Go West, young man

Western Slope Conference has trio of strong teams in Class 1A playoffs

Taylor Walters, center, has been the key cog for the Paonia offense, playing running back and quarterback for the Eagles, who won the Class 1A Western Slope Conference title.


Taylor Walters, center, has been the key cog for the Paonia offense, playing running back and quarterback for the Eagles, who won the Class 1A Western Slope Conference title.

Hotchkiss’ Duncan Turnbull is one of a trio of running backs the Bulldogs will use in the first round of the playoffs.


Hotchkiss’ Duncan Turnbull is one of a trio of running backs the Bulldogs will use in the first round of the playoffs.

Trent Walker has thrown for 1,218 yards for Cedaredge, which is back in the postseason to defend last year’s state title.


Trent Walker has thrown for 1,218 yards for Cedaredge, which is back in the postseason to defend last year’s state title.


No. 13 C.S. Christian (6-3) vs. No. 4 Paonia (8-1)

First round, 3 p.m.
Saturday at Paonia High School


Colorado Springs Christian — Jay Kersey, fifth season, 31-19.

Paonia — Brent McRae, first season, 8-1.

About Colorado Springs Christian

■ The Lions strike a balance on offense, rushing for 1,554 yards and passing for 1,293.

■ Freshman QB Justin Engesser has completed 65 percent of his passes, 70 of 108, for 967 yards and six touchdowns. He has thrown eight interceptions. He is not a running threat, losing 13 yards on five carries.

■ Senior TJ Stockton is the leading rusher with 885 yards, averaging 7.1 yards per carry, and 14 touchdowns. He also is second on the team with 19 catches for 289 yards and three TDs, and he played some quarterback, completing 16 passes for 277 yards and two touchdowns. Senior Jacob Santarelli has 377 yards rushing and seven TDs.

■ Junior wide receiver Shad Stockton is the leading receiver with 24 catches for 368 yards. Junior wide receiver Luke Harrison added 15 catches for 266 yards and two scores.

About Paonia

■ The Eagles won the 1A Western Slope Conference with a 5-0 mark, shutting out second-place Hotchkiss and third-place Cedaredge in consecutive weeks to close the regular season.

■ Paonia’s lone loss was 27-14 to
No. 3 seed Centauri. The Eagles have won six in a row since then, outscoring opponents 231-36 in those wins and winning three of them by shutout.

■ Sophomore Taylor Walters has been the Eagles’ most dangerous weapon, lining up at running back or quarterback. He has rushed for 1,532 yards, which ranks seventh in the state among all classes. He surpassed 300 yards on the ground one game and rushed for more than 200 yards in two others. He has completed 22 of 42 passes for 482 yards and seven touchdowns.

■ When Walters isn’t under center, senior Ty Coats is the quarterback, and he has completed 13 of 21 passes for 233 yards and six TDs.

■ The leading receivers are junior tight ends Logan Schopp, who has 15 catches, 267 yards and four TDs, and Joel Simianer with nine catches for 208 yards and six TDs.

■ Schopp and Simianer also play linebacker and have 48 and 45 tackles, respectively, and senior lineman Tony Darling has 46 tackles, including 12 for losses, plus 3 1/2 sacks. Austin has three sacks.

No. 11 Burlington (6-3) vs.
No. 6 Hotchkiss (7-2)

First round, 1 p.m.
Saturday at Hotchkiss High School


Burlington — Glynn Higgs, 23rd season, 208-54.

Hotchkiss — Zac Lemon, seventh season, 61-15.

About Burlington

■ Burlington has been an elite small-school program during Glynn Higgs 23 years as its head coach. The Cougars won Class 1A state titles in 2011 and 2010, and they were Class 2A state champs in 2001, 1998, 1997 and 1995.

■ Burlington has won five straight games since losing 35-14 to undefeated Limon, Class 1A’s No. 2 seed. The Cougars have outscored the opposition 242-42 in that stretch and scored more than 40 points in each contest.

■ Burlington is a run-first team with 395 carries for 2,717 yards. Senior Eloy Sandoval leads the way with 1,039 yards, averaging 6.4 yards per carry, and 16 touchdowns. Junior Martin Torres is second with 986 yards, averaging 8.4 yards per carry, and 12 touchdowns.

■ Senior quarterback Chance Carlin has completed 36 of 87 passes for 457 yards and one touchdown. He’s been intercepted once. He’s run for 168 yards and seven touchdowns.

■ Senior Tyler Diaz leads the team with 10 catches for 131 yards.

About Hotchkiss

■ Hotchkiss has been to the state semifinals three years in a row but lost each time, including a 16-12 loss to eventual state champion Cedaredge last year.

■ The Bulldogs’ two losses this season are to top-seeded and undefeated Buena Vista, 20-14 in Week 2, and to No. 4 Paonia, 21-0 in Week 8.

■ Hotchkiss will be without starting quarterback Devan Rupe, a senior who sustained a season-ending concussion against Paonia. He had completed 45 of 94 passes for 681 yards and eight touchdowns and rushed for 322 yards, averaging 6.3 yards per carry, and six touchdowns.

■ Senior Tanner Bizer is now the quarterback. He has completed 12 of 22 passes for 106 yards and a TD and rushed for 43 yards and two scores.

■ The Bulldogs spread out their carries, and junior tailback Alex Smith leads the team with 914 yards and 12 touchdowns. He averages 6.9 yards per carry. Junior fullback Duncan Turnbull has 381 yards, averaging 5.5 yards per rush, and junior running back River Panish has 276 yards and 4.8 average.

■ Chris Allen leads the receiving corps with 26 catches for 329 yards and four TDs. Hank Edwards is second with 17 catches 269 yards and three TDs. Both are senior wide receivers.

No. 12 Cedaredge (6-3) vs. No. 5 Monte Vista (7-2)

First round, 1 p.m. Saturday at Monte Vista High School


Cedaredge — Brandon Milholland, fourth season, 25-17.

Monte Vista — Manny Wassinger, first season, 7-2.

About Monte Vista

■ The Pirates had four common opponents with Cedaredge during the regular season: Hotchkiss beat Monte Vista 34-33 and beat the Bruins 28-6; Lake County lost 47-8 to Monte Vista and lost 52-0 to Cedaredge; Dolores lost 46-0 to the Pirates and lost 44-0 to the Bruins; and Roaring Fork lost 41-0 to Monte Vista and lost 27-0 to Cedaredge.

■ Monte Vista finished second in the 1A Southern Peaks Conference behind champion Centauri (5-0), which beat the Pirates 14-0 in the regular-season finale.

■ The Pirates get it done with defense, limiting opponents to eight or fewer points six times, including three shutouts.

■ The offense is balanced with 297 rushes for 1,486 yards and 23 touchdowns and 139 pass attempts for 1,124 yards and 22 touchdowns.

■ The running game also strikes a balance with junior running back Jacob Vance leading the way with team highs of 87 carries, 477 yards and eight TDs. Senior running back Brenen Ramirez is next with 383 yards, averaging 5.9 yards per carry, and five TDs.

■ Senior quarterback Michael Sanchez has completed 71 of 129 passes for 1,050 yards and 20 touchdowns. He also can run, carrying 78 times for 299 yards and three scores.

■ Junior Daniel Borunda and senior Mitch Vanderpool lead the receivers with 381 and 310 yards, respectively. Vanderpool has seven TD passes among his 17 receptions, and Borunda has six TDs among 23 catches.

About Cedaredge

■ The Bruins, last year’s 1A state champion, finished third in the 1A Western Slope Conference with a 3-2 mark. They’re coming off a 40-0 loss to Paonia in the regular-season finale.

■ The Bruins were extremely balanced on offense. Their statistics listed on MaxPreps, however, do not reflect the numbers of running back Reid Gates, who died from accidental carbon-monoxide poisoning after the third game. In his final game, a 34-20 victory over 2A playoff team Olathe, Gates rushed 20 times for 104 yards and a touchdown. Gates, also a defensive back, was an all-state player as a junior.

■ Senior quarterback Trent Walker has completed 103 of 193 passes for 1,218 yards and 10 touchdowns. He has thrown 15 interceptions.

■ Senior Kyle Ward, who plays wide receiver, tight end and running back, led Cedaredge with 50 catches for 747 yards and five touchdowns. Junior wide receiver Tylor Ward was second with 18 catches for 242 yards and four touchdowns.

■ Junior Xander Camp and senior Peter Williamson led the Bruins’ ground game with 397 and 367 yards, respectively.

If recent history means anything, look for a 1A Western Slope Conference team to make a deep run in the Class 1A football state playoffs, which begin Saturday.

Hotchkiss has reached the state semifinals three years in a row before bowing out, and it was a 1A WSC team that ended the Bulldogs’ run. Cedaredge edged Hotchkiss 16-12, then went on to win the first state title in its football program’s history.

Both are back in the 16-team playoff field, but neither garnered the conference championship en route to the postseason. That honor belonged to Paonia, which cranked up its defense down the stretch and closed the regular season with shutouts of Hotchkiss and Cedaredge, 21-0 and 40-0, respectively.

Paonia (8-1) earned the fourth seed in 1A and a home game against Colorado Springs Christian.

Hotchkiss (7-2) drew the sixth seed and a home game against Burlington, a program two years removed from winning consecutive 1A state titles.

Cedaredge (6-3) is seeded 12th and goes on the road to Monte Vista.

Eagles defense takes flight

First-year Paonia coach Brent McRae said the Eagles’ defense has been impressive of late because the coaches finally got players in the right spots.

“In the first four-five weeks we were moving people around,” he said. “We got the pieces where they needed to be finally, and everything started clicking.”

McRae said Paonia’s defense now has speed in all positions, including the line, and it can put a couple of 200-pounders at defensive tackle. He also likes his linebacking corps, led by juniors Logan Schopp and Joel Simianer.

The defense’s challenge will be to play smart because Colorado Springs Christian’s offense will throw everything and the kitchen sink at it. Whether it’s a pro set, a spread, the wildcat or shifting from a spread to double-tight-end formation, the Lions never take a snap under center, and they run lots of motion and love the read-option.

“They try to make you think,” McRae said.

The primary weapon for the Lions is senior TJ Stockton, who will line up almost anywhere: running back, quarterback, tight end and wide receiver.

Simply put, “He goes,” McRae said.

Paonia figures to make Colorado Springs Christian adjust on defense, too. McRae said the Lions’ base defense is a 5-2, but no one plays a 5-2 against the Eagles’ offense. He’s guessing Paonia will face a 6-2.

The Lions challenge will be to slow down sophomore quarterback/running back Taylor Walters, who has surpassed 1,500 yards rushing and thrown for nearly 500 yards.

“He’s explosive, and he’s hard to tackle,” McRae said, adding Walters is humble and credits the Eagles’ line for his success.

McRae likes to go with double tight ends, Schopp and Simianer, sandwiching tackles Dylan Geisler and Josh Kimball, guards Chase Park and Tony Darling and center Drewe Lee.

“Our O-line, they’re tough, tough, they’re good,” McRae said.

Both lines will be key for a Paonia victory Saturday.

“We have to control the line of scrimmage and dominate up front. That’s where it starts,” McRae said. “And we have to take care of the football, no turnovers. It’s the same philosophy we’ve had all season.”

‘dogs see selves in Cougars

Hotchkiss coach Zac Lemon means it when he says Burlington is a mirror image of the Bulldogs. The Cougars run the same offense and defense, split-back veer and 3-3 stack, as Hotchkiss.

“They’re a balanced running attack, can run either direction, and you have to be balanced sideline to sideline and know your responsibilities (to stop them),” Lemon said.

Senior Eloy Sandoval has 1,039 yards rushing, and junior Martin Torres isn’t far behind with 986 yards. The Cougars don’t pass much, but Lemon said Burlington quarterback Chance Carlin is “very effective.”

“We know they’re going to do what they do well,” Lemon said. “They’re so consistent top to bottom, front to back.”

The Bulldogs will have to get past Burlington without their starting quarterback, Devan Rupe, whom Lemon said is out for the rest of the season with a concussion. Taking his place is senior Tanner Bizer, who had experience off and on at quarterback at the lower levels.

“He’s athletic enough to make it happen,” Lemon said of Bizer’s switch to quarterback.

Bizer started the regular-season finale, a 28-0 win over Meeker, and he completed 11 of 20 passes for 103 yards and a touchdown. He added 31 yards rushing on seven attempts.

The Bulldogs get several running backs frequent carries, but Alex Smith got fed the ball the most, rushing for 914 yards and 12 touchdowns.

Bruins face familiar foe

Cedaredge enters the game on a low note, getting shut out by Paonia, and it faces a program that no doubt has revenge on its mind. The Bruins beat Monte Vista 18-0 in the second round of last year’s playoffs.

Like the Bruins, though, Monte Vista was shut out, 14-0, in a regular-season finale against its conference’s champion.

Defense appears to be the Pirates’ forte, as they shut out three opponents and surrendered only 28 points in the final five games of the season.

“They’re scrappy on defense. They really get after it,” Cedaredge coach Brandon Milholland said. “Their linebackers play downhill and are very aggressive.”

The Pirates are all about team on offense, spreading the ball around so much and striking such a balance between the run and the pass, no runners or receivers have more than 500 yards.

Again, Milholland used the word scrappy to describe the Pirates, and he added, “They play hard. They don’t have one player who stands out. They get it done as a team.”

Milholland is more concerned about the effort by his team than the opponent. The Paonia loss was disappointing because of the final score and because the Bruins had a chance to create a three-way tie atop the conference with a win.

“I just want to see them play with passion and heart,” Milholland said. “Football is an emotional game. ... I want to see us get after it and fly to the ball.”

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