If there was one thing both No. 6 ranked Colorado Springs Christian and unranked Ignacio had in common when they clashed last Saturday upon IHS Field, it was a desire for a strong performance prior to the start of play in their respective leagues.
Victorious by a 42-0 score, the Lions sought razor’s-edge sharpness before facing a Tri-Peaks foe.
The Bobcats, meanwhile, sought out any success, no matter how small, while hoping to survive intact into Southern Peaks play.
“We’ve just got to see the best we can about it,” IHS junior Dylan Labarthe said of the loss. “Overcome it and see the good we can get out of everything.”
And while most observers of CHSAA-sanctioned football will focus an SPC gaze on La Jara this Friday night for the Monte Vista at Centauri matchup, a meeting likely to again crown the circuit champion, another contest worth a watch will also kick off in the San Luis Valley at 7 p.m. Friday.
That would be the battle between visiting Ignacio and SPC dark horse Center.
“Now we start (league) and stuff, so it’s like a whole new mentality for us,” said Labarthe.
The Ignacio Bobcats (1-4) were severely limited last week by Colorado Springs Christian. IHS’ rushing attack was stymied to an unofficial negative 2 yards on 19 carries, with Lawrence Toledo’s six carries for 26 yards leading the way.
The left-handed passing of Gabe Tucson showed some promise. He unofficially finished 5-of-9 for 71 yards and, despite being constantly hounded by Christian’s Peyton Brones and Elijah Smith, was not intercepted. Toledo caught two throws for 19 yards, senior Colten Jackson managed to leap for a tough 16-yard catch on Ignacio’s final offensive play, and Labarthe snagged two tosses for a team-high 36 yards.
In terms of ball control, IHS lost just one turnover.
Fortunately, quarterbacks like junior Caleb Stockton (unofficially 7-of-8, 136, 3 TD passing; 66-yard punt-return TD) aren’t frequently found in the Southern Peaks. But that doesn’t mean the loop’s signal-callers don’t aspire to perform any less ably within their coaches’ own unique systems.
Center’s Habran Delacruz is certainly one of those, having led John McGraw’s Vikings to a 3-2 overall record to date. Having enjoyed a 9-for-9, 150-yard day in a 57-26 trampling of Santa Fe League member Trinidad earlier this season, the junior most recently struggled in his 2019 SPC opener.
Hosting No. 5 Centauri last Friday, he was held to 21 yards passing on 2-of-9 accuracy in a 41-8 loss to the Falcons. And for Center, it was a taste of their own potency; the Vikes had previously defeated John Mall 19-6 a week after their eye-opening rout of THS.
Always strong on the ground, Centauri’s offensive figures weren’t reported. Defensively, the Centauri Falcons (4-1, 1-0 SPC) limited Center’s rushing attack to 61 yards on 26 carries, figures IHS will definitely hope to reproduce if the Bobcats are to avenge last year’s 12-6 overtime loss at home.
Thirty of those yards came on one Daniel Gutierrez romp; Delacruz managed seven yards on five tries, while senior Devin Porres was stifled to only five yards on 10 carries and Abraham Echauri just nine on six.
By comparison, Porres had gained 92 yards on nine attempts against Trinidad, then 91 on 18 against JMHS. Echauri had enjoyed even more success prior to facing Centauri; he’d ripped THS for a reported 161 yards on just five carries (four went for touchdowns), and pounded out 129 on 14 against the Panthers.
In mashing the Miners, he also caught one TD and even connected with sophomore Victor Almeida for a 77-yard TD pass –making Echauri, also just a sophomore, possibly the most ‘must-stop’ Viking (he also intercepted current Bobcat senior QB Ian Weinreich, who may again line up as a receiver as seen against the Lions twice in ’18) of all.
Ignacio’s point-after/field-goal, kickoff and punt units will be under something of a microscope Friday night in Center. In addition to the aforementioned 66-yard punt-return score, Stockton’s next runback, not even three minutes later, went for a 72-yard TD but was nullified by penalty.
CSCS also recovered an onside kick at the IHS 32, beginning the first of four series set up in Ignacio territory.
Placekicking proved IHS’ undoing in last season’s meeting between the ’Cats and Vikings, with then-senior Mike Archuleta missing one PAT try, a game-winning 25-yard FG in regulation, and ultimately, a go-ahead 26-yarder in OT.
Given kickoff-return duty against Christian in addition to his roles as a receiver and cornerback, Jackson could have a three-way impact on this year’s rumble; he missed the 2018 nail-biter due to injury.
Ignacio (1-4) at Center (3-2)
CHSAA Class 1A Southern Peaks League football
7 p.m. Friday