Merino used a win over Gilpin County last week to reach the number three spot in the latest CHSAA 8man polls. A tough test awaits as they meet Mancos in Fairplay in a top five battle. PHOTO BY JENNIFER ELLIOTT

After a weekend that saw several teams from the Plains Division win big contests, the CHSAANow.com poll has a heavy volume of teams from that league. Not only are four teams from the Plains ranked in the top 10, but the top three teams this week all call that league home. One of those three will be facing another ranked foe this weekend, as most squads near the end of non-conference play.

A dominant 50-0 road win at Gilpin County last week helped Merino move up three spots to #3 this week. The Rams led 24-0 after one quarter and 36-0 at the half. Through two games, the Merino defense has allowed a total of eight points.

That unit will be tested by a Mancos offense that posted 68 points in a victory over Plateau Valley two weeks ago. The Bluejays, who also recorded a shutout in that game, have been off since rolling the Cowboys. Chase Moore helped the fifth-ranked Bluejays pile up 370 rushing yards, accumulating 255 of them. He also scored three touchdowns. Anthony Medina added three scores, including two on returns (interception, punt).

This game will be played Friday in Fairplay, which will save one of the teams from having to make an eight hour trip, one way. The squads split a pair of match-ups last year, with Mancos claiming a 14-6 victory in the neutral site contest during the regular season. Merino picked up a 40-0 win in the playoffs. Breccen Morelli threw a pair of TD passes in the win for Mancos, and the defense held the Rams to just over 150 yards on the ground. In the postseason meeting, Merino ran for 425 yards.

Friday will also see a pair of unbeaten teams go at it in Del Norte, as the Tigers host #8 Rangely in non-conference play. Rangely has already picked up two wins over teams from the Mountain Division, beating Norwood and Dove Creek, averaging 44 points in those victories. Tytus Coombs has carried a good portion of the load for the Panther offense, running for 428 yards in those two games, with 324 coming against Dove Creek. Anthony Lujan has thrown for 106 yards and rushed for 146. Defensively, Coombs has tallied a team-high 36 tackles, while Lujan has made 22.

Del Norte finds itself in the pack just outside of the top 10 this week, and the Tigers are coming off a 48-6 win over South Park. Preston Terrell only completed three of his 11 passes in that contest, but two of those completions went to the house. Marcos Romero powered the rushing attack with 101 yards and two scores. Romero also caught one of Terrell’s TD passes.

Rangely is 4-1 against the Tigers in the last five meetings, including a 52-15 decision last year. Coombs outrushed the Tigers 144-99 in that contest. Three of the other four match-ups were decided by five points of fewer.

While those two contests headline the Friday portion of the schedule, Saturday has a fight between ranked opponents that always seem to put on a show. Coming off a 34-0 loss to top-ranked Sedgwick County, #6 Hoehne will visit #7 Dayspring Christian, who hasn’t played since beating Holly in the season-opener. The series between these two is tied at 3-3, with Hoehne winning the last three and scoring at least 44 points in each game. Even in their last loss to the Eagles, the Farmers still put up 50.

In last week’s loss, Hoehne only trailed Sedgwick County 6-0 at the half, but the Cougars blew it open with 22 third quarter points. The big blow was an 83-yard touchdown pass late in the frame. The Farmers could not consistently move the ball and failed to convert several fourth downs that would have kept drives alive.

Dayspring Christian built a 34-8 halftime lead in its game with Holly two weeks ago, and nearly gave it all away. The Eagles held on for a 40-32 victory, after seeing the Wildcats scored 12 fourth quarter points to make things very interesting. Garrett Krehbiel had a big night on offense, throwing for 328 yards and four scores, and adding another 146 yards and two TD on the ground. Ethan Pratt was the top target, snaring eight passes for 183 yards and three scores.

Going back to Friday, Sedgwick County will host Gilpin County and the Cougars will be looking to start the season with three straight shutouts. They posted shutouts in three of their first four games back in 2016 and went on to win the second of their four consecutive state titles. Gilpin County has been outscored 112-26 by two other Plains opponents to start the season, as they’ve fallen to #2 Caliche and #3 Merino.

Fourth-ranked Fowler will try to stay perfect on the season when it travels to Akron on Friday. The Grizzlies, who have won two straight against the Rams, moved to 2-0 on the season with a nice 50-27 win over Sargent last week. Joshua Daniels spearheaded the offense with 214 yards and three rushing touchdowns, while Gabriel Proctor led the defense with 14 tackles.

Akron struggled to generate much against Holly last week and trailed 22-0 heading into the fourth. The Rams did put two scores on the board in the final frame, but still walked away with a 28-14 loss. Akron dropped a heartbreaker on the road last year, 28-20, with the Grizzlies outscoring them 14-6 in the fourth quarter to take the win.

Tenth-ranked Sanford returns to the gridiron after having a bye last week. The Indians, who took a 44-6 victory over McClave back in week one, will host Swink on Friday. The Lions got one in the win column last week by downing Wiley 34-0.

Swink ran the ball very well in that win over Wiley, gaining 332 yards and averaging better than nine yards per carry. Matthew Mendoza did a lot of the damage, tallying 163 yards and two touchdowns to lead the way. The Lions had three defenders make a ton of plays, with Eli Suiters (25 tackles), Nathan Hart (18 tackles), and Mason Hanagan (15 tackles) all recording double digit stops. That trio combined for eight tackles for loss.

The Lions have not fared well against Sanford, as the Indians have claimed three straight victories in the series. Last season, it was a 66-0 shutout for the Indians. Sanford racked up 511 yards of offense in that contest.

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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