The opening round of the eight-man playoffs saw a pair of upsets and they happened in the same portion of the bracket. Merino, the #15 seed, knocked out the previously unbeaten #2 Mancos Bluejays, while seventh-seeded Sargent was bumped off by #10 Holly. Those two winners will meet in the quarterfinals on Saturday. Here is a breakdown of all of this weekend’s games, in bracket order.
#1 WEST GRAND MUSTANGS (10-0) AT #8 PIKES PEAK CHRISTIAN EAGLES (9-1) FRIDAY 7PM
It was business as usual for West Grand in the opening round, as the Mustangs built a 56-12 halftime lead on their way to a 68-12 victory over #16 Front Range Christian. Luis Dominguez had a hand in six touchdowns, three on the ground. He added two passing touchdowns and a pick-six on defense. It was his sixth interception of the season and the second one he has returned for a score. Jakob Buller, Rene Dominguez, Jesus Dominguez, and Cameron Wood all scored a rushing touchdown, and the receiving TDs were tallied by Hugh Wheatley and Collin Warren.
After giving up an 80-yard touchdown right out of the chute, Pikes Peak Christian reeled off 52 consecutive points against #9 Vail Christian. The Eagles would go on to win 52-16. Hudson Grant accounted for five rushing touchdowns in the contest, and Tommy Harmon hit paydirt twice.
While these two teams have never met in the playoffs, they had met five straight years in the regular season prior to this year. West Grand won four of the five meetings, including a 52-2 decision last year. The Mustangs outscored Pikes Peak Christian 200-42 during those five contests.
#4 RANGELY PANTHERS (9-1) AT #5 HOEHNE FARMERS (9-1) SATURDAY 1PM
The second narrowest margin of victory in the opening round belonged to Rangely, who held off #13 Akron, 14-6. Drew Brannan had an off day throwing the ball, completing less than 50% of his passes and tossing a pair of interceptions, but the defense made rushing touchdowns from Devin Ramirez and Tytus Coombs stand up. Grady Nielsen led the Panthers on defense with nine tackles, while Ramirez and Anthony Lujan each record eight stops. Ramirez was also credited with an interception.
Hoehne had trouble pulling away from a red-hot #12 Dayspring Christian squad, but a 20-8 third quarter gave the Farmers the cushion they needed to claim a 50-24 victory. Hoehne controlled the game with its rushing attack, as Trystan Moltrer (271 yards) and Kyle Rowe (136 yards) combined for more than 400 yards on the ground, on a combined 43 carries. The duo combined for seven touchdowns. Frederico Orozco led the defensive effort with 17 tackles, an interception, and a blocked punt.
This will be the first playoff meeting between the two programs. It’s also the first contest between the schools dating back to at least 2004.
#3 SEDGWICK COUNTY COUGARS (8-1) AT #6 CALICHE BUFFALOES (8-2) SATURDAY 1PM
After surrendering the first touchdown of the game, Sedgwick County scored the final 46 points against Simla to claim the opening round win over the 14th-seeded Cubs. The run defense of the Cougars took the starring role, holding Simla to just 53 yards on 25 attempts, just over two yards per carry.
Caliche’s defense picked up its third shutout of the season as the Buffs blanked #11 Fowler 40-0 in the opening round. Neither team completed a pass in the contest, but Caliche was able to lean on its running game. Dylan Huss ran for 184 yards and three touchdowns, while Adam Zink rambled for 158 yards and two scores.
While this will be the first playoff contest between these two Plains division rivals, they have met regularly every season. Caliche owns an 8-7 advantage in the recent history of the series, but the Cougars have won the last four by a combined tally of 183-8. Included in that is this season’s 36-0 victory. The Buffs were held to just 133 rushing yards in that loss.
#15 MERINO RAMS (6-4) AT #10 HOLLY WILDCATS (8-2) SATURDAY 1PM
A healthy Merino squad picked up its third straight win, downing Mancos 40-0 in the opening round, backing up its upset of Sedgwick County in the regular season finale the previous week. The Bluejays edged Merino 14-6 early in the season, but could not crack the scoreboard the second time around. The Rams owned a 20-0 halftime advantage and they put the game away with a pair of third quarter touchdowns, including one set up by a muffed punt.
Holly had to come back from an early 14-0 deficit against Sargent and then put extra work in as the game went two overtimes. The contest headed into the first extra session knotted at 30. Both teams struck for a touchdown in the first OT, but neither could convert the PAT. Kobe Davis rushed for three touchdowns and threw for three more in the victory. Two of the scoring passes went to Gus Dominguez, who finished with five receptions and 124 yards.
Merino is 3-0 against Holly, including a pair of postseason wins. The Rams beat the Wildcats 48-0 in the semifinals of the 2003 season (48-0), and then in the opening round of the 2009 playoffs (63-8). Merino won the title in 2003 and finished second to Dayspring Christian in 2009.