SIX-MAN FOOTBALL PREVIEW – SEMIFINALS
BY: KERRY SHERMAN
Through the first two rounds of the postseason, only two lower seeds have pulled off upsets, and both were only one seed below their conquered foes. Otis picked up one of those upsets last week, as the fifth-ranked Bulldogs took out #4 Cheyenne Wells. They will look to add another, as they visit #1 Stratton this week. The other semifinal will have Granada traveling to Fleming, with the Bobcats playing the underdog role. Both semifinals are at 1pm on Saturday.
#1 STRATTON (12-0) VS #5 OTIS (9-2) SATURDAY 1PM
Three minutes into last week’s quarterfinal, Stratton found itself deadlocked with Eads, 16-all. Stratton went on to score the next 47 points and get the running clock started before the half. Another touchdown in the third provided the final margin of 70-16.
Alex Cruz put four of his six carries into the end zone, gaining 107 yards in the process. Avery Archuleta (three carries, 62 yards) and Cyler Notter (five carries, 59 yards) each added a rushing TD. Notter also caught a 38-yard TD from Charlie Tagtmeyer, who also tossed a 14-yard scoring pass to Brody Webb.
The Stratton defense adjusted after those first two Eads drives, allowing a total of 133 yards on the day. Only 29 came on the ground. Webb recorded one of four interceptions by the team, with older brother Austin adding one. Von Isenbart had one, and Notter took one back for a score. Joe Shean led the unit with eight tackles, while B. Webb and Notter each added seven. Cruz and Dawson Thompson each recorded a pair of sacks, and they combined for 11 stops overall. Stockton Fye secured a fumble recovery to help the cause, and Carlos Sanza converted all seven PAT kicks and registered touchbacks on seven of 10 kickoffs.
Otis got on the board with only a few seconds left in the opening quarter at Cheyenne Wells on the first of four rushing touchdowns by Tayte Smith. He would put the Bulldogs up 14-6 late in the half on a passing TD to Jack Willeke, but the hosts got that back on a long scoring pass and only two points separated the teams at the half. Both teams scored early in the third and it looked like they would head to the fourth knotted at 20. Erick Thorn scored right before the end of the frame to give the Bulldogs a 28-20 lead, that they would not relinquish, as they won 44-26.
Smith finished the day with 228 yards and four touchdowns on 29 carries, and he completed three of four passes for 58 yards and the one touchdown. Thorn added 46 yards and one TD on five carries. Sawyer Packer snagged four passes for 59 yards, and Willeke had two for 45 and the touchdown.
Charlie Kendrick, who made four of six PAT kicks, led the defense with 14 tackles. Peyton Wells racked up 10 tackles, four forced fumbles, and a fumble recovery. Taylor Ringlein tallied nine stops, while Smith and Bohden Klinzmann added eight and seven, respectively. Mitchell Stivers picked off a pair of passes and registered a forced fumble. Ringlein also forced a fumble.
Otis has not taken a win over Stratton since 2014, early in the history of the Stratton/Liberty co-op. The Bulldogs have dropped the last eight overall, including the last two against the Eagles since the dissolution of the co-op. Cruz ran for 196 yards and five touchdowns in a 64-20 win for the Eagles earlier this season. Smith scored twice on the ground for Otis in the loss. Stratton has made five straight title game appearances winning the crown in 2018 and finishing second four times. Otis has not played for a title since 2011, when the Bulldogs fell to Fleming.
#2 FLEMING (9-2) VS #3 GRANADA (8-3) SATURDAY 1PM
Fleming was the first team to punch its ticket into the semifinals, getting out to a 36-14 halftime advantage over Genoa-Hugo last Friday. The Wildcats showed no let up in the second half, as they pushed out to a 66-30 win, securing a third semifinal berth in the last four seasons.
With Nolan Japp seeing limited reps, Blake Feather stepped into a larger role on offense, carrying the ball 25 times for 205 yards and a TD. Kolten Houser also had an opportunity to get more work, and he responded with 119 yards and five scores on 15 carries. Those two also were each on the receiving end of a TD pass from Braylen Feather, who finished with 108 yards through the air.
Houser was the lone Wildcat defender in double digit stops, racking up 10 on the day. The senior added a pick-six, two fumble recoveries, and a forced fumble. Blake Feather tallied eight tackles and six PAT conversions on nine attempts. Braylen Feather had seven tackles, while Matix Haney and Japp each had five. Haney forced a pair of fumbles, and Wyatt Cochran recovered one.
One of the most impressive offensive performances of the entire postseason was put together by Granada in the quarterfinals. The Bobcats racked up 564 yards of offense in a 79-50 victory over Arickaree. Granada led 24-8 after one and 48-22 at the half, as they advanced to the semifinals for the third straight season.
Maddox Coleman showed off his versatility, throwing for 45 yards and a TD, rushing for 80 yards and two touchdowns, and catching six passes for 150 yards. Brandon Gonzales threw for 260 and two touchdowns, one apiece to Oryan Hainer and John Hainer, while also catching the scoring toss from Coleman. Jonus Guevara led the ground attack with 115 yards and three touchdowns, and J. Hainer added 61 yards and two scores.
O. Hainer recorded nine tackles, a tally matched by Guevara, who also recovered a fumble. Coleman added seven tackles, and Gonzales registered six. Jose Sanchez converted all nine of his PAT kicks.
The teams were scheduled to meet early in the regular season, but Granada surrendered a forfeit due to injuries. This will be the second time they’ve met in the postseason, as Fleming earned a 52-46 victory in the 2020 semifinals. They met just two weeks earlier, and the Wildcats also picked up the 49-44 win in the regular season finale. Fleming went on to win the title that year, its second straight championship. Granada is looking for its first championship game berth in its brief six-man history.