There is quite a bit of staying power among the 16 teams remaining in the football brackets for the state’s smallest classifications. In fact, there are only four teams — Moffat County and Rifle in Class 2A, Meeker in 1A and Lyons in 8-man — who have not appeared in a state semifinal over the prior three seasons leading up to 2023. The other 12 teams have combined for 25 semifinals over that same stretch.

Another Limon-Wray matchup could be in the works, and it’ll be quite interesting to see if Delta and Eaton can flex their muscles once again to set up a championship rematch. Stratton’s bid for a repeat is still going strong in 6-man, while the 8-man field will crown a new champion after Dove Creek was eliminated in the quarterfinals.

Some notes on each semifinals matchup, with all games kicking off Saturday at 1 p.m.

Class 2A

Delta vs. Moffat County

The mighty Panthers continue to march toward a third championship game appearance since 2020, but Moffat County has proven to be a dragon slayer thus far in upending two higher seeds. The Bulldogs held on for dear life against Berthoud last week, edging the Spartans 14-13 with a last-minute defensive stand. Two long first-quarter touchdowns through the air got it done, while Ian Hafey had 29 carries for 121 yards on the ground. Of all things, a Tucker Johnson safety in the fourth quarter was the difference for Delta in beating The Classical Academy, 16-14. Ty Reed and Talan Hulet combined for 38 carries and 189 yards. Delta has surpassed 200 rushing yards in seven games this season.

Eaton vs. Rifle

Eaton catching fire in November? Who’da thunk it? The three-time defending 2A champs have won two playoff games by three points apiece, with the Reds winning last week against Pagosa Springs despite having just 118 yards of offense. Freshman Austin Bright’s kickoff return for a touchdown was a huge catalyst in EHS’ season continuing. Rifle and Eaton last played in 2018, and the Bears certainly would like a repeat of that outcome. Rifle has averaged about 260 rushing yards a game during the playoffs, with Logan Gross taking charge from his spot at quarterback (403 rushing yards in the playoffs).

Class 1A

Limon vs. Meeker

The senior class at Limon has seen three championship game appearances already, and a fourth would mean getting through a Meeker team that has represented the Western Slope well. The Cowboys have allowed just seven points in each of their playoff games so far, and Cade Blunt got the call for three touchdowns last week in addition to a fumble recovery. While MHS is playing well, it has already seen the Badgers meticulously grind it down in what was a 28-7 LHS win in early September. Limon approached 300 rushing yards in that contest, and it has not really veered away from that systematic approach all season.

Wray vs. Strasburg

Wray’s senior class has seen three semifinals appearances and one title-game appearance (last year), and the Eagles are hoping for another inspired performance this week having already put up 100 points in the playoffs (59 and 41). Samuel Meisner stepped up last week to carry the ball 32 times, while sophomore receiver Aaron Tena secured two catches for touchdowns as Wray upended Holyoke. Strasburg’s Landen Martin was nothing short of impressive last week against Gunnison, going 12 of 14 for 259 yards and four touchdowns while also running for a pair of scores. Truly, the Indians did just about everything right in their eighth-straight win and will need to be in similar form in a bid to make a championship for the second time since 2020.


Mancos vs. Lyons

Jason Yantzer has done a fantastic job turning Lyons’ program back around, and the Lions might have put some teams on notice with a 40-point win over last year’s champ, Dove Creek, in the quarterfinals. In scoring 60-plus points for the fifth consecutive week, Lyons amassed 538 yards of offense while also forcing four turnovers. Of course, this is a rematch of a second-round game last year won by Mancos, and the Bluejays are still the top seed for a reason. Mancos has now gone five games without being scored on, and Kail Wayman’s senior leadership has been astounding. Mancos wants to get back to a title game for the second time in three seasons, and Lyons will have its work cut out for it against one of the division’s most disciplined groups.

Haxtun vs. Simla

While Haxtun made the state championship game in 2021, Simla did last year and the Cubs are hoping to get a chance to make amends for a close loss in the finale by getting past the Fighting Bulldogs. Caston Cox and Brent Bowker will look to continue their incredible connection that produced three touchdowns last week (Cox completed 18 of 21 passes overall), while Bowker also collected 2.5 sacks in a quarterfinals win. Haxtun, while seeing itself trailing after one quarter last week against Byers, put the clamps on another opponent when all was said and done. It has allowed 98 points all season (8.9 points per game) in getting to this familiar point of the campaign.


Stratton vs. Idalia

Stratton’s seniors have seen three championship game appearances, and there’s no doubt they want to make it 4-for-4 by getting past a tough opponent that they’ve already humbled once this season. The Eagles were credited with 10 sacks last week and that ferocious defense will look to cause havoc against Idalia, which it beat 57-13 back on Sept. 30. The Wolves’ offense has definitely rebounded since that game, averaging 50.8 points and about 360 yards per game. Freshman Gabe Kechter had his seventh 100-yard rushing game last week, and Idalia will need him to find some holes on the Eagles’ defense in order to score the upset.

Cheyenne Wells vs. Otis

Either Cheyenne Wells or Otis has been a semifinalist each of the past three seasons, but never together. Cheyenne Wells will be tasked with stopping the state’s highest-scoring offense, one that posted 61 points against Branson/Kim with the help of five turnovers created. Sophomore Mitchell Stivers hasn’t let the bright lights faze him one bit, as he’s averaged 21.1 yards per carry in the postseason so far (13 carries, 274 yards). The Tigers have won four straight, scoring 59 points a game over that stretch. Fellow sophomore Trey Scheler doesn’t have the gaudy yards per carry in the playoffs as Stivers, but he’s scored eight times in two games.