A breakdown of each of the Colorado high school championship games in Class 3A, 4A and 5A played this weekend at the ThunderBowl in CSU-Pueblo.
Number 1 Cherry Creek (8-0) vs. No. Christian value (7-0)
When: 6 pm Saturday
Last meeting: Valor Christian 24, Cherry Creek 14, on December 1, 2018
Transient leaders: Creek – Julian Hammond III, Sr., 105 of 153 passing for 1,373 yards, 19 TDs and 5 INTs. Valor – Sean McNair, Sr., 57-88-790, 6 TDs, 1 INT.
Immersive leaders: Creek – James Walker II, Sr., 108 carries, 1,010 yards, 11 TDs. Valor – Gavin Sawchuk, Jr., 108-1,086, 17 TDs; Zachary Wiley, Jr., 61-413, 9 TDs.
Receive leaders: Creek – Chase Penry, Sr., 45 catches, 648 yards, 8 TDs; Gunnar Helm, Sr., 28-367, 7 TDs. Valor – Tyler Larson, Sr., 14-381, 2 TDs.
Defensive leaders: Creek – Myles Purchase, Sr., CB, 22 tackles, 5 INTs, 6 TDs (2 pick 6s); Malik Majekodunmi, Sr., DE, 36 tackles (15.0 for loss), 7.0 sacks; Arden Walker, Sr., DE, 31 tackles (10.0 for loss), 6.0 sacks; Luis Lozano, Sr., LB, 55 tackles (6.0 for loss), 1 INT. Valor – Elijah Hamilton, Sr., MLB, 50 tackles (6.0 for loss) 1 INT; Jordan Norwood, Jr., MLB, 40 tackles (6.5 for loss), 1 sack; Andrew Hale, Jr., S, 34 tackles (2.5 for loss), 2 INTs; Zaire Jackson, Sr., CB, 24 tackles (2.0 for loss), 1 INT.
There is only one team that has consistently held Cherry Creek’s number since coach Dave Logan took over in 2012 – the Valor Christian Eagles. The two legendary programs have met eight times in the past six seasons, with Valor winning the last six, most recently in the 2018 5A Championship – which also happened to be the last time Creek lost.
Now is perhaps the most anticipated gathering of all. Both teams dominated their shortened schedules, with Creek outperforming the opponents by an average margin of 36.0 points and Valor with 43.71. Creek hasn’t given up more than one touchdown to an opponent since week 1, while Valor has only handed in double-digit points twice.
As both coaches admitted earlier this week, this game will likely be won in the trenches. That could very well be some intriguing one-on-one matchups between Valor’s junior left tackle Jake Maikkula (CU, CSU offers) and Creek defensive end Arden Walker (CU, Texas, UCLA) – the highest rated non-dedicated senior in the state by 247Sports.com.
As is always the case with these two, there will be multiple FBS players on either side of the ball. Cherry Creek’s senior class, in particular, is packed with six three-star recruits attending Power 5 programs. That doesn’t even include running back James Walker II – a talented 5-foot-10, 180-pound senior with an offer from Northern Colorado – or CU basketball commission Julian Hammond III at QB.
On the other hand, one of the 50 most coveted players in the country for the Class of 2022, five-star going back to Gavin Sawchuk. There is no defense that has stopped him all season. The Bruins, who have not yet given up 100 meters for a return all season, offer the toughest test yet.
No. 4 Loveland (8-0) vs. No. 2 Palmer Ridge (6-0)
When: 6:00 pm Friday
Last meeting: N / A
Transient leaders: Loveland – Garrett Harstad, So., 26-41-378, 4 TDs. Palmer Ridge – Luke McAllister, Sr., 84-123-1,646, 23 TDs, 6 INTs.
Immersive leaders: Loveland – Zack Rakowsky, Sr., 174-1,224, 16 TDs. Palmer Ridge – Nathaniel Robinson, So., 72-391, 3 TDs.
Receive leaders: Loveland – Zack Rakowsky, Sr., 11-140, 1 TD. Palmer Ridge – Marcellus Reed, Sr., 19-596, 8 TDs; Kaden Dudley, Sr., 27-387, 1 TD; Anthony Costanzo, Jr., 17-328, 7 TDs.
Defensive leaders: Loveland – Ian Loomis, Jr., MLB, 96 tackles (10 for loss), 3.0 sacks, 3 INT’s; Jadyn Tafoya, Sr., ILB, 69 tackles (8.0 for loss); Tyson Williams, Jr., CB, 4 INTs, 6 pass deviations; Austin Bierhaus, Sr., CB.LB, 41 tackles (3.0 for loss), 3 INTs. Palmer Ridge – Saxon Wright, Sr., LB, 57 tackles (4.0 for loss), 2.0 sacks; Cameron Jones, Sr., DL, 24 tackles (7.0 for loss), 5.0 sacks.
A talented Bears senior class wants to put the finishing touches on a four-year streak of state championships – except this time trying to do it at the 4A level.
Led by a talented pass game with a CSU commitment that takes snaps (Luke McAllister) and college recruits in the host corps (seniors Kaden Dudley and Marcellus Reed and junior Anthony Costanzo), the three-time 3A champions have no problem scoring points to score. But there’s more to the Bears than just a fireworks display from the sky. The Bears defense limited Pine Creek and Fountain-Fort Carson to 19 points combined in a pair of playoff wins, giving up an average of just 7.7 points per game.
Loveland’s suffered a series of explosive fouls on the way to Pueblo, forcing 20 turnovers (16 interceptions) with 32.0 tackles for a loss en route. That included a one-point win over Skyline in the regular season finale, in which Loveland limited the Falcons to their lowest point total (26) of the fall. The Indians also kept the previously unbeaten Dakota Ridge, who made it to the semi-finals last weekend averaging 54.9 points per game, to just one attacking touchdown.
The Indians’ most effective defense: Keep the ball away from Palmer Ridge with a ball control ground game led by the run back of Zack Rakowsky (2,531 Career Witnesses) and sophomore quarterback Garrett Harstad.
Loveland is two years away from his last 4A title and is in the state championship for the third time in six years. The previous two came under the now departed coach Wayne McGinn. Now Jeff Mauck can add something to the trophy cabinet.
No. 1 Roosevelt (7-0) vs. No. 3 Durango (7-0)
When: 2 p.m. Saturday
Last meeting: N / A
Transient leaders: Roosevelt – Brig Hartson, Sr., 76-119-1.033, 13 TDs, 4 INTs. Durango – Jordan Woolverton, Sr., 51-85-865, 10 TD’s, 1 INT.
Immersive leaders: Roosevelt – Keegan Sterkel, Sr., 84-652, 7 TDs; Cooper Walton, Jr., 35-308, 8 TDs. Durango – Nate Messier, Jr., 84-517, 7 TDs; Ben Finneseth, Sr., 42-478, 7 TDs.
Receive leaders: Roosevelt – Tucker Peterson, So., 19-393, 8 TDs; Keaton Kaiser, Jr., 35-347, 2 TDs. Durango – Gage Mestas, Sr., 20-398, 2 TD’s; Ben Finneseth, Sr., 18-227, 3 TDs.
Defensive leaders: Roosevelt – Cooper Walton, Jr., OLB, 70 tackles (15.0 for loss), 2.5 sacks, 1 INT; Clayton Robinson, Jr., OLB, 46 tackles (15.0 for loss), 5.5 sacks, 2 INTs; Anthony Munoz, So., DT, 50 tackles (13.0 for loss), 4.0 sacks. Durango – Thomas Barnes, Sr., LB, 57 tackles; Kyler Reimers, Sr., DE, 56 tackles, 5.0 sacks; Ford Pitts, Sr., DE / OLB, 50 tackles, 4.0 sacks, 2 fumble recovery; Chase Robertson, Jr., CB, 30 tackles, 3 INTs.
With Palmer Ridge no longer in the equation, the 3A title will find a new home this fall. And it’s guaranteed to go to a program that has never been won before – at least not outright.
Durango, which tied Lamar for the Class A crown in 1954, is back in the state championship for the first time in 32 years – a 23-13 loss to Grand Junction in 1988. Meanwhile, Roosevelt returns to the 3A title bout for second once in five years and third since 2002. The Roughriders’ previous two visits ended in losses.
A strong, tight-knit group, the demons have swept their way through the 3A playoffs with outbursts from Lutheran (47-6) and Holy Family (34-14). Four-year starter Jordan Woolverton (7,078 careers in total) is the pilot of an electrical spread violation as a true double threat QB, as well as the team leader in takeaways with five interceptions in free safety. The Durango defense specializes in making takeaways (18 in all) and allows only 11.7 points per game.
In Roosevelt, the demons will have to deal with an attack that has been almost as productive in throwing the ball (1,203 yards) as it was in running (1,559). Senior QB Brig Hartson is efficient and dangerous, while the defense is fresh from a dominant performance against Pueblo South, where the Riders held the Colts to just one touchdown in the last two quarters of a 49-19 win.