LA JUNTA — If there was any doubt that the La Junta Tigers are the measuring stick of Class 2A football in Colorado, they should be extinguised.
In their third game against a CHSAANow.com top-five opponent is as many weeks, the top-ranked Tigers once again emerged victorious 40-0 over No. 4 Manitou Springs.
"We have a big target on our back," La Junta coach Clint Buderus said. "Everybody is going to give us their best game and we have to prepare like that."
If that's the case, then they prepared well against the Mustangs (5-1, 1-1).
Manitou came out, running its single wing offense with the intent to keep the ball out of the Tigers and they're three-man option attack of John Nuschy, Dax Bender and Carlos Triana.
They couldn't get anything going on the first drive and forced a turnover on the Tigers' second drive of the game, but was unable to capitalize on that opportunity as well.
Nuschy got the ball rolling for La Junta breaking off a 43-yard run to get the ball to the Manitou one-yard line. He would punch it in on the next play to put the Tigers up 7-0.
On the next drive, he went to the air, finding Izahiah Peteque to make it a 14-0 game. From then on the offense was in rhythm and the Tigers looked unstoppable.
"We were out of sync on our first two drives," Nuschy said. "Once we got to them and scored, it just kept coming and coming."
And the defense was more than ready to match that effort. The Tigers only allowed the Mustangs into the red zone one time. The single wing attack that had scored an average of 42.8 points per game for the Mustangs.
"We're as good as we think we are," Manitou coach Cory Archuleta said. "We're just not La Junta good. We need to get back to the basics, get back to work and start working hard. A piece of humble pie is not a bad thing."
Manitou was without wingback Bryce Coop, who suffered a concussion in last week's game and the two-headed rushing attack of Cole Sienknecht and Davyn Adamscheck were was unable to drive the Mustangs down the field.
For the Tigers, they have league games against Lamar, Salida and Florence remaining, but have gotten through the worst of their schedule.
Still, they don't plan on taking anything lightly.
"We think the same every week," Nuschy said. "We have to come out strong and work Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. Keep the grind going."
Because at the end of the day, they want the grind to pay off with a state championship. They looked the part of a state championship team a year ago, but got derailed with a 47-7 loss to eventual champion Bayfield.
"We think about it every day during practice," Bender said. "It is what it is and we just have to do what we can to make it turn out different."