Rivalry amped up
Winner of Cedaredge-Hotchkiss tilt advances to Class 1A state title game
They’ll be without their quarterback and safety, their fastest player, their leader.
Cedaredge senior Dante Markley suffered a concussion toward the end of the Bruins’ Class 1A state quarterfinal win over Monte Vista last week. Doctors have not cleared Markley to play this week when No. 3 Cedaredge (10-1) plays at No. 10 Hotchkiss (9-2) in the Class 1A state semifinal.
“It’s rough,” Markley said. “If we can get through this week, I think at least I’ll have a chance to play next week. That’s what I’m hoping for now.”
Trent Walker, a junior who has thrown six passes this season, will start at quarterback for Markley. Peter Williamson, a linebacker, will start in Markley’s place at safety. And Markley will have an important sideline role Saturday: keeping Williamson on task at the position.
Hotchkiss, meanwhile, will prepare as though Markley were playing. But Bulldogs coach Zac Lemon said Hotchkiss would rather have played the Bruins at their best.
“(Markley) deserves this opportunity,” Lemon said.
But Lemon said he knows Cedaredge, with fast, aggressive players and talented skill-position players such as senior twins Cade and Carter Wasser, will still be a worthy semifinal opponent.
“It’s a big hit for them, but you know they’re still going to play hard, still play smart and physical, and it’s not going to be a big deal,” Lemon said. “I don’t think they can change that much in a week. We’re going to treat (Walker) as if he were Dante, and if we have to adjust, we will.”
Cedaredge usually runs a spread offense (with Markley) and is a threat to run and pass. Cedaredge has won 10 straight games, its only loss a 32-6 setback in the season opener to Class 3A state quarterfinalist Eagle Valley.
Hotchkiss is led by one of Class 1A’s top running backs, Jacobe Galley, who has 2,039 yards and an 11.9 yards-per-carry average.
Both teams are coming off wins last week in which they overcame numerous fumbles and mostly windy, sometimes snowy, conditions.
Cedaredge had five turnovers — three interceptions and two fumbles — in its 18-0 victory over Monte Vista.
Hotchkiss lost three fumbles in the first quarter against Limon. But the Bulldogs, down 26-7 late in the in the third quarter, put up 40 unanswered points for a 47-26 win.
The weather forecast as of Wednesday called for mostly sunny weather and a high of about 51 degrees Saturday in Hotchkiss.
Cedaredge coach Brandon Milholland said last weekend’s weather was a test of mental toughness. Here’s one mind trick: Milholland said one of his college football coaches at Mesa State, Clarence Ross, told him, “You’ll pass out before you die.”
“That’s just kind of the mentality of these young men this year,” Milholland said.
And so the rematch between these two teams, which are about a 23-mile drive apart, has arrived. When they met at Hotchkiss on Sept. 29, the Bruins won 21-20. Cedaredge did not turn the ball over.
“That’s playing the game smart,” Milholland said.
And they’ll try to do so without Markley, who has passed for 1,278 yards and 16 touchdowns and rushed for 563 yards and 10 touchdowns.
“It’s pretty sad, pretty devastating,” Milholland said. “But we’ve been about being a team all year. I think the rest of the guys are going to rise up — they have to. In order for us to be competitive, we’ve got to step up, and hopefully we can prevail without Dante, and he can come back after next week.”
They’ll do so behind Walker, who completed 3 of 6 passes for 30 yards and an interception against Roaring Fork on Oct. 5.
Last season, Walker had extensive playing time at quarterback, his best performance coming when he completed 7 of 19 passes for 203 yards with one touchdown and an interception in a 41-31 win over Roaring Fork.
“Obviously this year he hasn’t received many snaps, just a little in practice,” Milholland said.
Hotchkiss’s only other loss is to another semifinalist, No. 1 Buena Vista, which plays at No. 4 Wray at 1 p.m. Saturday.
Coin flips have determined possible state championship sites: Buena Vista would host if the state championship is Buena Vista vs. Cedaredge; Hotchkiss would host if it’s Buena Vista vs. Hotchkiss, and if Wray defeats Buena Vista in the semifinal, it would host regardless of the Cedaredge-Hotchkiss winner.
Hotchkiss has lost in the semifinal round the past two seasons.