LA JUNTA — In the rolling plains of southeastern Colorado, flashes of lightning lit up the night sky. In the confines of La Junta Tigers Stadium, one flash of lightning dethroned the top team in Class 2A football.
A safety followed by a kickoff return for a touchdown from Apela Furtado-Tom propelled the CHSAANow.com No. 2 La Junta Tigers to a 35-6 win over No. 1 Kent Denver.
Heading into league play, the Tigers will be the king of the 2A jungle.
"I felt like we could do what we did," Tigers coach Clint Buderus said. "I feel like we left some points out there, some penalties killed us, we hurt ourselves in the red zone a lot. We got a fast start and that was the big thing."
And everyone fed off that start, especially the defense. The Tigers (4-0 overall) did not allow a Kent Denver first down for the entire first half.
With a 9-0 lead and a defense that was not willing to the Sun Devils (3-1) an inch, it was easy for Jon Nuschy and company to stick to the ground game and wear Kent out.
"Our defense did well," Nuschy said. "Our defense got us on the board and we couldn't ask for anything better than that."
Nuschy led the ground attack with 132 yards and a touchdown. But the bulk of the action went to running back Carlos Triana who netted 126 rushing yards, but found the endzone twice.
With a 21-0 to nothing lead at halftime, La Junta held every bit of momentum. With lightning strikes picking up in the east, Kent Denver was looking for their own jolt of energy. The Sun Devils thought they got it with a rushing touchdown from Charles McKissick, but that would be the only points they would score all game.
"We knew we were coming into a tough game and we didn't play well at all," Kent Denver coach Scott Yates said. "We were not very Kent Denver-like."
And when looking at the numbers on the season, La Junta was very La Junta-like. The Tigers returned 11 starters on defense from last year's team. They ran into a buzzsaw in eventual state champion Bayfield in the 2A playoffs, but coming into this season, they felt like they could compete as one of the top teams in the state.
There is no reason they should not be sitting atop that perch come Monday when rankings are released. But that's not even on their mind. A win over Kent Denver gives them a shot in the arm, but their real test for the season begins next week when they travel to TCA, which could mark another matchup of No. 1 vs. No. 2.
"(We) enjoy the win for the weekend," Traina said. "Then we get back to work. Our next focus is TCA and getting back up there, playing well and starting fast."
If they get another fast start, they could come away as a team to win games between the two top ranked teams in the state on consecutive weeks.
But next week's challenge will be different.
If they're sitting at the top of the 2A polls, the Tigers will no longer be the hunters.
They'll be the hunted.