It’s only been two years since the Kent Denver Sun Devils have played for a football state championship, its been “just a bit longer” for the La Junta Tigers, 54 years to be exact. It’s been even longer since they have won one. It was back in 1958 that the Tigers hoisted a football championship. At least one of those streaks is going to end on Saturday. We at least know for sure the Tigers will play for the title, but they’re going to have to do it against a tough Kent Denver team who always seems to play tough in late November.
These teams have taken completely different path into the 2A State Title Game. Kent Denver entered the tournament as the #6 seed, they hosted #11 Weld Central in the 1st Round and in what started off a slow start for the Sun Devils turned into a huge win. At halftime the score was 7-3, but it was all Kent Denver in the second half. They outscored Weld Central 20-3 to win the ballgame 27-6. Leading the way for the Sun Devils was; Charles McKissick with 16 carries for 93 yards & Joshua McDonald with 3 receptions for 43 yards.
Next up for Kent was the #3 The Classical Academy Titans, a team that play’s in La Junta’s Tri-Peaks League. Kent Denver got out early and took a 14-3 lead into the locker room. But it was the Titans who outscored the Sun Devils 18-7 in the second half. Not even 48 minutes could decide a winner in this quarterfinal matchup. They went into overtime. All the Titans could muster was a field goal from, Auburn Tiger commit, Anders Carlson. That put the score at 24-21, but it was Kent Denver’s chance to have the ball and much to the Titan’s despise they scored a touchdown and thus punched their ticket to the semi-final, in an upset no one saw coming. Leading the way for Kent Denver was; Joshua McDonald with 22 carries for 128 yards & Conrad Lost with 1 reception for 30 yards.
Then it came to last weeks semi-final matchup with the #10 Delta Panthers, a team who had been pulling upsets off left and right. It was yet another close game for the Sun Devils as they found themselves down 7-0 early but came back to take a 14-7 lead into halftime. The Sun Devils came out strong in the second half and outscored the Panthers 14-7. Leading the way for Kent was; Charles McKissick with 14 carries for 152 yards & Max Waldbaum with 4 receptions for 63 yards. When the clock read three zeros it was Kent Denver who would advance to play for the Championship, all that remained to be known was who and where would they be playing.
As the #1 Seed the Tigers blew out their first two opponents. It all started with the #16 University Bulldogs, the game was at Tiger Stadium and the Tigers just crushed the Bulldogs. The final score was 42-0, but it could have been far worse. Leading the way rushing for the Tigers was Sophomore QB Jon Nuschy who had 17 rushes for 138 yards. The Tigers didn’t use the pass very much, but the receiving leader was Izaiah Petique with 1 reception for 51 yards.
Then came the quarterfinal matchup with the #9 D’Evelyn Jaguars, this time the Tigers had to travel to Lakewood, but they made themselves at home. It was again an all out beatdown from the Tigers. They handled the Jaguars 41-7. It was all Tigers from the get go. Which is what it should be as a #1 seed. Leading the way for La Junta was; Jon Nuschy with 19 carries for 118 yards & Deron Bletson with 1 reception for 73 yards.
The Tigers were one game away from playing for a championship that eluded them for 58 years. In the semifinal they met the #5 Bayfield Wolverines, the team who had knocked them out almost a year ago to the day. The Tigers wanted revenge and early it didn’t look like they would get it. There was no scoring in the first quarter, but the Wolverines got on the board in the second on a deep pass, the extra point was wide right. That was all the scoring in the first half and Bayfield went into the locker room up 6-0. To start the second half it was all defensive once again, until late in the third quarter when Bayfield yet again struck with a deep pass. The time the extra point was good and Bayfield took a 13-0 lead in the fourth quarter.
From all my years of playing and watching sports I’ve learned to never count a team out until the game is over. La Junta proved that once again is true. The Tigers scored first with eight minutes left in the 4th, with the extra point being fumbled the Tigers trailed 13-6. An interception deep into Tiger territory gave La Junta the chance they needed. A long drive down the field capped off by an endzone fade to Matthew Espinoza put the Tigers down one with a little more than 2 minutes left. A false start penalty pushed the extra point try back even further. Coach Buderus took a timeout and the Tigers were lined up to go for two.
On a play that looked busted from the snap, Apela Furtado-tom was off balance and was a lob to the end zone found tightend Kain DiRizza. The Tigers had the lead, and on a squib kick that hit a Bayfield player had the ball back. This time for good, one that final drive the Wolverines used all three of their timeouts and the Tigers ran out the clock.
That puts us where we are at right now.
Triple R’s bold Prediction of the Game:
“Both teams rely heavily on the run game, its going to come down to who’s defense can stop who’s run game. Advantage LJ.”
Triple R’s Game Prediction:
“It’s a State Championship game, it’s suppose to be close isn’t it? Not in this case, La Junta wins easily 21-7.”
Well this is what it comes down to. This is what La Junta has waited a little more than half a century for.
Tiger Stadium. 2A State Title Game.
#1 La Junta. #6 Kent Denver.
Need I say more?