All you need to know to prepare for the biggest games of the week involving Pikes Peak area teams:
Falcon (2-2) at Mesa Ridge (4-0)
1 p.m. Saturday at C.A. Foster Stadium
The basics: One glaring stat stands out: Falcon gave up 309 yards to a Rock Canyon running back last week. Mesa Ridge has the state's leading rusher in Devante Johnson. So expect him to push 400 or so this week, right? Well, things are never that simple. Falcon hasn't lost back-to-back games since 2008, so expect a fight.
Key for Falcon: The Falcons has shown all kinds of ability under first-year coach Trevor Hudson, but they haven't yet shown consistency. QB Will Galvez has completed 11-of-20 passes for 225 yards and two TDs in the two wins, but is 6-of-19 for 69 yards and three INTs in the two losses. RB Keenan Britton has run for 299 yards and three TDs in the wins, but just 54 yards and no scores in the losses. The level of competition had a whole lot to do with those splits, but fortunes will turn when those peaks and valleys are smoothed out.
Key for Mesa Ridge: Johnson is a bona fide star, averaging 236.5 rushing yards through four games with 10 TDs. The key now is keeping him healthy and fresh as the yards pile up. Johnson is a chiseled specimen and a state runner-up wrestler, so his body knows how to take a beating; but the more rest he's able to find on defense and even occasionally on offense the better he'll be down the stretch.
Quotable: Mesa Ridge coach Rob Braaten on Johnson's success after the senior ran for 389 yards in a win over Liberty, "You sit in the stands and say, 'Come on, why can't they stop that since they know what's coming.' But it's not easy. These are good athletes making plays."
Air Academy (2-2) at Widefield (3-1)
7 p.m. Friday at C.A. Foster Stadium
The basics: Air Academy is not bad, at least that's the way things appear after lopsided wins over Greeley Central and Littleton. Here's a chance for the Kadets to show they've fully moved past the two-year train wreck they endured while going 1-19 in the 2009 and 2010 seasons. QB Kevin Kimbrow has been a big part of the revival, throwing for 600 yards and five touchdowns. Widefield has rolled its past three opponents by the score of 105-23. The Gladiators feature a running game led by RB Marquis Coddington that averages 214 yards per game, but is not one-dimensional. QB Kevin Stringer is completing 63.6 percent of his passes and has six touchdowns.
St. Mary's (4-1) at Manitou Springs (1-3)
7 p.m. Friday
The basics: St. Mary's has defied logic with its turnaround. Typically, when a small school is able go from 1-9 one year to 4-1 the next it's on the strength of one or two stars. The Pirates are doing it with waves. Three players -- Logan Elliott, Sean Scally and Casey Smith -- have rushed for at least 340 yards and three -- Nate Germano, Scally and Smith -- have scored at least five touchdowns. Germano is certainly the group's most exciting playmaker, averaging 18.4 yards per touch on offense and special teams. He has intercepted six passes and scored nine total touchdowns. Manitou Springs has been riddled with injuries, having lost QB Chad Sienknecht, RB KC Quarry and linemen Dylan Brown and Kaleb Gamez. The silver lining to this is that sophomore QB Johnny Swanson has emerged as a potential star. In two starts, Swanson has thrown for 368 yards and run for 77. "Swanson is a player, accurate passer, and tough as nails," coach Justin Armour said. "We are very excited about how he will develop this season and for the next two years. He reminds me of Brian O'Brien, from the Manitou state championship team of 1987. Very similar assets and he loves the game of football."
Peyton (3-1) at Calhan (2-2)
7 p.m. Friday
The basics: This is the 1A South Central opener for both teams and will likely determine which program finishes in the top three with Burlington and Limon. Both teams are led by their quarterbacks. Peyton's Cole Ellis is averaging 99 rushing yards and 46.3 passing and has had a hand in six of the team's eight offensive touchdowns. Calhan has already eclipsed last year's win total behind the prolific passing of Jack Norris, whose 986 yards rank fourth in the state. Brandon Teetor helps balance the offense with 285 rushing yards and three touchdowns. Peyton won last year's meeting 26-0 and finished third in the league, but much has changed since then.
Fountain-Fort Carson (3-1) at Grand Junction (4-0)
7 p.m. Saturday at Stocker Stadium
The basics: On a local level, Fountain-Fort Carson learned last week it stacks up quite favorably with the best. Pine Creek beat the Trojans 14-6, but needed a pair of special teams touchdowns to do it. This week, Fountain-Fort Carson will learn how it stacks up with the team ranked as the best in the state. The Trojans have a salty defense that limited Pine Creek to five first downs, two of which came on the final drive and two others as the result of penalties. Offensively, it's tough to imagine Fountain-Fort Carson putting up enough points to contend with Grand Junction (the Tigers have scored 50 points three times and have shut out half of their opponents) , but that's the beauty of its difficult nonleague schedule. This will show where Fountain-Fort Carson is, where it needs to improve and with plenty of time to do it. And, in the event of a massive road victory, well, the value would be immeasurable.
AREA FOOTBALL LEADERS
Name G C A Pct. Yds TD INT YPG
Jack Norris, sr., Calhan 4 72 137 .542 986 8 8 246.5
Logan Floyd, sr., TCA 4 72 137 .526 908 4 5 227.0
Jacob Censner, jr. Woodland Park 4 67 113 .593 763 7 4 190.8
Bret Helton, sr., Cheyenne Mtn. 4 45 75 .600 704 7 1 176.0
Nate Conner, jr., Lewis-Palmer 4 51 81 .630 645 5 4 161.3
Kevin Kimbrow, jr., Air Academy 4 49 100 .490 600 6 3 150.0
Richie Perea, jr., Wasson 4 42 83 .506 565 9 6 141.3
Tyler Carr, sr., Liberty 4 48 98 .490 561 5 5 140.3
Thomas Newman, sr., Vista Ridge 4 20 36 .556 548 8 1 137.0
Kiel Osterman, sr., Palmer Ridge 4 32 56 .571 505 6 3 126.3
Name G Att. Yds. Y/A TD YPG
Devante Johnson, sr., Mesa Ridge 4 81 946 11.7 10 236.5
Micheal DeCarmo, soph., Sand Creek 4 105 637 6.1 5 159.3
Trae Bankston, jr., Fountain-Ft. Carson 4 92 581 6.3 8 145.3
Marquis Coddington, jr., Widefield 4 74 507 6.9 6 126.8
R.J. Stainbrook, jr., Canon City 4 58 447 7.7 7 111.8
Josh Beacham, sr., Pine Creek 4 48 446 9.3 6 111.5
J.M. Sullivan, jr., Cheyenne Mountain 4 71 442 6.2 8 110.5
Shomari Cousar, sr., Pine Creek 4 53 421 7.9 5 105.3
Tyler Carr, sr., Liberty 4 78 405 5.2 6 101.3
Jim Kenney, jr., CSCS 4 44 399 9.1 2 99.8
Name G Rec. Yds Y/C TD YPG
Brandon Teetor, sr., Calhan 4 28 390 13.9 2 97.5
D.J. Hanes, jr., Wasson 3 14 267 19.1 4 89.0
Louie Neil, sr., Woodland Park 4 16 308 19.3 5 77.0
Mason Woish, sr., Lewis-Palmer 4 21 290 13.8 2 72.5
Donivan Harville, jr., Cheyenne Mtn. 4 16 280 17.5 4 70.0