Colorado high school football playoffs primer: Favorites, challengers, dark horses and biggest snubs
No. 1 Cherry Creek (6-0) vs. No. 8 Regis Jesuit (5-1), Friday 4 p.m.
No. 4 Pomona (6-0) vs. No. 5 Eaglecrest (4-1), Friday 5 p.m. at Valor Stadium
No. 2 Valor Christian (5-0) vs. No. 7 Cherokee Trail (4-2), Thursday 6pm at Valor Stadium
No. 3 Legend (6-0) vs. No. 6 Fairview (6-0), 2:30 p.m. Saturday at EchoPark Stadium
Greatest disapproval: Columbine – The rebels’ fate was likely sealed the day they had to cancel their rivalry fight with Ralston Valley. With one less race on the schedule – which also happened to be one of Columbine’s toughest – last year’s 5A runners-up didn’t have the RPI strength to climb into the top 8. Honorable Mention: Castle View’s two defeats were undefeated Valor and Fairview, with the last resume actually leading the fourth quarter.
Favourite: Cherry Creek – Shockingly, the Bruins weren’t a unanimous No. 1 in the latest CHSAANow coaches poll. A first vote went to Valor Christian. As good as the Eagles have been, there is no question that the Bruins are priceless favorites. Not only do they have a roster overflowing with FBS-level talent, they are simply raging through the deepest competition in the state. Consider this: Bruins’ defense has scored as many touchdowns as it has given up (2) in the last five Centennial League games. Throw in a deadly passing game controlled by CU hoops and commit Julian Hammond III (1,802 yards, 17 TDs, 3 INTs), an explosive hasty attack led by James Walker II (709 yards, 8 TDs) and a special team that has four has touchdowns for its name, and the Bruins have zero holes.
Challenger: Valor Christian – There is only one Gavin Sawchuk in Colorado State, and he plays for the Eagles. That alone makes Valor a serious threat to win their fourth 5A title in six years. The five-star Class of 2022 running back averages a gaudy 10.7 yards per carry-through five games with 1,149 all-purpose yards and 17 TDs. On the other side of the ball, the Valor defense has allowed only 28 points this season, 21 of them in one game against Castle View.
Dark horse: Legend – The Titans seem to have all the ingredients of a legitimate contender. Balanced offense? Kalen Shoemaker has 890 yards and 14 TDs of passing, while Connor Eise (798 yards, 8 TDs) allows for a strong run game. Salty defense? Legend posted three shutouts and a nearly blanking of Regis Jesuit in a 31-7 beating. Signature wins? Aside from dominating Regis, the Titans also outlived defending 4A champion Pine Creek 21-20. A matchup with eternal Fairview power, which again features an explosive passing attack, will tell the story this weekend.
No. 1 Dakota Ridge (6-0) vs. No. 8 Montrose (4-2), Saturday 3 p.m. at Englewood High School
No. 4 Loveland (6-0) vs. No. 5 Broomfield (5-0), 6:30 p.m. Friday at Ray Patterson Field
No. 2 Palmer Ridge (4-0) vs. No. 7 Pine Creek (2-2), Saturday 1pm at Don Breese Stadium
No. 3 Ponderosa (6-0) vs. No. 6 Fountain-Fort Carson (5-1), 10:30 am Saturday at EchoPark Stadium
Greatest disapproval: Skyline – Too bad for the poor Falcons, whose only loss this season by one point came to fourth-seeded Loveland. Two years away from a surprise round to the 4A title game, Skyline would have been tough with his explosive attack led by Chase Silva and Grayden Bridwell. Honorable Mention: As with Skyline, Brighton had only one blot on its record – a 30-21 loss to No. 5 Broomfield, a white brawler.
Favourite: Dakota Ridge – No one came close to challenging Dakota Ridge in six regular season games, with the Eagles outpacing the opponents 308-32. In fact, in the last four goals, the Eagles gave up only two field goals, scoring more than 42 points in each goal. Charlie Offerdahl’s CU commit averaged 11.6 yards per carry with 13 total TDs and five interceptions on defense. Quarterback Ben Gultig has 920 yards and 14 TDs passing. And both guys have been watching from the sidelines of wins for some time. Could the Eagles be a product of a down league? We’ll find out in Englewood on Saturday.
Challenger: Palmer Ridge – When in doubt, team up with a future CSU quarterback (Luke McAllister) and multiple college recruits at wide receiver (Kaden Dudley, Anthony Costanzo, and Marcellus Reed). The Bears no doubt have the passing attack to cover the distance in their jump to the 4A ranks. But will they be sharp after missing COVID back-to-back games? A quarter-final matchup with Pine Creek – which Palmer Ridge has each defeated for the past two years – offers a chance for revenge.
Dark horse: Fountain-Fort Carson – CHSAA’s RPI loved the Trojans and ranked the former 5A squad at No. 1. The state’s coaches, who put FFC at No. 6, weren’t too impressed with a seasonal split resume series with Rampart and a win over Pueblo West. One thing is for sure: Senior running back Q Jones (137 carries, 1,395 yards, TDs) is a force to be reckoned with. A stingy Ponderosa defense awaits in the quarter-finals.
No. 1 Roosevelt (5-0) vs. No. 8 Fort Morgan (4-1), Saturday 1 p.m.
No. 4 Pueblo South (4-0) vs. No. 5 Mead (5-1), Mead forced to forfeit due to COVID-19
No. 2 Holy Family (6-0) vs. No. 7 Evergreen (4-2), Friday 6pm
No. 3 Durango (5-0) vs. No. 6 Lutheran (4-1), Saturday 1pm at Demon Stadium
Biggest disapproval: Palisade – The 3A bracket was relatively easy in the end, but the Bulldogs (4-2) could definitely get some beef as they knocked down Evergreen with seventh seeds 24-7 in Week 1. Conifer, who beat Palisade but lost to Evergreen in week 6, could also have an argument.
Favourite: Holy Family – For the first time since 2016, the 3A title goes to someone other than Palmer Ridge. While Roosevelt might make sense to pin as the favorite, given that the Roughriders are the number 1 seed, we’re going with the only team in the drive to have a two-figure win over a state playoff team, Holy Family, which floated around sixth seeded Lutheran in a 38-14 victory. The Tigers have a size up front, a quarterback that can swing it (Michael White, 903 yards, 12 TDs) and a running back that can explode in an instant (Trevin Johnson, 786 yards, 11 TDs, 9.7 ypc).
Challenger: Roosevelt – It has been five years since the Roughriders last reached the 3A finals, and this may be their best chance of getting back there. A win over Mead – decided by a missed extra point – is the Roughriders’ most impressive win. Since then, they have outperformed their last three opponents 139-0. 190-pound six-foot quarterback Brig Hartson is a running (204 yards, 2 TD) and throwing threat (838 yards, 13 TDs, 2 INTs), while the defense has a pair of playmakers in Clayton Robinson (13, 0 TFLs). , 5.5 sacks, 1 INT) and Cooper Walton (11.0 TFLs, 1 INT) and allowed only four touchdowns as a unit.
Dark horse: Pueblo South – A Pueblo team has played in the 3A championship game five of the past six seasons, and there is reason to believe that Pueblo South could do so for the second year in a row. The Colts got off to a slow start after missing the first two weeks of the season for COVID, but they’ve already progressed to the semi-finals after the coronavirus knocked out Mead after the bracket was revealed. All-state running back George Longoria has 816 yards and four touchdowns rushing in just four games. Honorable Mention: Durango, led by QB Jordan Woolverton with double threat and a stifling defense, will be hard to beat.
Note: All games on the home site with a higher seed unless otherwise noted.