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Football: BoCoPreps.com’s Brad Cochi and Pueblo Chieftain’s Austin White weigh in on Frederick-Pueblo South 3A semifinal

Jeremy Papasso/ Staff Photographer
Frederick hosts Pueblo South in a 3A semifinal matchup Saturday afternoon. The winner will play at CSU-Pueblo next week.
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With the 3A semifinals matchup between Pueblo South and Frederick bearing down on us (Saturday, Frederick HS, 1 p.m.), it’s time for a little inside look into each respective team from the media that covers them on a regular basis.

The Pueblo Chieftain’s Austin White and our own Brad Cochi checked in with a few thoughts, in advance of each being at the game for coverage on Saturday.

1. It’s the semifinals, which means the eyes on the QBs only get bigger. How do the two signal-callers look?

Austin White, Pueblo Chieftain

Austin: Logan Petit was clutch last week against Durango when he delivered a 49-yard bomb in the Colts final drive where he eventually scored the game-winning touchdown on a 3-yard run. His 61.3 completion percentage is solid, as well as his 1,813 passing yards, but the 12 interceptions is a cause for concern. Petit threw two of those last week, but coach Ryan Goddard believes his senior QB is confident and can put any potential mistakes behind him. A good trait to have if you want to stay in a tough game like this one could shape out to be.

Brad: Jake Green also delivered the game-winner for the Warriors last week, completing a long pass to Blake Duran who ran the remaining 45 yards to score in the final seconds and beat Discovery Canyon. Plays like that are indicative of what Green brings to the table. He’s just a playmaker, and adds a dual-threat element to a historically running offense, which he leads with 1,676 yards and 19 rushing touchdowns. He’s a fast runner who can make defenders miss but also has a live arm and has passed for 1,571 yards with 25 touchdowns against just two interceptions. Green will have to resist the temptation to do too much, but he’s definitely the guy Pueblo South should be focusing on.

2. The run game between the two teams looks to be an area of strength. What can we expect from the ground on each side?

Austin: George Longoria only had a few garbage time carries before entering his junior season this year, leaving him relatively unknown. But 1,752 rushing yards later and Longoria has become more than a handful for opposing defenses as he ranks first in Class 3A’s rushing yards list. The junior almost never leaves the field and is comfortable with getting 30 or more touches in a game. In fact, he averages 25 carries a game and has 200 more touches than the next guy on the Colts rushing list in Petit. Longoria isn’t physically imposing, but his legs never stop moving. And if he gets into the open field, it could be a long day of chasing for the Warriors.

Brad Cochi, BoCoPreps.com

Brad: Green may lead the team in rushing and provide the offense with a dynamic element but at their core, the Warriors are still a running team and they have four guys who can carry the ball. Establishing the run is always the primary focus for the Warriors, who are second in the state with 3,981 team rushing yards. Brandon Hornby, Dominik Schleif and Tyler Weston have combined for 1,627 of those yards and 19 of the Warriors’ 47 rushing scores. All three have season-long runs over 55 yards and the Colts will have their hands full trying to contain four different rushers who have big-play ability, typically, fresh legs.

 

3. Both offenses look to be stout. Where do you think each team is strong on defense to try to slow down the scoring?

Austin: South’s defensive line. This four-man unit of Andy and Ian Smith (yes they’re twins), Tyler White and Mario Ramirez is a tough group to run against. The Smith twins are big and fast, which helped keep a similar QB to Green in Durango’s Jordan Woolverton to only 50 yards rushing last week plus three sacks. White and Ramirez have been great all year as well, but the two-way lineman probably played their best defensive game of the season last week by helping hold Durango under 100 yards rushing. If Pueblo South wants any chance against slowing down Frederick’s near 4,000 total rushing yard offense, it’ll start with a big push up front and good contain from the Smiths on the outside.

Brad: When I last spoke to Frederick head coach Travis Peeples, he cautioned me that while everyone is focusing on these two powerful offenses, he’s expecting a low-scoring defensive battle. The Warriors held a tough ground-and-pound offense that was averaging over 37 points a game to 25 in the quarterfinals, and largely because of its linebacker play. In the middle of their defense, the Warriors have four seniors – Joey Notaro, Sean Holbrook, Riley Dufour and Bryce Schust – playing linebacker and averaging nearly eight tackles per game, per player, between them. All four are physical, fast and three-year starters, and share a lot of responsibility for an all-around solid defensive unit.

4. Besides the QBs, who’s someone capable of taking over this game?

Austin: Jackson Dickerson is a wide receiver for the Colts and he has the ability to go get any ball thrown near him. Last week he “Mossed” his defender for a 16-yard touchdown as Pueblo South declined the defensive pass interference called on the play. He’s got great hands and has an even better connection with his QB in Petit, as seen by the 959 receiving yards and 14 TD catches this season. Plus he can be devastating on special teams in the return game. He took a 99-yarder to the house against Durango where he initially bobbled the ball and allowed it to roll to the 1-yard line. Frederick will need to know where No. 9 is at all times.

Brad: Brandon Hornby. He scored Frederick’s first two touchdowns last week in the passing game, but don’t sleep on Hornby in the running game. The second-leading rusher on the Warriors, Hornby could probably approach 1,500 yards if not for the Warriors’ balanced attack. Even in Frederick’s timeshare, Hornby has three 100-yard rushing games. He’s the fastest player on the team and also leads the Warriors with three interceptions, including a critical pick in the quarterfinals. Also keep an eye on Dylan Sindelar, a 6-foot-4, 210-pound tight end and defensive end who can be overpowering and impact the game in many different ways.

5. Give us the x-factor. Who’s someone under the radar that could end up making a play to win this game?

Austin: Jace Bellah. The sophomore is listed on MaxPreps as a QB and he can throw the ball — he’s 10-for-13 on the year with three TD passes — but he can hurt the Warriors at really any part of the game. Bellah is tied for first in Class 3A in interceptions with seven and he’s one of four other receiving options with Hunter Fair, Garrett Mauger and Luke Guarienti that South can throw out to at any time if Dickerson is doubled. Bellah was actually on the receiving end of that 49-yard pass from Petit mentioned earlier against Durango last week. Look for Bellah to potentially get a big pick, haul in a deep pass, or maybe even mix in a trick play or two at QB.

Brad: Travis Peeples told me he’s expecting something game-changing from one of the Warriors’ interior defensive linemen. Seniors Michael Clementson and Jackson Ramer have been outstanding all season long and they’ve been working hard on stripping the ball. The coaches haven’t been preaching falling on the ball to secure the turnover, either, but want the Frederick defensive players thinking scoop-and-score. Clementson and Ramer have 11 tackles for loss and 107 total tackles between them and could be positioned to make a big play in a game that is likely to swing drastically with every turnover.

6. Pueblo South/Frederick wins this game if…

Austin: If South can control the turnover battle. Against Durango, South had some promising drives end in turnovers, including a fumble on the Demons 1-yard line. Fortunately for South, its defense caused three turnovers themselves and gave those possessions back to the offense. If Petit can stay clean and the defense continues to find those extra possessions for him, South and its offense could be riding back home to play for a state title in its own backyard at the CSU-Pueblo ThunderBowl.

Brad: Same answer. Frederick can’t afford to turn the ball over and give South the opportunity to build a lead and pound the Warriors defense in the running game. The Warriors are approaching this game as though they have to keep things simple and focus on doing what got them to this point, playing in the state semifinals for the first time since 2011. Winning the turnover battle could prove to be even more critical considering the fact that despite being the lower seed, the No. 6 Warriors are hosting the No. 2 Colts at Frederick High School. If the Warriors can generate a takeaway or two, that could help get the home crowd fired up generate a lot of momentum for an underdog team riding high into uncharted territory.