Friday, Oct. 9 kicked off the 2020 fall football season for Trinidad, La Veta/Aguilar and Branson/Kim. After months of back and forth between the Colorado High School Athletics Association (CHSAA), Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) and Gov. Polis, football found its way back onto the fall sports schedule.
In late Sept. Trinidad, La Veta/Aguilar and Branson/Kim began their preseason football practice for the newly reinstated fall football season.
With only two weeks to squeeze in nine mandatory practices before the first game, coaches and players scrambled to install offense and prepare for the season.
“I think every team is going through this right now with all the COVID-19 policy and them (CHSAA) telling us we could play and then we couldn’t and then we could,” said Branson/Kim Coach Adam Lucero,
“I was worried there for a while I’m sure like most coaches were, but we finally were able to get it together and by the time we lined up to play I was happy with where we were at considering what we’ve been through.”
n Branson/Kim 34 – Sierra Grande 19
The Branson/Kim Bearcats football schedule started with a highly anticipated game against the Sierra Grande Panthers. The Bearcats entered the week one matchup ranked 10 in the preseason polls.
The game hosted at Sangre De Cristo high school kicked off at 1 p.m. and saw the Bearcats take an early 12-0 lead by the end of the first quarter.
“We look like a young team playing their first game because that’s exactly what we are,” said Branson’s Lucero.
Going into halftime the Bearcats led 20-13, behind sophomore running back Joe Cash Autry’s two rushing touchdowns.
“It was the first half that threw us off,” said Sierra Grande Head Coach Luis Corona, “In the second half we started opening up the pass game because we could not run on them.”
Both teams found their defensive rhythm resulting in a lower scoring second half.
“The middle linebacker he’s pretty good, number 28 (Sophomore Cade Smith) a lot of it we knew was going to go through him and we know defensively he could run sideline to sideline and make the tackle,” said Corona.
The Bearcats only found the endzone twice in the second half, finishing the game with 36.
Sierra Grande senior captain and quarterback A.J. Ojeda lead the Panthers offensive push at the Bearcats throwing for 180 yards and accounting for all three touchdowns.
Lucero said, “We wanted to shut down the run number one, and number two just do as well as we could in pass defense.”
In a condensed season with an eight-team playoff, Branson/Kim looks to return to the post-season again this year. Facing a tough conference schedule, the Bearcats look to build their Ratings Percentage Index (RPI) making a strong case to return to the playoffs for the second straight year.
n Granada 58 - La Veta 13
The La Veta Redskins faced the 6 ranked Granada Bobcats at home in a non-conference game on Friday Night.
La Veta senior captain and quarterback Ian Vallejos, threw for 96 yards, one touchdown and boasted a 68.8 quarterback rating in the loss.
“I thought if we could have capitalized on a couple on the deep passes that were incomplete, we would have been right in that game,” said La Veta Head Coach Ron Ortega.
The Redskin’s diverse offense found the endzone twice in their matchup against the Bobcats, but Granada’s powerful offense led by Sophomore Dominic Coleman put up 58.
“I was impressed with them, I wasn’t too sure what to expect looking at them last year,” said Granada Coach Traegon Marquez, “The few times that they got us or made us kind of tense is when somebody was sneaking out for passes.”
La Veta posed a challenge up front to the Bobcats, center Shawn Detray and nose guard Tobin Parker held their ground against an aggressive Granada line according to Marquez.
“I thought we matched up physically pretty evenly and then I saw number 7, Coleman, and then I saw him run and just realized he was the fastest kid with cleats on the field that night,” said Ortega.
“I think as a team we were just over 100 yards rushing, which we need to be closer to 200 yards in 6-man football,” he continued.
Offensive blocking, pass coverage and minimizing turnovers will be on the practice docket for the Redskins this week who look to improve their run game in preparation for the Sierra Grande Panthers.
n Olathe 48 - Trinidad 0
The Trinidad Miners hosted the Olathe Pirates on Friday night in their season opener. In a tough game that saw the Miners fall to the Pirates formidable run-pass-option offense 48-0.
“I thought we hit well, I think their size and their strength was just a bit much for us,” said Head Coach Justin Malano.
The Miners lost two veteran linemen to injury during the game and started the second half with five freshmen on the offensive line averaging a weight of 130 pounds according to Malano.
Standout junior linebacker Grady Stanley was highlighted by the Olathe head coach for his defensive efforts against the Pirate’s ground attack and dominant backfield.
“We have to be focused on being better as a team. We’re going to keep it really simple and focus on the run game and we have to continue to install a couple pass plays,” said Malano, “Defensively, we have to get better at tackling.”
The football league reorganization puts Trinidad in the reformed Tri-Peaks conference. Playing one of the toughest schedules in 1A football, Trinidad will face 4 ranked Florence and 6 ranked Colorado Springs Christian in conference play.
n What’s to come this week?
The 10th ranked Bearcats face the Walsh Eagles this Saturday, Oct. 17 at 1 p.m. in Branson.
“It’s just Walsh, they’re a physical team, they’re going to go out there and play hard for four quarters and they’re never going to drop their buckets. So, we better be ready to battle,” Said Lucero ahead of the matchup this weekend.
Trinidad will not play this week against Colorado Springs Christian due to eligibility issues within the team. Next Saturday Trinidad will go on the road to Rocky Ford where they will open conference play against the Meloneers at 1 p.m.
La Veta looks to hold their ground against the Sierra Grande Panthers in Aguilar on Friday at 6 p.m.
“This week against La Veta is going to be another dogfight. The game is going to be about setting the tone early and getting momentum going,” said Sierra Grande’s Coach Corona ahead of next week’s game.
In response Ortega said, “If we can limit the mistakes, the self-imposed mistakes and turnovers — if we can get this stuff alleviated going into this week I agree with him, I think it’s going to be a great game."