55 points a game, but might find points to be at a premium against the Cowboys, who have only allowed 19 points in their two wins. Gunnison got an important 17-7 win over Grand Valley in league play last week.
Dove Creek has four backs with more than 100 yards on the ground, with two having more than 200. Gage Buffington leads the way with 238, while Chorbin Cressler is hot on his heels with 219. They have combined for seven rushing touchdowns. Cressler has also thrown for 168 yards and two scores. Kade Hankins (156 yards) and Cole Taber (121 yards) are the other top running threats, and they’ve combined for five touchdowns.
Eighth-ranked Simla will be looking to bounce back from that heartbreaking loss to Sanford when it hosts Pike Peak Christian (1-1) to open Southern league play on Saturday. Caston Cox threw for 170 yards and two scores in that loss, and added 101 yards and a touchdown on the ground. Jonathan Zimmerman and Brayden Glover each ran for two touchdowns, and Glover added one as a receiver. The Simla defense came up with three takeaways in that contest.
Pikes Peak Christian got into the win column with last week’s hard-fought 45-26 victory over Front Range Christian (2-1). Adam Glaze ran for two touchdowns and threw for one, Adam Seffens had a team-high 90 yards on the ground with two scores, and Caleb Grant caught a TD and drilled a 33-yard field goal to aid the cause. Defensively, the Eagles had six sacks, three by Seth D’Anna.
After dropping five straight meetings to Simla, Pikes Peak Christian has won the last five. Three of those five have been defensive struggles, including a 12-6 win last year. In the series, the losing team has been shutout four times.
As mentioned in the opening, Calhan (2-0) climbed into the top-10 this week, claiming the #10 spot. The Bulldogs, who will host Rangely (0-2) on Friday, have been off since a week two win over Byers. While they don’t put the ball in the air often, Logan Jack and Aiden Jack are a combined 8-10 passing for 158 yards and three scores. Aiden is the team’s second-leading rusher with 209 yards. Logan is third at 105, while Ryan Campbell is tops with 252. The trio has combined for all nine of Calhan’s rushing scores. Aiden Jack has been a tackling machine, recording 33 tackles in two games, giving the junior 203 in his career.
Rangely will have to not only run the ball better than it did against Caliche, but the Panthers will have to stop the run to a better degree to pull off the upset this week. The defense allowed the Buffs to pile up more than 300 yards on the ground last week.
Outside of the top-10, there are several good match-ups in the Ark Valley, where Fowler visits McClave (2-0), Holly (1-1) travels to Springfield (0-2), Hoehne visits Las Animas, and Wiley gets a chance to return to a bit of normalcy, hosting Crowley County (1-1). All of those games are on Friday.
In the Southern, Swink (1-1) opens league play at home against Dolores Huerta Prep (1-1). Front Range Christian and Elbert (1-1) square off in Central division play, and Vail Christian (2-0) looks to grab an early share of the Northwest lead as the Saints host Soroco (1-1).
EIGHT MAN – TOP 10 SCHEDULE
#1 Sanford vs Sargent
#2 Sedgwick County vs #9 Merino
#3 Mancos – OFF
#4 Haxtun vs Caliche (SAT)
#5 Akron at #6 Dayspring Christian (SAT)
#7 Dove Creek at Gunnison (SAT)
#8 Simla vs Pikes Peak Christian (SAT)
#10 Calhan vs Rangely