Colorado (Week 3)
My first true weekend away from home netted two games in the Centennial State. Being in northeast Colorado, there wasn’t many options that I could easily get to Friday night.
I knew I could see Lamar host Kent Denver on Saturday afternoon, but still wanted a game under the Friday Night Lights. Almost every teams nearby that I checked was on the road. Every Greeley school was on the road or had played Thursday or play on Saturday.
So, I stumbled upon little Kersey, Colorado. Home of the Platte Valley Broncos. Located a few miles east of Greeley on US34, it is a small hamlet that serves as the hub of the eastern Weld County massive 243 square miles school district.
Stopping at the Kersey Inn, I walked the half mile to the stadium for game time at 7pm. The stadium is a rather nice, yet simple structure. Located between the high school and the main highway, it is encased in concrete painted white. The seating is accessed from both ends and has a concourse underneath the seats where the concession stand is located directly beneath the pressbox tower, and bathrooms. There also was a small metal bleacher setup on the south end of the home side for students to sit. Also, a small structure was setup to the north where some elderly, it seemed, could sit and watch the game right near the fence.
Platte Valley Stadium is listed at 680 capacity, but I don’t believe that includes the additional risers for students or the visitors section. I think total capacity is right around 1,000. The small bare-bones scoreboard sits to the south endzone where players make the long walk from the high school, across the parking lot, to the track and by the scoreboard to enter the field.
There is a track around the field and makes for the feeling of distance from the action. Tickets for the game were $5 at the gate and simply give you a black football hand stamp for admission. I later found out that this might be a CHSAA (pronounced by the locals as Chah-suh) thing as the Saturday game also had the exact same hand stamp.
There was a decent crowd on hand somewhere in the 700 or so range.
The Platte Valley Broncos wear a two-tone all-blue uniform from head-to-toe. Dark blue with white numerals accented in carolina blue. The Wiggins Tigers colors were black and orange, yet their jersey mostly looked black and white. Black helmet and pants, white jerseys with black numerals. The field had the Broncos logo (the same as the Denver Broncos in the school’s colors) along with dark blue yard numbers. This was problematic as they did not have markers placed, so you could only go by the field, which were very difficult to see. Especially the later it got.
Platte Valley is a 2A school in Colorado, the fourth largest classification of seven (5A, 4A, 3A, 2A, 1A, 8-Man, and 6-Man). Wiggins came in ranked in the top ten in the state in 1A. PVHS and Wiggins are located about 40 miles apart on US34. Wiggins is a very small dot on the map at the junction of US34 and I-76 just west of Fort Morgan, Colorado. And Wiggins was a small squad. Only 18 active players dressed for the Tigers.
Listening to the home fans talk, Wiggins offense is entirely thanks to their quarterback, Taylor Risner. Now, this kid is good. I think he has a legitimate shot at QBing on college if anyone actually sees him. He’s cool, calm, composed and was able to thread the needle on a lot of passes that looked near impossible.
Wiggins was a very details-oriented team. Playing both ways throughout the game, the players were very disciplined and made very few errors. They were tough. Platte Valley was the antithesis. They were sloppy and aloof. Their quarterback was, to put it nicely, in over his head.
Only a few times did PVHS’s QB throw a good pass. The rest were skyballs leading his receivers too far. Not once did he correct his throws to be shorter so his receivers could have a legitimate chance to catch them.
Wiggins opened up the game with a short drive culminating in short touchdown pass when the Broncos defender’s foot caught the grass in the endzone and tripped himself. A missed PAT made it 6-0.
The score would stay that way until their first possession of the second half. Platte Valley had third down at the one-yard line and were stopped. Opting for the points, they kicked a chip shot field goal to trail 6-3.
In the fourth, the game got very tumultuous. Platte Valley started moving backwards and were forced to punt on 4th-and-18 after a Wiggins lineman ran through the line to knock away a pass attempt. Very next play he did it again to block the punt. Bouncing to the sideline, he corralled it and ran it in for the insurance. A two-point pass to the right flat made it 14-3.
Platte Valley answered with their first dominant drive of the game and got into the redzone. After blowing three plays, they opted for a 4th-and-3 at a 4-yard-line instead of a short field goal. The pass into the endzone was bobbled by the receiver and turned the ball over on downs.
Wiggins then gave up a safety on 3rd-and-8 to make it 14-5. Another turnover-on-downs by Platte Valley was followed by an unreturned punt that rolled and rolled and rolled before stopping itself at the one-foot line.
It was all the proof the home side needed that this game was not going to see a comeback. A few plays later and the Platte Valley QB skied another ball deep over the receiver’s head into the waiting arms of the Wiggins safety.
Two runs of the victory formation and the crowd started to file out.
Wiggins 14, Platte Valley 5
All in all, it was a beautiful night for football. Very little clouds, cool temperatures for early September, nice breeze. The only minor complaint was the adjacent cow pastures made themselves known as the breeze would carry an undeniable odor.
After the game, I walked back to the Kersey Inn at the junction. It would be a busy work night and in the morning a 200 mile drive to Lamar to catch the next game.
At 7am, I drove south, cutting through the wide open expanses of eastern Colorado to US287 and into Lamar. Parking in town, I walked the 1.2 miles to the stadium for the second game of the weekend.
The Lamar Savages were hosting Kent Denver Sun Devils on a rare Saturday afternoon game at Savage Stadium. Savage Stadium is a beautiful, old stadium.
Built as a public works project in 1940, it’s been elegantly updated while still maintaining quite a bit of its character.
The stadum sits, literally, on West Park Street. The stadium’s home stands are solid blocks of quarried rock. The stadiums footprint sits right on the edge of the road atop where the sidewalk would’ve continued.
The stadium only had about 9 rows of seats between the 30 yard lines. The large pressbox sat atop the top rows of seats in the middle, curtailing a bit of the capacity. The stadium features an imposing ‘entrance’ at the 50 and had ticket windows in place beside the entrance which, as in Memphis, TX, are no longer used.
The stadium complex has the block fencing around it about 2-3 feet high. Atop of that is more modern chain-link to keep unwanted or non-paying visitors out. The stadium sits rather high up off the ground to offset where the track runs right at the edge of the front row of seats down below. To the left and right of the stands are metal bleachers added on to both ends of the old stadium. For the modern amenities, they tie nicely into the overall stadium’s look. They also allow such an old venue to have handicapped accessible seating with ramps.
The visitors seats sit across the field inside the track giving very little room for the visiting players to stand. The concession stand is to the far east of the field in the fieldhouse. Also, acting as the main entrance from those coming from the direction of the high school.
Now, for a stadium built in 1940, it is rather cramped to today’s standards. Leg room was at a premium. As were the extremely narrow aisles.
As for team names, this was the most ‘un-PC’ team I think I’ve seen. But, with the stadium built as “Savage Stadium”, they couldn’t ever really change their names if they even wanted to.
The Lamar Savages wore orange helmets, orange jerseys and white pants. A spear logo on their helmet in black has an interlocking LHS done through the spear. The black numerals were outlined in white. The white pants had orange side panels.
The Kent Denver Sun Devils of Englewood wore all white jerseys with red numbers. Red helmets with some script logo in black was their look.
Now, just like in Ohio, there was controversy before the snap. Kent Denver is a private day school in the Denver suburbs. Their team looks nothing like the 2A public school from the small town in southeast Colorado. They’re big. They’re fast. Everything Lamar was not. Kent Denver, though, was #2 in 2A in the state of Colorado coming into the contest.
The game started off great for Lamar. Kent Denver fumbled away the ball on their second and third possessions before Lamar could finally take advantage with a 27-yd TD run to the left side. A missed PAT made it 6-0 in the first quarter.
As the game went on, Lamar realized the only thing they could do was run to the left side. The defenders fell for the misdirection almost every time for big gains. Unfortunately for Lamar, they always managed to hold when the play mattered most.
A quick TD drive gave Kent Denver the lead early in the second quarter, 7-6. Another TD pass after stopping Lamar on downs made it 14-6.
Then the game entered bizarro world. Lamar threw an interception that was returned for a touchdown by Kent Denver. A flag was thrown on the play that appeared to be pass interference. The defender hit the receiver well before the ball arrived. The referees huddled and called it pass interference on the defense. A 15-yard penalty. But, in the most bizarre twist, gave the ball to Kent Denver. The home fans were obviously irate. Still, the Sun Devils ran a play as fans argued over what happened. The only consensus was that it must’ve been a block-in-the-back on the return that was improperly called. But, that would’ve been penalized from the spot. Which it appeared this Pass Interference call was not.
Still, Kent Denver had the ball and drove down for a touchdown right before half, 21-6.
Now, the Lamar Marching Band was intriguing. They didn’t march. They didn’t have uniforms. They had a drum set in the stands. Draped on the decking in front of the drum set was “Super Savage Sound System”, the name of their marching band.
What was interesting was that they played a lot of more modern songs. Zoot Suit Riot, Pink’s Let’s Get This Party Started, etc.
To start the third quarter, Lamar drove the length of the field in 5:41 and scored on a 6-yard touchdown run. They tacked on a two-point pass to the right side to make it 21-14.
After forcing a punt, Lamar had the momentum. But, it wouldn’t last. Getting forced to punt, Kent Denver broke through the line easily to block the punt and recover it at the Lamar 25 yard line.
Continuing the drive into the start of the fourth quarter, Kent Denver garnered a one-yard touchdown run to make it 28-14 with 11:57 to play. Lamar went back to work blitzkrieging the left side of the defensive line. Getting big chunks of yardage while burning the clock, they scored on a one-yard dive play to make it 28-21 with 7:43 left.
It was after this score that Lamar put their eggs in one basket. With the huddle formation kickoffs they employed, they attempted an onside kick that almost worked. The two Kent Denver players were so surprised to see the ball head their way they both bobbled it before dropping to the ground to snag it. Lamar nearly recovered it in the melee. But, the bottom of the pile showed a white jersey clutching the pigskin.
Kent Denver then caught Lamar sleeping as a simple up-the-gut run by the fullback nearly went the distance before getting dragged down inside the 10-yard line. The next play saw a seven yard pass to the left side go in for a touchdown to make it 35-21.
After this, the teams traded possession as Kent Denver was content to eat the clock while Lamar plugged away valiantly in the closing minutes. With little time left, Kent Denver advanced a 3rd-and-24 to a 4th-and-1 on a QB scramble. The next play converted the first down and they ran the clock out.
The small home crowd was disappointed. The few dozen that showed up from Kent Denver got to drive home happy.
Kent Denver 35, Lamar 14
These were my first games in Colorado. The state isn’t exactly a football powerhouse. For small towns, the crowds were a bit lacking in general. Lamar fans near me were discussing the idiocy of a Saturday afternoon game. The reason for the crowd was due to the other sports teams playing elsewhere. Volleyball was playing rival La Junta, and there were pee wee/rec league events going on that parents were more likely to attend than the high school game. All other Lamar games are on Friday nights.
We’ll see where the winds take me next week. But, as always, there will probably be a football game nearby.