The playoff fields are set in small-school football, and as the calendar turns to November, thoughts of bringing home state championships are dancing in the heads of players all over the state. While there are unique storylines across all 32 first-round games between the Class 2A, Class 1A, 8-man and 6-man brackets, here are just a few highlights and notes for eight of those matchups.

Class 2A

No. 15 Eaton at No. 2 Kent Denver, Saturday

Reaching the pinnacle of its league for the first time since 2018, Kent Denver appears ready to take on the gauntlet that is the 2A state playoffs. The defensive efforts of the Sun Devils have been savage, with just one team (The Classical Academy) having been able to break double-digits on them. Sophomore Tripp Skewes has wreaked havoc on opposing quarterbacks, registering 22 sacks according to MaxPreps; senior Alex Padalino has seven interceptions and two fumble recoveries; and senior Will Howard has 105 tackles to his name so far. Defending champ Eaton has won 6-of-7 games since starting 0-2, though the Reds do have but two wins against opponents who finished with winning records. Junior Cooper Nider has been a leader on defense posting 105 total tackles, two sacks, three interceptions and a fumble recovery.

No. 11 Florence at No. 6 University, Saturday

The Florence Huskies are a two-point loss away from a 2A Southwest League championship, and they finished off a solid regular season with a 14-13 squeaker against La Junta thanks in part to a Noah Howard 93-yard kickoff return touchdown in the second half of the game last week. A win like that certainly can carry some momentum into the postseason, and they’ll likely need that charge as University’s only two losses have come against top-5 seeds Delta and Elizabeth. Brevon Doss’ 1,429 total yards and 14 touchdowns have paced University’s offense — he has multiple touchdowns in each of the past three games — while Florence’s Luguse Nuss (1,112 total yards, 20 total TDs) is the Huskies’ go-to guy. Kaleb Tejada has seven interceptions for UHS, as well.

Class 1A

No. 11 North Fork at No. 6 Strasburg, Saturday

Strasburg might be one of the more under-the-radar teams in 1A this season. A 1-2 start included losses to powerhouses Holyoke and Limon, but SHS has won six straight games without allowing double-digit points to any opponent. It has posted nearly 400 points (44.0 points per game) with dual-threat QB Landen Martin (1,506 total yards, 27 TDs accounted for) leading the way, while senior Austin Velasco leads the defense. North Fork’s three season losses are to top-5 seeds Meeker, Buena Vista and Gunnison, and the Miners will be looking to get back on track after allowing 376 rushing yards to Gunnison last week.

No. 15 Platte Canyon at No. 2 Holyoke

These teams haven’t clashed since 2012, with Holyoke taking that game 42-20 in a first-round matchup. The odds might be stacked up in Holyoke’s favor even more this season, as the Dragons have demolished everyone not named Limon in outscoring foes, 342-84, on the way to an 8-1 mark. Holyoke’s Wyatt Sprague has been effective on offense (16:3 TD:INT ratio), defense (77 tackles) and special teams (24 kick points), and senior Tyson Mosenteen has been great around the end zone with 10 total touchdowns. Platte Canyon last won a playoff game in 2016, and it’ll look to ride the legs of Sam Patterson (1,024 yards, 15 TDs) as part of an upset bid.


No. 16 Fowler at No. 1 Mancos, Friday

Since taking over as the head coach at Mancos, Josh Gardner has forged a 48-10 record, with a state championship appearance and a state semifinals appearance the past two seasons. The Bluejays got the No. 1 seed this year and will host Six-County League champ Fowler on Friday night. Mancos has scored at least 58 points in four straight games, including a 64-0 whitewashing of Norwood last week in which seniors Levi Martin and Kail Wayman scored three times apiece. Martin will look to join Wayman in the 1,000-yard rushing club this week.

Mancos ended Fowler’s playoff run in 2021, so there is some recent history between the teams, but not much overall. The Grizzlies have produced 21 turnovers this season and will aim for creating some extra possessions for themselves this week, too.

No. 14 Calhan at No. 3 Haxtun, Saturday

Merino stunned Haxtun in the Plains League championship game last week, 22-16, and the Fightin’ Bulldogs will surely be trying to avoid a hangover this week against the Bulldogs of Calhan, the latter of which has not won a playoff game since 2008. Logan Jack has carried Calhan on his back so far, as the senior has accounted for 20 total touchdowns (fellow senior Noah Nelson also has 10 TDs). The Bulldogs also have a senior in Trevor Hendrix that has posted seven sacks, two interceptions and a fumble recovery. Haxtun has churned out about 434 yards per game over the course of the season, with two 700-yard rushers (Ryland Wolff, Grant Statz) and a 500-yard receiver (Keegan Colglazier). After missing out on playoffs between 2018 and 2020, Haxtun is seeking a first-round win for the third straight season. It won the 2021 state title.


No. 11 La Veta at No. 6 Cheyenne Wells, Saturday

The matchup between the Redhawks and Tigers has all the makings of a ‘first-to-60-points-wins’ kind of tilt. Both teams scored about the same number of points per game on average (La Veta 42.3, Cheyenne Wells 41.8) but have also allowed their fair share of points to be scored against them (La Veta 36.5, Cheyenne Wells 37.7). Quarterback Perry Chadwick has had a stellar senior season for the Tigers, passing for 1,031 yards and 20 TDs while also accounting for 10 other touchdowns (five rushing TDs, five kickoff return TDs); sophomore Trey Scheler has produced 18 touchdowns; and senior Carson Noe also has 11 TDs. La Veta, led by seniors Brayden Nix and Kade Andreatta, last won a playoff game in 2002.

No. 9 Arickaree at No. 8 Sierra Grande, Saturday

Arickaree got a chance to regain some momentum last week, ending a two-game slide with a 57-7 victory against Bethune. While Nic Heremes has been a stellar senior leader for the Bison, Arickaree has gotten some nice contributions from youngsters like freshman Jorge Ramos and sophomore Austin Wright. Sierra Grande, meanwhile, lost two of its final three games facing some tough competition, but overall the Panthers have been a high-scoring machine of a team with the likes of senior Tyler Kester and junior Aron Ojeda leading the way. Ojeda, in fact, has thrown just one interception against 23 touchdown passes — one of the state’s best ratios.