VIDEO: Strasburg QB Collin Russell's highlights against Centauri.
Saturday is a day that has been a long time coming for Limon
– not just for the Badgers' football program and Limon High School, but also the entire community.
When Limon steps onto the field at Strasburg
High School for the Class 1A state championship game, an 11-year drought will go by the wayside. For the first time since 2007, the program that has won more state titles than any team in the state will have the opportunity to bring a championship back to Limon.
"That's the expectation, that this is the place where we want to be and this is the level where we want our program," said longtime Badgers coach Mike O'Dwyer, whose team last won a state title in 2005. "But really I think with a community like ours – as with a lot of small towns – athletics kind of brings them all together. It's really neat to see how the community gets around the football team or any sport we play. It really is a big deal for Limon to be back in this game."
Limon (12-0) takes on two-time defending 1A champion Strasburg (11-1) at 1 p.m. Saturday. It's a rematch of a Sept. 21 contest that Limon took 36-6, but as O'Dwyer pointed out, the Indians' makeup was a bit different that game.
"Obviously Strasburg is substantially better than the first time we played them. They've got some kids who were hurt the first time that are back, and they have more weapons that they can go to now that they didn't in the first game," O'Dwyer said. "Other than really the style of offense they play, we really can't take a lot from that first game. I like to think we've gotten better as well throughout the year. It is a state championship game – I think the two best teams are out there, and it's going to be a tough, tough ballgame."
In the teams' first meeting, Michael Spence
started at quarterback for Strasburg. The Indians managed only 25 yards rushing that day, while Limon went for 325.
The duo of junior Michael Burns
and sophomore Trystan Graf
have helped Strasburg gets its running game going in the postseason though. The Indians rushed for 431 yards in a shutout victory over Burlington in the quarterfinals, and sophomore Collin Russell
threw for 199 yards and two scores in a 44-22 victory over Centauri (La Jara) last weekend.
Strasburg averages 200 yards a game on the ground, and a defense that has forced 24 turnovers this fall posted three consecutive shutouts going into the semifinals.
Limon's defense has been just as stout, allowing only one touchdown in three playoff games. In a 36-0 rout of Colorado Springs Christian in the semifinals, the Badgers had three sacks and two interceptions. On the other side of the ball, the team rushed for 336 yards – sophomore Kory Tacha
had three rushing scores.
Limon averages more than 258 yards a game on the ground, and four players have more than 400 yards rushing. Tacha leads the way with 809 yards and 20 touchdowns, and senior quarterback Cannan Bennett
has 10 rushing touchdowns and 13 through the air.
"You can't really just sit there and say, ‘This is the guy you have to stop,'" O'Dwyer said of his team's rushing attack. "I think that's what Strasburg has now with all of their guys healthy."
Limon made the semifinals a year ago but had been a double-digit seed four years in a row before earning the top seed in November. The Badgers have the third-smallest enrollment out of 40 schools in 1A with 135 students, and have only 32 players in the program.
But that hasn't stopped Limon from enjoying its best season since last winning the 1A crown in 2005. O'Dwyer said the team has been fortunate to stay healthy, but the success really comes down to chemistry.
"Obviously we have quite a few seniors this year. Having that senior leadership really goes a long way to getting you over that hump," he said. "You can rely on those guys to go out there and make plays. We've had some nice young guys step up which is nice too, but you have to have that leadership in that senior class in order for that to happen."
In 2A, La Junta
is making a third consecutive appearance in the title game. The Tigers draw Platte Valley (Kersey)
at the ThunderBowl on the CSU-Pueblo campus.
Next week's championship berths in 5A, 4A and 3A will also be decided this weekend as those classifications compete in the semifinal round.
Here is a quick overview of the remaining games around the state this weekend:Championship Games
Class 2ANo. 4 La Junta (12-0) vs. No. 6 Platte Valley (12-0), 1 p.m. Saturday, Neta & Eddie DeRose ThunderBowl, CSU-Pueblo
La Junta and Platte Valley are no strangers to the championship scene. The Tigers won it all two years ago and lost to Bayfield in the 2017 championship game; Platte Valley won in 2013 and lost to Bayfield in 2015. Last fall Platte Valley was the No. 1 overall seed but was upset in the quarterfinals. The undefeated Broncos have moved past that disappointment though, putting up a combined 91 points in the first two rounds of the playoffs before knocking off undefeated Resurrection Christian (Loveland) in the semifinals. A ground game that averages nearly 250 yards a game has been paced by seniors Ernesto Rios
and quarterback Trevon Wehrman
, and Wehrman has also been big through the air. … La Junta, under first-year coach Ty Buderus, is also undefeated. The Tigers have pitched five shutouts in 12 games, and quarterback Jon Nuschy
had a big day on the ground in a 20-14 semifinal victory Faith Christian (Arvada) with 187 yards and three touchdowns. Nuschy and Ryan Malden
also had interceptions in the victory. La Junta averages 308 rushing yards a game, and Nuschy has 23 of the team's 49 touchdowns, and 10 more through the air. . . . The game returns to a neutral site after being played at a home site in recent years.Class A 8-ManNo. 5 Hoehne (11-1) at No. 3 Sedgwick County (10-1), 1 p.m. SaturdayOverview:
While Sedgwick County has a tight grip on the 8-Man title in recent years, Hoehne had its own run earlier in the decade. The Farmers won titles in 2010 and 2012 and were the runner-up in 2011. The team was upset in the first round a year ago, but has taken care of business in the playoffs to this point, including a 50-8 rout of Pikes Peak Christian (Colorado Springs) in the semifinals. Hoehne's only loss this fall came to Sedgwick County in the season opener in August, and the two-headed rushing monster of seniors Trysten Moltrer
and Kyle Rowe
has combined for more than 2,000 yards on the ground. Rowe also had 10 sacks going into the semifinals. … Sedgwick County regrouped from a loss to Merino on Oct. 26 by shutting out the Rams 32-0 in the semifinals. Seniors Layne Green
and Ethan Walter
and junior Beau Parker
have each played big roles in the team's strong rushing game, and the defense has limited opponents to less than 10 points in eight of 11 games overall. Class A 6-Man
No. 2 Kit Carson (11-0) at No. 1 Stratton/Liberty (11-1), 1 p.m. Saturday
One year after losing in the championship game to Peetz, Stratton/Liberty returns to the 6-Man title game looking to win its first trophy since 2013. The Knighted Eagles put together a strong performance in the semifinals, limiting an explosive Peetz offense to a season-low 20 points. Stratton/Liberty sophomore Jaret Lichty
rushed for 211 yards and six touchdowns on the day, giving him 24 on the season. Senior Ethan Richmond
has also been a force on the ground with nearly 1,200 yards and 19 touchdowns. Stratton/Liberty's only loss this season though came to Kit Carson back on Oct. 26. … The Wildcats have never won a state title in football, and haven't made the championship game since 1995. The team lost in the semifinals in 2015 and 2017, and was the top seed in 2015 and 2016. Senior T.J. Conaway
had 21 touchdown passes going into the semifinal game with Arickaree/Woodlin, three of which came against Stratton/Liberty in the regular season. Junior Joe Bryan
had 18 rushing scores in the team's first 10 games.Semifinals
No. 3 Cherry Creek (11-1) at No. 2 Columbine (12-0), 7 p.m. Friday, Jeffco Stadium
No. 1 Valor Christian (12-0) at No. 5 Grandview (11-1), 1 p.m. Saturday, Legacy Stadium
Four heavyweights will slug it out this week in the semifinals with two great matchups. Valor Christian (Highlands Ranch)
gets its shot at redemption against Grandview (Aurora)
after the Wolves ended the Eagles' run of eight consecutive title-game appearances last fall in the quarterfinals. Valor has ridden the play of quarterback Luke McCaffrey
, who has nearly 2,000 yards passing and 18 touchdowns. Freshman Gavin Sawchuk
has been the workhorse in the past three games, rushing for more than 500 yards and eight touchdowns – including five in the quarterfinal victory over ThunderRidge (Highlands Ranch). … Grandview rallied to upend No. 4 Eaglecrest (Aurora) last week. Senior Jordan Billingsley
(1,809 yards, 23 TDs) has gone for more than 100 yards in nine of the team's 12 games, and quarterback Jacob Burr
also had 18 touchdown passes. The Wolves also have 32 quarterback sacks, and will need that pressure to try and rattle McCaffrey. Grandview last made the 5A title game back in 2007, defeating Douglas County (Castle Rock).
After a one-point loss in the semifinals a year ago, Columbine (Littleton)
is looking to return to the title game for the first time since winning it all in 2011. The Rebels ended defending champion Pomona's run of three trips in a row to Mile High with a big victory last weekend, keyed by three rushing touchdowns from Adam Harrington
and a pair of TD passes from Logan DeArment
. Harrington and junior Tanner Hollens
have both rushed for more than 1,000 yards and combined for 31 touchdowns. Senior Cody Ramming
leads a defense that has 44 sacks with 14.5. … Cherry Creek (Greenwood Village)
is coming off a quarterfinal victory over another Jeffco team in Ralston Valley (Arvada) where Seamus Henderson
rushed for 157 yards and two scores. The Bruins – whose only loss came in two overtimes to Grandview – have not made the title game since winning in 2014. Senior Alex Padilla
has 23 touchdown passes, and sophomore Myles Purchase
has six interceptions. Class 4A
No. 9 Skyline (9-3) at No. 5 Ponderosa (10-2), 1 p.m. Saturday, EchoPark Stadium in Parker
No. 2 Loveland (12-0) at No. 6 Montrose (11-1), 1 p.m. Saturday
It's the 4A Longs Peak League (Loveland and Skyline) vs. the Metro League (Ponderosa and Montrose). Of the top four seeds, Loveland
was the only one to avoid the upset-bug and reached the semifinals for the first time since making the title game in 2015. The Indians have one of the state's top defenses, posting five shutouts in 12 games and not allowing more than 17 points in a single game all season. Senior Collin Morrison
has eight of the team's 17 sacks, and Loveland has forced 29 turnovers. Senior Zach Weinmaster
's 1,667 yards and 25 scores pace a rushing attack that averages 330 yards a game. … Montrose
's only loss this season came to Ponderosa (Parker)
, and the Indians are the only team to defeat 3A top seed Palisade. Junior Emmert Kastendieck
scored three touchdowns in a victory over Greeley West in the quarterfinals. The Indians are attempting to get back to the title game for the first time since 2013.
Ninth-seeded Skyline (Longmont)
is the lowest remaining seed playing after knocking off top-seeded Pine Creek (Colorado Springs) 21-20 in the quarterfinals. Jeremy Hollingsworth
rushed for two scores in that game and has 1,556 yards and 22 touchdowns this fall. Sophomore Chase Silva
has been a great find at quarterback, throwing for more than 2,600 yards and 27 touchdowns. His top target: Senior Kyle West
has 86 catches for 1,273 yards and 10 scores. … Ponderosa's two losses came in the first two games of the season to 5A squads, but the Mustangs have won 10 in a row. The team rallied to edge Chatfield (Littleton) last week with three fourth-quarter touchdowns. Senior Koby Kercher
leads a balanced offense with 757 rushing yards and seven touchdowns, and the defense has been tough all year. Ponderosa has 38.5 sacks, with seniors Ethan Waite
and Ryder Blair
combining for 19.
No. 4 Palmer Ridge (10-2) at No. 1 Palisade (11-1), 1 p.m. Saturday, Stocker Stadium
No. 3 Erie (12-0) at No. 2 Pueblo East (10-2), 1 p.m. Saturday, Dutch Clark Stadium
The top four seeds in 3A are the final teams standing, the only classification that can say that. Defending champion Palmer Ridge (Monument)
takes its dangerous passing attack to the Western Slope to match up with the ground-and-pound game of Palisade
. The Bulldogs average 332 rushing yards a game, paced by junior quarterback Cam Tucker
(1,638 yards, 27 touchdowns). Palisade's defense had allowed one touchdown in four games going into the semifinals. The team hasn't played for a state title since 2003. … On the other side, Palmer Ridge averages 43 points a game and has scored at least 35 points in each game during its current nine-game winning streak. Senior quarterback Ty Evans
has thrown for more than 2,300 yards and 33 touchdowns, 11 of which have gone to Anthony Roberson II
. The Bears can run the ball too, with junior Raef Ruel
topping 1,000 yards with 14 scores. Palmer Ridge has allowed only three TDs combined over the previous four games.
enters its semifinal without its biggest weapon after running back Noah Roper
sustained a leg injury in a shutout victory over Green Mountain (Lakewood) in the quarterfinals, according to BoCoPreps.com. Roper had rushed for more than 2,200 yards and scored 37 touchdowns, so the Tigers will lean on quarterback Gavin Mendoza
and others to shoulder the load. Erie's defense is coming off back-to-back shutouts in the postseason. … Pueblo East
, which captured three consecutive 3A crowns from 2014-16, shut out a Discovery Canyon (Colorado Springs) team that put up 52 points on it back on Sept. 20. Eagles quarterback Luc Andrada
has been brilliant, passing for more than 2,600 yards and tossing 29 touchdowns. Senior Kain Medrano
has hauled in 17 of those, and is 45 yards away from 1,000 on the season. Junior Brandon Hall
has eight of the team's 24 sacks, and Medrano also has seven interceptions.