Experience gives Hotchkiss confidence heading into 1A playoffs

Since dropping to Class 1A in 2008, things have gone well for the Hotchkiss High School football team.

The Bulldogs followed up last season’s 9-2 record, that ended with a loss in the quarterfinals of the playoffs, with a 9-0 regular season this year. The perfect regular season earned Hotchkiss the No. 5 seed in this year’s playoffs. Hotchkiss hosts Dolores at 1 p.m. today.

“We have beaten some 2A playoff teams and we would be a playoff team in 2A,” Hotchkiss coach Zac Lemon said. ” But we don’t have a chance to compete for a state championship like we do (in 1A).”

Hotchkiss’ key to success might be in the split-back veer offensive attack that Lemon installed when he arrived from Delta three years ago. This season the Bulldogs averaged 35 points and 232 yards rushing per game.

“We call plays (depending on the) defensive scheme,” Lemon said. “Most of our plays can be run to either direction with good success.”

Last year, the Bulldogs got similar production on the ground, but it was from one player, Ethan Coe, who graduated. Lemon said he realized this year was going to be more of a running back by committee.

The Bulldogs are led by senior Tyler Hansen and sophomore Jamie Rodriguez. The two have almost identical statistics — Hansen has 90 carries for 686 yards and Rodriguez has 92 carries for 626 yards.

Hansen has 13 touchdowns to Rodriguez’s nine. Quarterback Ryan Spor has 13 total touchdowns and 594 yards rushing.

“Everyone understood their role, they understood they wouldn’t be Ethan Coe,” Lemon said. “So we get the same type of production out of three guys instead of one.”

Lemon said Hansen is more of a power back, and Rodriguez has good breakaway speed.

“Tyler is a powerful runner and is good at breaking tackles,” Lemon said. “Jamie is a straightaway speed guy that has great footwork.”

Defensively, Hotchkiss is led by Dakota Coats, who has 50 tackles. Spor is also a good defensive player with eight interceptions.

Across all fronts, the Bulldogs might be as good, if not better, than last year’s team. The experience gained from last year’s playoff run has given Hotchkiss a lot of confidence heading into today’s game.

“Last year taught us how to prepare for the playoffs,” Lemon said. “We are going to be more prepared this year when it comes to playing teams from the Front Range.”

Hotchkiss isn’t the only team from the 1A Western Slope Conference to make the playoffs. Meeker and Paonia advanced into the field of 16. Meeker (6-2) earned the No. 9 seed and plays at Ignacio (7-2) in the first round. Paonia (4-5) is seeded 14th and plays at third-seeded Rye (9-0).


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