Meeker eyes Bennett in semifinals
Meeker is a big, physical football team. Just like always.
But this year’s Meeker squad is as balanced as any in the Class 1A ranks.
Meeker (11-0), the No. 1 seed, comes into today’s semifinal game averaging 202 yards rushing and 190 yards passing. That’s balanced.
Of their 53 offensive touchdowns, the Cowboys have scored 25 running and 28 receiving. That’s balanced.
Meeker hosts fourth-seeded Bennett (10-1) 1 p.m. today.
“One of our big assets this year is that we’ve been able to be pretty balanced, and pass the ball efficiently and still run the ball well,” coach Shane Phelan said.
Meeker junior quarterback Logan Hughes is the key to the high-powered offense. He has 2,091 yards passing with those 28 TDs and only six interceptions. He’s also run for 344 yards and five TDs.
In last week’s 28-15 quarterfinal win over Platte Canyon, Hughes was nearly perfect going 11 for 13 for 212 yards and four touchdowns.
He’s thrown for more than 160 yards 10 times this season and more than 200 five times.
When the Cowboys run the ball, junior Doak Mantle is the main guy with just short of 1,000 yards and 11 total TDs.
Senior Casey Turner has 449 yards rushing and five TDs.
Most of Hughes’ passes have been divided up between three receivers.
Senior Sheridan Harvey leads the team with 38 catches for 678 yards. He has five TDs.
Senior Cole Brown averages more than 19 yards per catch and has 584 yards and 10 TDs on the season.
A third senior, Hunter Garcia, has 548 yards on 29 catches with six touchdowns.
Senior leadership has been key for Meeker as they go for the school’s first-ever state football title.
“We have a nice blend of a good senior core group who’s been playing together for a long time,” Phelan said.
Turner is a force at middle linebacker with 135 tackles and five sacks. Senior outside linebacker Chase Rule leads the team with 140 tackles.
“We have a lot of hard-nosed kids who fly around and really go to the football,” Phelan said.
The Class 1A playoffs have gone exactly as expected with the top four seeds advancing to the semifinals.
No. 3 Paonia (10-1) will travel to No. 2 Strasburg (11-0) today in the other semifinal.
Bennett also has a high-scoring offense — scoring 40 or more points in nine games — including its 63-27 quarterfinal win over Peyton.
The Tigers haven’t been too concerned about balance this season, averaging 388 yards a game rushing and a paltry 40 yards passing.
Bennett has two 1,000-yard rushers and another with more than 800 yards this season.
Junior quarterback Rocky Lechman leads the team with 1,241 yards rushing and 17 TDs. He averages more than 10 yards a carry.
Jesse Rodriquez, also a junior, has 1,088 yards and 18 TDs. Senior Garrett Miller has added 848 yards and 13 TDs.
Cade Becker leads the defense. The 235-pound lineman has 50 tackles and 12 sacks.
The teams have three common opponents this season.
Meeker opened the season with a 18-8 win over Highland. The Cowboys also beat Ellicott in the first round of the playoffs, 43-6, before beating Platte Canyon 28-15 last week.
Bennett beat Ellicott 66-20 on Sept. 16, Platte Canyon 22-12 to end the regular season on Oct. 29. The Tigers then opened the playoffs with a 49-0 win over Highland.
Bennett moved down from the Class 2A ranks this season. The Tigers’ lone loss this season came to Strasburg on Sept. 9, 55-44.
Meeker lost in the semifinals in 2014 and in the quarterfinals last year.