Last week, Sterling’s Brock Burkholder was mistakenly identified as Burkhalter. We apologize for the error. On Saturday, Burkholder and his Tiger teammates made school history by beating Delta 27-19 in the Class 2A football championship game, bringing home the first ever football title for Sterling. As has been the case throughout the season, the defense rose to the occasion on the biggest stage.
Trailing 10-0, the Tigers got on the board on a 58-yard TD pass from Brock Shalla to Peyton Rose. Drew Book then made one of the plays that helped him earn MVP honors, deflecting a pass, picking it off, and returning it for a TD that gave Sterling a 14-10 lead in the second quarter. That score held up until the early moments of the fourth, when a bad snap gave Delta two free points. The Panthers followed that up with a touchdown to take a 19-14 lead.
Sterling responded with a drive that Shalla capped off with a rushing touchdown, putting the Tigers back on top, 20-19. As Delta drove for a potential winning score, the Sterling defense made one of its biggest plays of the year. A fumbled pitch on the option put the ball on the turf, and Rose scooped it up and returned it for the game-clinching score. On the final offensive possession of the contest for the Panthers, Sterling’s defense swarmed the QB and got the ball back with a sack on fourth down. The title win came in only the second championship game appearance for Sterling, and added to the Class 3A crown won by the volleyball program earlier in the year.
Saturday also provided more reason for Sterling fans to celebrate, as one of their former volleyball standouts, Kyndall Feather, a sophomore defensive specialist for the University of Northern Colorado, helped lead the Bears to their fifth Big Sky title. Feather had 16 digs in the five-set victory. The Bears will open the NCAA Tournament at Hawaii on Friday.
Sedgwick County made football history on Saturday, winning its fifth straight 8-man championship, downing Fowler 44-8 on the road. The Cougars became the first 8-man program in state history to claim the title five consecutive years, tying them for the second all-time longest run with Valor Christian. The record is six straight, owned by Limon.
The Cougars marched the ball downfield on their opening drive, eating up a lot of clock while covering 80 yards in 18 plays. Beau Parker, voted the game’s MVP, finished the drive with the first of his three rushing touchdowns on the day. Fowler tied it in the second quarter after Luke Bitter capped off their own time consuming drive. His 29-yard run ended what had been an eight-play, 89 yard drive. It was the first score allowed by Sedgwick County since Oct. 11th.
Sedgwick County would regain the lead in the final minute of the first half on a TD pass from Jared Ehmke to Terrance Heath. Up 14-8 at the break, the Cougars would put the ball in the hands of Parker early and often in the second half. He toted the rock eight straight plays to open the third, gaining every yard on a 70-yard scoring drive. A blocked punt put the Cougars right back in business, and Parker ended that drive, and Fowler’s title hopes, with a 20-yard touchdown. Parker would finish with 242 yards on 40 carries. Bitter went over the 100-yard mark on the ground for the Grizzlies, but they were held to under 200 total yards of offense in the contest.
Limon celebrated its 100th season of football by earning its 19th title (18 outright, one shared), beating rival Strasburg 26-13. The Badgers also beat Strasburg in the Class 1A title game last year, but fell to the Indians early in this season. Kory Tacha scored three touchdowns for the Badgers, one on a 74-yard pass from Trey Hines, to earn MVP honors.
Cheyenne Wells has won four state titles and twice finished runner-up this decade in Class 2A Cheer, and the Tigers will be in action just after 10 am on Friday at the state spirit meet. Joining them in that competition will be Yuma, Limon, Hoehne, Wiley, and Stratton/Liberty. Lamar, Brush, and Sterling will be vying for the title in 3A Cheer, while Trinidad and La Junta are part of the 2A/3A Co-Ed field. Friday will also see the preliminaries of the new Game Day division, and the area will be represented by Rye, Holyoke, and Swink.
Poms get started on Saturday morning, and Limon, who has five second place finishes this decade (2011-15) will be in the 2A field once again. Jazz and Hip Hop are also on the slate for early Saturday, but no area programs are involved. All finals begin just before 6 pm on Saturday, with all action over the weekend taking place at the Denver Coliseum.
The winter sports season gets underway this week, and the preseason rankings for basketball were released by CHSAANow.com. Sterling finds itself No. 6 in Class 3A boys, receiving one first place vote, while La Junta is in the “others receiving votes”, garnering a single mention. Two-time defending Class 2A champion Yuma leads that field in the initial vote, collecting 10 of 13 first place tallies. Limon is No. 3, with one first place vote, with Fowler (No. 4), Holly (No. 8), and Wray (No. 9) all in the top 10. Holyoke, Sedgwick County, Byers, Rye, Swink, and Burlington all received votes.
Kit Carson leads the local boys programs in the 1A poll, coming in at No. 2, right behind defending champion De Beque. The Wildcats earned a pair of first place votes. Merino, who got one vote as the top team, comes in fifth, followed by Haxtun (No. 6), Briggsdale (No. 7), and Walsh (No. 9). Ten more area programs received votes in the preseason, including Fleming, Kim/Branson, Prairie, Cheraw, Flagler/Hi-Plains, Genoa-Hugo, Peetz, South Baca, Cheyenne Wells, and Stratton/Liberty.
No local teams made the initial top 10 in Class 3A girls, but Lamar appears in the “others receiving votes” category, garnering two votes as the Savages begin their first campaign under new head coach Brian Dunning. Limon leads a loaded 2A poll, collecting eight of 12 first place votes. Wray (No. 3) received one first place vote, and No. 4 Yuma took three. The Indians have won the last two state titles, three of the last four, and have played for the crown six of the last seven seasons. Swink (No. 7) and Holyoke (No. 8) round out the local teams in the top 10, while Rye, Rocky Ford, and Sedgwick County all received mention.
With three consecutive state 1A titles, and 77 straight wins, it comes as little shock that even with major losses to graduation, Kit Carson enters the season ranked No. 1 in the classification, grabbing seven of 13 first place votes. Briggsdale (No. 2) and Fleming (No. 3) combined to earn five first place votes. South Baca (No. 4), Genoa-Hugo (No. 5), Springfield (No. 7), Merino (No. 8), and Haxtun (No. 9) all begin the season poised to wrest the crown away from the Wildcats. Lone Star, Kim/Branson, Wiley, McClave, Cheraw, and Idalia all merited votes to begin the season.