SIX-MAN FOOTBALL PREVIEW – WEEK THREE
BY: KERRY SHERMAN
Stratton flexed its muscle last week, winning a second straight clash against a top-five opponent. The Eagles strengthened their grip on the top spot in the coaches poll this week, taking 19 of 21 first place votes. They will meet up with yet another ranked foe this week, the only meeting between top-ten teams on the schedule. However, there are plenty of other good match-ups to check out.
#4 ARICKAREE (2-0) VS IDALIA (0-2) THURSDAY 7PM
The week gets underway with a big contest inside the East division, where Arickaree will be looking to grab an early share of the league lead, and move to 3-0 on the young season. The Bison scored on the opening play last Friday at North Park, but needed a TD right before the half to go into the break leading 31-14. They would go on to win by a 37-14 count. Logan Wright ran for 224 yards and five scores and also threw for one more touchdown to lead the offense, and his younger brother, Austin, racked up a pair of sacks on defense. Zarron Skubal had a game-high 14 tackles, including a sack.
Despite being shorthanded, Idalia was able to limit #2 Fleming’s running game to less than five yards per play. The Wildcats did throw for more than 250 yards, while holding the Wolves to just 153 yards of offense. Kye Towns provided a bright spot in the 44-6 loss, running for 111 yards and the team’s lone score. Kagen Hoyda (13) and Logan Breyer (10) combined for 23 tackles, and freshman Edward Keller recovered a fumble that was forced by Angel Alvarez.
The Wolves won the final three meetings against the Arickaree/Woodlin co-op, including a 52-8 decision last year. This will be their first clash with the Bison since 2013.
#1 STRATTON (2-0) VS #10 CHERAW (1-1) FRIDAY 7PM
There was no slow start for Stratton in week two, as the Eagles jumped out to a 26-8 first quarter lead at Granada. They would keep the pedal to the floor, eventually getting the running clock early in the fourth quarter, en route to a 70-28 win over the #3 Bobcats. Alex Cruz did the heavy lifting running for 280 yards and six touchdowns. All together, the Eagles ran for 379 yards and 10 scores. Cyler Notter was a key player on defense, recording 12 tackles (two sacks), a forced fumble and a fumble recovery. Joe Shean added a sack, and Brody Webb tallied 10 stops. Charlie Tagtmeyer broke up five passes and also came up with his third pick of the season.
Despite turning the ball over five times, Cheraw still had a chance to claim a victory last week at home against Branson/Kim. Trailing 21-14 late in the contest, the Wolverines got the touchdown to cut it to a one-point game. However, the PAT kick was blocked, leaving them down by a point. They would get the ball back after a defensive stand, but could not convert of fourth down. Braeden Harris ran for 179 yards and a TD in the loss, but it was the defense that kept the Wolverines in the contest. They held Branson/Kim to just 138 total yards.
Stratton dominated last season’s playoff quarterfinal, 62-0, as the Eagles ran for 382 yards and seven touchdowns. There were two earlier meetings with Cheraw, in the early years of the Stratton/Liberty co-op. Cheraw lost both of those match-ups.
#5 GENOA-HUGO (2-0) VS FLAGLER (0-1) FRIDAY 7PM
Genoa-Hugo enters Friday’s game with Flagler as one of the top scoring squads in the classification. After a 70-point performance in the opener, the Pirates came back with a 64-25 win at Kit Carson last week. Trey Smith completed 11 of 15 passes for 209 yards and three touchdowns, while also reaching paydirt once on the ground. The Rowden-Stum brothers, Kyler and Konner, did damage as receivers, with Kyler catching four passes for 115 yards and Konner snagging three for 77 yards and a score. Konner also ran for 119 yards and two touchdowns, and returned a kick for yet another TD.
Flagler’s had an extra week to prepare for this contest, as the Panthers had their bye last week. They were outgained 381-138 by Deer Trail in week one’s 54-6 loss. Two freshmen made an impact on defense, with Brayden Hill and Cody Homm each recording a sack. Calvin Freiman scored the only touchdown for the Panthers, catching a toss from Camden Bledsoe.
Despite their proximity, these two teams have not played since 2007. Flagler won four straight meetings between 2004 and 2007.
#6 OTIS (2-0) VS HI-PLAINS (0-1) FRIDAY 7:30PM
With a nice blend of youth and veteran leadership, Otis is out of the gates with a 2-0 mark. The Bulldogs got a workmanlike performance from sophomore running back, Tayte Smith, in last week’s 47-7 win at Briggsdale. Smith toted the rock 27 times for 167 yards and two scores. He also completed a TD pass to Jack Willeke. Defensively, Otis recorded five takeaways, and for the second straight game, its starting defense did not allow a point.
It’s a rebuilding year for Hi-Plains, and with just eight players currently on the roster, the Patriots have already taken some lumps. Their defense struggled to stop the run in their week one loss to Weldon Valley, allowing 386 yards on the ground. They lost that contest 37-14 and had their bye last week. The coaching staff was hopeful that the extra week might help the Patriots recover from some nagging injuries.
As a stand-alone program, Hi-Plains has an 8-1 mark against the Bulldogs in recent years, including a 58-7 win last season. The Patriots were able to hold Smith to 96 yards in that game, well below his career average of 133.
#7 CHEYENNE WELLS (0-2) VS PEETZ (1-1) FRIDAY 2PM AT LIBERTY SCHOOL
To show how much respect the coaches across the state have for Cheyenne Wells, even after last week’s 45-27 loss to Cheylin (KS) dropped the Tigers to 0-2, they remained in the top-10. Turnovers have been a big bugaboo, as the Tigers have thrown nine interceptions in two games. Without the services of Ty Scheler last week, Blake Gilmore carried a good portion of the workload, running for 182 yards and two scores on 23 carries.
After grabbing a 14-12 lead late in the first quarter last week, Peetz surrendered 36 consecutive points and eventually fell at Prairie by a 66-20 count. Due to injuries, the Bulldogs are playing a lot of young kids, including freshman QB Rhyder Bayne, who threw for 136 yards and two scores on just three completions last week. Noah Naegele was on the receiving end of both scoring tosses.
This is the first meeting between the two squads.
#8 BRANSON/KIM (1-1) AT SIERRA GRANDE (1-1) FRIDAY 1PM
As mentioned earlier, Branson/Kim had its share of offensive struggles in last week’s contest at Cheraw, but managed to eke out the 21-20 win. At one stage, the Bearcats went from first and goal inside the 15 to fourth and goal from their own 35. One of the biggest plays of the game came when Brock Doherty caught a bobbled hand-off in midair and raced 54 yards for a score. However, the biggest play of all was Kolter Cranson’s block of the potential winning PAT kick by the Wolverines. He also caught the PAT pass that stood as the final difference in the contest.
Speaking of offensive struggles, Sierra Grande had trouble sustaining drives last week, leaving its defense on the field for extended periods. Eads took advantage and claimed a 52-12 victory. The Panthers only forced one turnover in the game and gave the ball up four times, including twice on interceptions.
Sierra Grande won a pair of meetings with the Bearcats last year, 51-8 in the regular season finale and 39-36 a week later in the opening round of the playoffs. Overall, the Panthers own a 3-2 edge over Branson/Kim, with one of the wins coming by forfeit. These two are now in the same division, and while it’s still very early in the season, the winner of this meeting could very well claim the league crown.
#9 DEER TRAIL (2-0) AT BETHUNE (1-1) FRIDAY 4PM
Points have been plentiful for Deer Trail in the early going. The Eagles are averaging 61.5 a game after last week’s 69-19 win over Primero. Elvin Castro ran roughshod over Primero last week, amassing 294 yards and five touchdowns, and Julian Guevara added 84 yards and two scores. Castro also scored on a kick return of 55 yards.
Last week was a momentous event for Bethune, as the Bobcats earned their first win in six years. They needed a defensive stop in the final 90 seconds to secure the 38-31 victory over Weldon Valley, and they got it. Jesus Barraza ran for more than 200 yards, helping Bethune pile up 337 on the ground.
This is the league opener for both sides and it will be the first meeting between the programs since 2011. Most of these players were in first or second grade at the time.
Friday night will also see a big contest in the North division, as Prairie visits Briggsdale, with both teams coming in at 1-1. Prairie is tied with Fleming atop the division and a win keeps the Mustangs there. Briggsdale needs a win to get itself into a tie with the Wildcats. Prairie owns a 10-7 edge in the series, with wins in the last five meetings.
Speaking of Fleming, the second-ranked Wildcats were supposed to face #3 Granada on Saturday, but the Bobcats are dealing with too many injuries to be able to field a team for that contest. Fleming spent the early part of the week trying to find a replacement, including contacting schools in the neighboring states, but none could be found. So, they will flip their bye from next week to now, and then fill week four with an opponent from Nebraska.