With the winter sport season getting underway this week, it would be easy to forget that the fall campaign hasn’t officially reached its conclusion. The three largest classifications in football will wrap things up with their title games this weekend, and state spirit will draw the curtain on the fall season next weekend.
This past weekend saw four state titles awarded in football, as six-man through Class 2A all converged upon Pueblo, with two games being played on Friday and two on Saturday at the Thunderbowl. Of the teams looking to repeat (Limon and Eaton), only one (Eaton) was able to do so.
Friday afternoon saw a familiar face in the six-man title game, as Stratton was making its fifth consecutive appearance in the championship contest, with the previous four coming as part of a co-op with Liberty. The Eagles were facing a Cheyenne Wells squad that was trying to bring home the first-ever football title in program history.
It would turn out to be a day to remember for the Tigers and their faithful, as they built a 24-0 first quarter lead and ran away with the 62-21 victory. Cade Mitchek, named Most Valuable Player of the contest, led the Tigers with 219 yards and five rushing touchdowns, to go with 61 yards and another score as a receiver. Ty Scheler and Evan Worley both had nine tackles for a defense that held the Stratton varsity to just six rushing yards. Blake Gilmore added a pair of interceptions, while Rogelio Rangel and Dillon Ball each had a fumble recovery.
Charlie Tagtmeyer threw a touchdown for Stratton, and also caught one from Alex Cruz on a halfback pass. Riley Shean put the final touchdown on the board for the Eagles with a long run late in the contest. It was the third straight second place finish for the program.
Another upstart was looking for its first championship in the eight-man game, as Mancos was taking on top-seeded Haxtun in the nightcap. Haxtun, was gunning for its eighth title in program history, and its first since 2004. Behind a stifling defense, the Fightin’ Bulldogs added that championship hardware to its already impressive trophy case, 40-0.
Haxtun’s Isaac Andersen was the recipient of the MVP award after running for 103 yards and two scores. He was also one of five players with eight or more tackles. Grant Statz led the team with nine. Kyle Fryrear had a pair of TD catches from Owen Knode, who was one of four Fightin’ Bulldogs with an interception. Michael Gerk, David Avery, and Andersen were the others.
On Saturday afternoon. Limon hit the field against Centauri, with the Badgers trying to win their fourth straight title in the 1A ranks. Their efforts took a big hit late in the third quarter when senior QB Trey Hines suffered a broken collarbone at the end of a long run. Still, they were tied with the Falcons late in the contest, when a second blocked punt by Centauri set up the game winning field goal. Brady Rockwell led the Badgers down the field for a final Hail Mary, that came up short, and Centauri had its first state championship, 24-21. Jeremiah Leeper ran for more than 100 yards in the game for the Badgers, while Rockwell caught a TD and threw one in relief.
Brush made its first 2A title game appearance since winning the crown in 2014 and the Beetdiggers put a scare into the defending champion, Eaton, in the final game of the weekend. Brush took a 14-7 lead with a long march in the third quarter, but Eaton scored on three straight possessions to grab a 26-14 victory.
Fort Morgan will be playing in this weekend’s 3A championship contest after the #3 Mustangs bounced #2 Lutheran 23-21 last Saturday. The Mustangs took a 23-21 lead with just over a minute remaining on Brandon Marquez’s third field goal of the game, and then Frank Ortega ended things with his third interception of the contest as the Lions were driving for a potential winning score.
The Mustangs will face Mead, who claimed a 38-21 win over Roosevelt, in Saturday’s championship contest in Pueblo. This is the first title game appearance for Fort Morgan since 2008. The Mustangs won the last of their three championships in 1999.
State spirit gets underway next Thursday, with Game Day Cheer taking center stage. Rocky Ford, Byers, Granada, Swink, and Crowley County will all be performing in the 2A/3A division. Fort Morgan is part of the 4A/5A division.
Friday sees the competition switch to All-Girl Cheer and COED Cheer. Cheyenne Wells, Holly, and Holyoke will compete in 2A, while Lamar, Brush, and Sterling will be part of the 3A field. Stratton hits the stage on Friday afternoon in the 2A/3A COED bracket.
Finally, Saturday is all about Dance, with Limon fighting it out in the 2A Poms division. No area programs will be part of the competition in Jazz or Hip-Hop that afternoon.
CHSAA released is preseason coaches polls for basketball last week, and its not surprising that so many teams from Eastern Colorado received early recognition. In Class 1A girls, Briggsdale was #2, behind defending champion Flatirons Academy, while rival Fleming came in third. Other top ten teams were Merino (4), Kit Carson (5), McClave (6), Haxtun (7), and Stratton (10). In the group of others receiving votes, the region had Idalia, Lone Star, Genoa-Hugo/Karval, Cheraw, South Baca, Springfield, Wiley, Kim/Branson, Eads, and Granada.
Class 2A’s top three are all from the area, with defending champion Limon sitting ahead of Holyoke and Wray. Sedgwick County (6) and Yuma (10) rounded out the top ten. Burlington, Rocky Ford, Akron, Fowler, Wiggins, and Hoehne all received votes.
Brush was the lone team in the area to crack the top ten in 3A, with the Beetdiggers checking in at #9. Lamar and Sterling both received votes.
The 1A boys poll is littered with local squads, including #1 Granada and #2 Merino. Haxtun (4), Briggsdale (5), Cheraw (7), and Cheyenne Wells (9) all drew enough votes to begin the year in the top ten. Just outside of the rankings are McClave, Kim/Branson, Eads, Genoa-Hugo/Karval, Idalia, Prairie, Fleming, Stratton, Caliche, Kit Carson, Deer Trail, Walsh, and Bethune.
Limon tops the 2A poll, with defending champion Wray right on its heels. Yuma sits third, while Wiggins is eighth and Holly comes in ninth. Holyoke and Sedgwick County lead the pack just outside of the top ten, with Fowler, Byers, and Akron also in that group.
The 3A coaches have high expectations for Sterling, as the Tigers begin the year ranked second in that classification. Brush and La Junta also received votes.
Wrestling, skiing, ice hockey, and girls swimming all get started this week. Coaches are excited to see the number of competitions increase over last year’s shortened seasons.