As the regular season enters its final three weeks, there are two contests on the slate featuring ranked opponents. Both of those take place in the Plains Division, where #3 Merino visits top-ranked Sedgwick County and #10 Caliche travels to #5 Haxtun.
For Sedgwick County (6-0), it’s the second straight week where it has faced an opponent ranked third. Last week, the Cougars overcame a slow start to defeat Haxtun (5-1) 46-0. The teams were scoreless at the end of the first quarter, but Sedgwick County would go on to score 24 points in the second and 22 more in the third to get the mercy clock rolling. They held the Fightin’ Bulldogs to 183 yards of offense and came up with three takeaways.
Merino (6-0) needed a late Cade Conger interception to stay unbeaten last week, as the Rams held on for a 28-26 victory over Akron (2-4). The sophomore also scored a pair of touchdowns in the win, one passing and one rushing. Merino has won its last five games by a total of 29 points. None of those have been by more than eight. They are ranked first in the RPI, with Sedgwick County coming in a close second this week.
The Rams have lost the last three meetings with Sedgwick County, but have won nine of 13 overall against the Cougars. Last year, Sedgwick County won 42-6.
The loss to Sedgwick County last week cost Haxtun two spots in the rankings. A usually reliable passing attack struggled to find a rhythm, as the Fightin’ Bulldogs only completed five of 19 attempts for 82 yards and two interceptions. Joey Gerk hauled in three passes for 42 yards and Braden Anderson caught one for 40 yards. For the fourth time this season, Wyatt Buccelli reached double figures in tackles, leading the squad with 13, including a sack and a half.
Caliche (3-3) enters the contest having beaten Dayspring Christian (3-3) for the first time in eight tries, and for just the third time in the last 15 meetings. The Buffs trailed 7-0 after one quarter and 7-6 at the half, but the offense struck twice in the third quarter to get a lead that they would not relinquish. Adam Zink rushed for a season-low 169 yards in the 18-13 win, but he contributed a passing touchdown to go with one on the ground. Zink was also one of four Buffs in double figure tackles, with his 16 stops tied with Dylan Huss for game-high honors. Caleb Roth added 13 and Braydon East finished with a dozen.
The Buffs hold a slight 7-6 record in the last 13 meetings with Haxtun, but the Fightin’ Bulldogs have come out on top in each of the last two contests. After a 16-14 victory two years ago, Haxtun rolled to a 50-16 win last year, racking up 499 yards of offense. Their defense contributed four takeaways.
West Grand (6-0) has used a very stingy defense to ascend to the #2 ranking this week. The Mustangs have allowed a total of 14 points this season, 32 fewer than anyone else. They’ve posted consecutive shutouts and have held three of their five opponents scoreless this season. The Mustangs also have a forfeit victory on their record. Last week, West Grand had the mercy clock running by the half, building a 40-0 lead on its way to a 46-0 victory. The defensive unit came up with four interceptions (one for a TD) and two fumble recoveries, and held Plateau Valley (2-4) to just 25 yards of offense. That included a negative 21 rushing.
The Mustangs continue their push toward a possible Northwest Division crown by hosting Rangely (1-5) on Friday night. The Panthers have dropped their last five contests, scoring a total of 64 points during the losing streak. They have allowed 40 or more in each of the last three, including 50 in a loss to Hayden (4-2) last week. The 22 points scored by Rangely were the most since a 44-18 win over Dove Creek in the season-opener.
West Grand, who sits fifth in the RPI, has won the last three games against Rangely, claiming a 46-8 victory last year. Overall, the Mustangs have taken seven of the last nine in the series with the Panthers.
Fourth-ranked Hoehne (5-1) gained the inside track to a Southern Division title last week with a 34-28 overtime victory at Fowler (5-1). The Farmers would find themselves in a very early hole after fumbling the opening kickoff and having the Grizzlies return it for a touchdown. Fowler would take a 20-8 lead into the fourth, but they would be outscored by that same margin in the final frame to force the OT session. Jacob Yates powered Hoehne to the win, running for 236 yards and four scores, while also passing for 114 yards and another TD.
The Farmers will host Custer County (2-4) on Friday, looking to move to 3-0 in the division. The Bobcats have been outscored 84-42 in two divisional games, but they are 1-1 in those contests. After dropping their two previous games by a combined score of 94-6, the Bobcats won a shootout last week with Swink (2-4) 42-32. The Custer County defense surrendered 448 yards to the Lions, but that unit came up with two key takeaways, including an 88-yard pick six by Billy Berry.
This will be just the fourth meeting between the two programs. Hoehne has won all of the previous match-ups, scoring at least 42 points in each. The Bobcats have scored a total of 34 points in those games. Last season, Hoehne won 42-0. Yates rushed for 200 yards and four touchdowns in that win.
Wins in each of their first four games had the Holly Wildcats (4-1) sitting at #2 in last week’s poll. They went on the road to Springfield (3-3) and dropped a heartbreaker in overtime to the Longhorns, costing them four spots in the rankings and a share of the lead in the Southeast. Kobe Davis threw for 294 yards and four TDs in the loss. Gus Dominguez (149 yards) and William Kennedy (102 yards) each topped the century mark on four receptions apiece. Dominguez hauled in a pair of touchdowns.
The Wildcats will look to bounce back against their rivals from Granada (0-6) as they host the Bobcats for Homecoming on Friday. The Bobcats were shutout for the second time this season last week by McClave (5-1), falling 52-0 to the Cardinals. Granada was held to 86 yards on offense, with Damien Cebulski throwing for 26 and rushing for 26.
Granada will need to pull off an upset to keep its current winning streak over the Wildcats alive. The Bobcats have put an even dozen in the series in the win column, last losing to Holly in 2004.
Fowler’s OT loss to Hoehne may have cost the Grizzlies a shot at the Southern Division title, but they currently sit eighth in the RPI. However, all three of their remaining opponents are 25th or worse, so even winning out might not prevent a slide in that metric. They will enter the closing stretch with a road contest on Friday at Simla (1-5). Quinton Flanscha went over the century mark for the third time this season in last week’s loss, as the junior rushed for 103 yards and scored two touchdowns.
Simla goes into Friday’s game having lost to Kiowa (2-4) last week, 50-34. It was the third time this season that the Cubs allowed at least 50 in a game. While Simla has not had much go right on the field this season, the Cubs have had some success in the series with Fowler, winning six of the last nine meetings. The Grizzlies snapped a five-game skid against Simla last year, racking up 615 rushing yards in a 68-14 win. Flanscha register 213 of those yards and Sharp added 174. The duo combined for seven TDs on the ground.
Eighth-ranked Gilpin County (5-1) is in the hunt for a Northwest Division title, but the Eagles need a victory over Hayden this week to keep pace with West Grand in the standings. Last week’s 48-40 win over Soroco made it five straight wins for the Eagles on the campaign and they are just one possession away from being unbeaten on the season. They struggled to stop the run last week, allowing 382 yards to the Rams. Jace Logan accounted for 349 of that. However, the Eagles put up over 500 yards of total offense, with Austin Boulter running for 179 and throwing for another 119. Jack Ball was a huge threat in the passing game, hauling in six balls for 145 yards and three scores.
Hayden bounced back from a disappointing 50-0 loss to West Grand two weeks ago to pick up the win over Rangely last week. After giving up an early touchdown to the Panthers, the Tigers scored the next 44 points in the first half. An interception return for a TD early in the third had the mercy clock in effect.
This is just the second meeting between Gilpin County and Hayden. The Eagles won last year’s clash 36-0 with Boulter rushing for 139 yards and two scores. Gilpin County also had a scoop and score by Jaime Alexander in the victory.
Three straight wins have Sargent (3-3) sitting at .500 on the season and #9 in the rankings. The Farmers are tied with Mancos (5-1) atop the Southwest Division standings and those two will close out the regular season against each other. This week, the Farmers look to make it four straight victories when they host Del Norte (4-2) in the Siren Game. Six different players scored an offensive touchdown in last week’s 62-12 win over Dove Creek, and Ryan Davis and Christian Schaller each recorded a pick-six on defense.
After four straight losing seasons, during which they won a total of three games, the Tigers are enjoying resurgence this season. They have allowed 22 or fewer points in five of six games, including last week’s 26-22 win against Sanford (0-6). Del Norte trailed that contest 14-0 after one quarter, but took the lead with a 20-0 second period. Keegan Medina threw for 228 yards and three touchdowns, 135 and two scores of it to Carlos Parra.
Sargent has piled up five straight wins over the Tigers. In the last three games, the Farmers have scored 54, 60 and 68 points. Del Norte has scored a total of six points in those contests.