With zero week dropped from the football vocabulary this year, we can officially start the season with week one.  Football games can start next Thursday and there are plenty of attractive matchups on the small school front.  We look at the top games for week one and will add some thoughts on big school contests later in the weekend.
Please note that we do not have the complete six-man schedule as the association conducted their meeting earlier this week and changes have been made.  Once finalized we will post on the website and could add another game or two in that division to this story.


#3 Otis vs #5 Peetz
This is a very good contest of teams that expect to contend for the state championship.  Peetz of course landed the title a year ago and they get a great test in their first game since landing the top trophy.
The Bulldogs lost a very talented senior class that also helped the school win a basketball title as well, but there is talent returning.  Headlining the list is Bryson Long.  The senior rushed for 904 yards and 15 TD’s last season and added five more scores on receptions.  For good measure, the all-stater added 216 yards passing.
Otis went 8-2 on the season and enjoyed a wild two-week ride in the playoffs.  The Bulldogs opened with a crazy 89-70 decision over Genoa Hugo in a game that matched the most points ever scored in a post-season game.  Then Coach Paul Griese’s club went toe-to-toe with Stratton/Liberty before coming up short 40-32.
Bryce Miracle returns after pacing the Bulldogs with 1,675 yards and 32 TD’s rushing.  He was also third on the team with 113 tackles.  QB Ty Hunt is another key returnee after throwing for 612 yards and nine scores.


#3 Caliche at Gilpin County
A matchup of two returning playoff teams and a rematch of a regular season game won by Gilpin County 36-30 a year ago.  The Tigers scored 22 second quarter points to create a 30-14 halftime advantage and then held on from there.
Gilpin County though has almost a completely new lineup at the skill positions this year.  Stephen King is the only returnee that generated a yard of offense against Caliche last year as he caught two passes for 52 yards as a freshman.  Jake Duncan (19) and Angel Gomez (11) combined for 30 tackles in the win and they both return as well.
The Buffs are the opposite as they return a wealth of talent from last year’s 5-6 club.  Despite the sub-500 mark, Coach Paul Zink’s club made the playoffs and picked up a first round upset of Hoehne before falling to Soroco in the quarterfinals.  Adam Zink is one of the top returning offensive threats across the division and he ran for 201 yards and two touchdowns on 37 carries against Gilpin County last year.  Corey Deer also caught two passes for 50 yards.  Zink (18) and Dylan Huss (10) topped the tackle chart.
One side note to the game is that it marks the debut of Gilpin County’s new stadium that features turf and lights.  For the first time in school history, the Tigers will host night games.
#5 Holly at #9 Dayspring Christian
Among the six games on the week one schedule featuring ranked teams against one another, this one has a chance to be a season setter for both clubs.  Dayspring Christian looks to rebound following a rare non-playoff season while Holly looks to build on last year’s state semifinal appearance.
The Wildcats should be able to score as QB Kobe Davis returns along with his top two targets.  Davis finished 2017 with 1,733 yards and 20 TD’s.  Jesus Dominguez (38) and William Kennedy (25) combined for 63 catches and 15 TD’s.  Another threat there is Jarett Rushton who caught 14 passes with five scores.
The running game should also be in good shape as Erick Chaparro (500 yards) and Andy Ramos (437) are back in the Wildcats lineup.
Dayspring welcomes back veteran coach Mick Holmes to the sideline as he returns after stepping aside for two seasons.  He gets the chance to work with QB Christian Still who tossed 16 TD passes as a freshman.  RB Bryce Sugden also returns after producing 346 yards on the ground a year ago.


#1 Strasburg vs University
The Indians of course are the two-time defending state champions and have dropped just one game in two years since moving to Class 1A before the 2016 season.  Included in that stretch is a 26-0 shutout of University in regular season play last year.  The Indians limited University to 69 yards rushing and 79 passing.
Strasburg though was dealt a blow as Trystran Graff was injured in practice and could miss significant time.  He rushed for 65 yards against University as a freshman last season and was expected to be the main ball carrier on offense this year.
Graff is one of several new faces that must step into major roles and produce for the Indians to make a serious run at a third consecutive championship.
University finished 4-5 last year but has enough returning talent where they could improve that record.  QB Chayden Cox returns and he threw for 625 yards and five TD’s last season.  Christian Woodard paced the running game with 259 yards last season and key defender Jaxon Samsel also returns.  Samsel topped the Bulldogs with 90 tackles and two others from the top six tacklers are also back in the lineup.
#5 Meeker vs Aspen
The Meeker defense should be a bit ahead of the offense early in the season as the Cowboys have more returnees on that side of the ball.  The top three tacklers all return as Tannen Kennedy (115), Tevin Pelloni (96) and James Amick (82) will again anchor the unit.  Stephen Walsh, with five interceptions, also returns.
On offense, the Cowboys lost their leading passer, rusher and receiver but others will be expected to step up.  Logan Hughes leaves a large void at quarterback.  The three-year starter graduated with almost 57-hundred career yards passing.  Kale Burke and Ryan Phelan should compete for that job.
Doak Mantle (900 yards rushing) and Trapper Merrifield (40 receptions) also graduated.  Jorgen Stagg (285 rushing) is the top returning runner while Walsh (16 catches) and Eli Hanks (15) combined for 31 catches last season.
New coach Travis Benson takes over an Aspen program that put together a high octane 8-2 season in 2017.  They scored 438 points in two games and saw the season end with a 36-24 playoff loss to Classical Academy.
QB RJ Peshak, who led the team in passing (2,608 yards) and rushing (765), has graduated but the remaining skill positions are in great shape.  Tyler Fabrocini returns after rushing for 554 yards last year while Noah Hollander (70) and Max Ufkes (39) also return after combining for 109 catches and 22 TD’s.
Jon Haisfield could be the new signal caller.  He attempted 11 passes last year; completing four for 56 yards.


#1 Bayfield at Farmington NM
On their way to the state championship, Bayfield picked up three wins against New Mexico opponents but did not face Farmington.  Farmington finished 8-4 last year, including a win over Durango (34-7) and dropped out of the playoffs in the second round.  They graduated a quarterback who threw for 3,400 yards and 38 TD’s last year.
Bayfield’s defense was the strength of their state championship squad from last year.  The Wolverines gave up only 56 points all season and just seven in four playoff games.
The top six tacklers from the group all graduated but they return Isaac Lorenzen and David Hawkins.  They combined for 109 tackles and 22 for loss in 2017.
On offense, QB Hayden Farmer is the key.  He threw for 2,090 yards and 35 TD’s.  His top target should be Keyon Prior who finished with 16 catches last season.  Hawkins (596 yards), Dylan Hilliker (341) and Prior (241) return to lead the running game.
#2 La Junta at Raton NM
It will be a battle of Tigers as the 2016 state champions head south for their season opener.  The game will mark the head coaching debut of Ty Buderus who takes over the La Junta program from his brother Clint.  Clint is now running the Pueblo West program and the Cyclones also have a tough opener with Fruita Monument next week.
La Junta’s offense will again be triggered by Jon Nuschy.  The signal-caller is the two-time Player of the Year in Class 2A.  Jacob Tafoya is also one of the top returning linemen in Colorado and he’ll likely see action on both sides of the ball.
Raton grabbed nine wins last season and reached the second round of the New Mexico playoffs but they lost a talented quarterback and their top running back and wide receiver to graduation.
#4 Platte Valley at Berthoud
This could shape up to be a battle of the Platte Valley offense against the Berthoud defense.  The Broncos return QB Trevon Wehrman while Berthoud will again have Anthony Trojahn and Ty Beaman line up on defense.
Wehrman enters his third year as starter and has amassed 3,461 yards passing and 2,648 yards rushing over his career.  The senior has also been involved in 62 touchdowns.  Wehrman led the Broncos in passing and rushing a year ago.
Trojahn led Berthoud with 122 tackles and Beaman was next with 105.  The Spartans though must find a successor to QB Brock Voth who led the team in both running and passing in 2017.
Other key offensive returnees for Platte Valley include Ernesto Rios (784 yards rushing) and Josh Yancey (13 receptions).  On defense, Roberto Lara (108) and Brendan Buntin (101) were 2-3 in tackles for Coach Troy Hoffman last year.
#7 Resurrection Christian at Sterling
It’s the third straight year the Cougars and Tigers have opened against one another and the teams have split the first two meetings.
Resurrection Christian has a new head coach in former assistant Jeff Van Winkle.  He takes over a program that won 31 games from 2014-16 and then used a late season surge to make the state semifinals in 2017.  The Cougars upset #2 seed Kent Denver 29-21 in the opening round last year and then stunned Faith Christian 28-25 in the quarterfinals.  Their season closed with a 21-0 loss to eventual champion Bayfield.
There is optimism this year as QB Isaac Crane (912 yards passing), Kyle Lueck (523 yards rushing) and Zane Zuhlke (28 catches) all return after leading the Cougars in their respective category.  Zuhlke also topped the defense with 131 tackles.  The next five tacklers from last year also return.
Sterling turns to Brock Shalla as the successor to departed QB Bodie Hume.  Hume tossed 30 touchdown passes in 2017 and finished with 2,543 yards.  Shalla attempted just six passes as a sophomore but has plenty of experience in other spots.
Many other skill players return for Coach Rob Busmente including the receiving trio of Issac Harris (44 receptions), Axel Henry (28) and Colton Shalla (22).  The three combined for 16 scores.  Top rusher Sean Jay is also back after picking up 327 yards.