First place fights litter the schedule this week, with five such clashes on tap. Three of those contests will pit undefeated foes against each other, while the other two are match-ups of 4-1 teams.
One of those top contests is in the Central, with co-leaders Elbert (4-1, 14th RPI) and Front Range Christian (4-1, 12th RPI) squaring off on Friday. If the season ended today, both would be in the playoffs, which is something of an oddity for the division. In recent years, only the league champion has made the postseason.
Front Range Christian already has wins over the third and fourth place teams in the division, and a win at home on Friday would give the Falcons no worse than a share of the crown. Their only remaining league game is against winless Justice (0-5, 38th RPI) and the Falcons would be overwhelming favorites in that contest. In last week’s 54-6 win over Denver Christian (2-2, 28th RPI), the Falcons scored 38 unanswered points in the second half. Luke Hiltman threw for two scores, rushed for two, and returned a punt for another.
Elbert enters the match-up having won its last four games after opening the season with a 26-18 loss to Custer County (2-4, 25th RPI). That includes last week’s 36-28 win against Swink (2-3, 20th RPI), in which Nathan Tornone threw for 172 yards and three touchdowns, and rushed for a score. All three scoring tosses went to Kade Bitterman, who added a TD on the ground for the Bulldogs.
This will only be the second meeting between Elbert and Front Range Christian, with the Falcons winning 34-26 last year. Hiltman and Tornone each threw two interceptions in that contest. However, Hiltman also tossed two TDs and ran for one more, while Tornone had a single TD pass.
The Plains Division has two big contests on Friday, with #1 Sedgwick County (6-0, 10th RPI) hosting #4 Dayspring Christian (5-0, 4th RPI) and fifth-ranked Merino (4-1, 6th RPI) hosting #6 Caliche (4-1, 11th RPI). Sedgwick County is tied with #9 Pikes Peak Christian (3-1, 7th RPI) for fewest points allowed in the classification with 26. However, the Cougars have played two more games. That defense held Haxtun to six points, 56 yards of offense, and they came up with a pair of interceptions in a 60-6 victory last week.
Dayspring Christian led Byers 54-0 entering the fourth quarter last week, and finished with a 54-15 victory over the Bulldogs. The Eagles got two TD passes from Christian Still, and a pair of touchdown runs from Garrett Krehbiel, who also threw for a TD and caught one. Their defense held Byers to just over 100 yards from scrimmage and registered three picks.
Sedgwick County has won the last four match-ups with DCA by a combined score of 179-36. Prior to that streak, the Eagles had won the previous eight meetings and own a 9-6 edge in the series since 2004.
Merino has pitched consecutive shutouts in its last two outings, and the Rams have three on the season. Last week, they won the Battle of Rams, blanking Akron 42-0 at home. They will will be looking to avenge last season’s 28-14 loss to rival Caliche when the two meet on Friday.
The Buffs got back in the win column last week after falling to Dayspring 24-18 two weeks ago. Last week, they overcame a slow start to take a 58-20 win at South Park (1-5, 34th RPI). Dylan Huss completed all three of his passes (all to Correy Derr) for 115 yards and a touchdown, and ran for 202 yards and four touchdowns. Chase Armstrong had his first 100-yard game of the season, rushing for 136 and a TD, and Braydon East reached paydirt twice on the ground.
Unbeaten teams will meet in the Mountain Division on Friday as #7 Sanford (5-0, 5th RPI) visits third-ranked Mancos (5-0, 2nd RPI) with a share the division lead on the line. After giving up a combined 65 points in wins over Merino and Sargent (3-2, 16th RPI), Mancos has posted two straight shutouts. The last of those came last week 60-0 over Sangre de Cristo (1-4, 23rd RPI). The Bluejays piled up 362 yards on the ground, with 214 coming from Chase Moore. Moore scored four times on runs and added another touchdown on an 85-yard kick return. The sophomore had 383 all-purpose yards in the contest.
Sanford put up a season-high 64 points last week, taking a 50-point non-conference victory over Custer County. The Indians have only allowed 32 points on the season, a total that is third best in the class. Sanford will have to slow down the third-highest scoring offense in the state if it is to break a four-game losing streak in the series. Mancos took a 34-18 victory last year, outscoring the Indians 22-6 in the second half. Sanford had won six straight against the Bluejays prior to the current losing streak.
Eighth-ranked Vail Christian (5-0, 1st RPI) looks to take command of the Northwest, facing fellow unbeaten Soroco (5-0, 15th RPI) on Saturday. The Saints have already knocked off West Grand (4-2, 8th RPI) and Rangely (3-2, 9th RPI) who are third and fourth in the league, so a win puts them firmly in the driver’s seat. They moved to 3-0 in the league last week with a 54-16 victory over Hayden (2-3, 32nd RPI), with Jamison Lee throwing for 149 yards and three touchdowns. Chris Cappel caught one of those scoring tosses and he added two more TDs on the ground.
Soroco has scored at least 50 points in four straight games with lat week’s 50-12 win at Plateau Valley (1-5, 29th RPI). The Rams have outscored opponents 274-42 under first year head coach Johnny DeCosta, with no team scoring more than 14 against them so far. Jesse Koler leads the running attack with 530 yards, and the Rams are averaging more than 357 yards a game in that phase.
The Rams had won three of the first four meetings with Vail Christian, but the Saints won a shootout last year, 74-66. The teams combined for 1134 rushing yards in the game. Lee led Vail Christian with 230 yards and two touchdowns, and Cappel added 159 with three scores.
Second-ranked Fowler (5-0, 3rd RPI) is home on Friday against Wiley (0-5, 39th RPI) following last week’s 50-8 win over Hoehne (2-3, 19th RPI). Jackson Bates (137 yards, 3 TD) and Luke Bitter (109 yards, 2 TD) combined for 246 yards and five scores on the ground in that win. The Grizzlies are 5-2 against Wiley since 2004, with wins in each of the last two meetings.
Ninth-ranked Pikes Peak Christian looks to take another step towards a second straight Southern Division title on Friday when the Eagles visit Custer County. It will only be the second meeting between the two teams, with PPC winning 57-14 last year.
The #10 Dove Creek Bulldogs (5-1, 13th RPI) have a bye this week after beating Del Norte (2-3, 21st RPI) last week. They are tied with Mancos and Sanford atop the Mountain standings, and the Bulldogs will face those two in the final two games of the regular season. Next week, they host Sargent.