No. 4 Pomona (7-0) vs. No. 1 Cherry Creek (7-0)
When where: 1:00 pm Saturday at Stutler Bowl
Last meeting: Cherry Creek 14, Pomona 7, on November 30, 2019
Players to watch: Pomona – Jack Pospisil, Sr., QB, 1,011 yards in total (655 rushing), 14 TDs (12 rushing); Chase Muller Jr., RB, 58 carries-416 yards (4 TD’s); Juju Howard, Sr., LB, 44 tackles (4.0 for loss), 1.0 sack. Creek – Julian Hammond III, Sr., QB, 91-of-135 for 1,210 passing yards (17 TDs); James Walker II, Sr., RB, 88-864 (11); Chase Penry, Sr., WR, 37 receptions – 541 yards (7 TDs).
For the second year in a row, the Bruins and Panthers meet in the semi-finals of the 5A. A year ago that ended with a 14-7 victory at Cherry Creek, the fourth in a row of the schedule at Pomona and part of a 21-game win streak that dates back to the start of the 2019 season. Many of the key figures from that win are still on Bruins’ roster, including Hammond, Penry, tight Gunnar Helm (25-322, 6 TDs) and all-in-one star Myles Purchase (5 INTs, 2 INTs for TDs, 2 punt return TDs) . Pomona’s return was aided by Pospisil’s malleability at QB and a rebuilt defense that allowed only 11.3 points per game. The latter will have to be at its best against an explosive Bruins attack.
No. 3 Legend (7-0) vs. No. 2 Valor Christian (6-0)
When where: 1:00 pm Saturday at Valor Stadium
Last meeting: Valor Christian 44, vs. Legend 7, on October 6, 2017
Players to watch: Legend – Kalen Shoemaker, Sr. QB, 72-or-107, 1044 (14); Bryce Vaz, Jr., RB, 37-351 (7); Luke Sandy, Jr., DT / OT, 51 tackles (8.0 for loss), 1.0 sacks; Jaxon Muma, Sr., S, 7 INTs. Valor – Gavin Sawchuk, Jr., RB, 93-993 (16); Elijah Hamilton, Sr., LB, 47 tackles (6.0 for loss), 1 INT; Sean McNair, Sr., QB, 47 of 70, 623 (5).
The Titans find themselves in uncharted territory in the 5A semi-finals, facing one of the state’s preeminent powers. The big question coming up Saturday: Will Sawchuk, Valor’s five-star running back, be available? He didn’t adapt last week, but it made no difference as Zachary Wiley ran 114 yards and 4 TDs in a 49-14 win over Cherokee Trail. Legend himself had a surprise star in a 56-35 quarter-final win over Fairview, with Vaz firing the Knights for 310 yards and six TDs in place of senior Connor Eise (798 rushing yards, 8 TDs). The running lanes are probably not that wide against Valor, which has allowed 42 points all season. The Titans defense (10.9 ppg) is salty in itself.
No. 4 Loveland (7-0) vs. No. 1 Dakota Ridge (7-0)
When where: 1:00 p.m. Saturday at Englewood High School
Last meeting: N / A
Players to watch: Loveland – Zack Rakowsky, Sr., RB, 153-1,043 (15); Garrett Harstad, So., QB, 819 yards in total, 13 TDs (9 rushing); Ian Loomis, Jr., MLB, 79 tackles (8.0 for loss), 3 INT’s, 1.0 sacks. DR – Ben Gultig, Sr., QB, 65 of 93, 1130 (17); Charlie Offerdahl, Sr., RB / DB, 823 all purpose yards, 14 TDs (12 rushing), 5 INTs; Spencer Hardy, Sr., DL, 25 tackles (7.0 for loss), 9.0 sacks.
Dakota Ridge is still waiting for a defense that can stop it. A week ago, the Eagles scored on all of their 12 offensive possessions in a 76-34 defeat to Montrose. For the season, they average 54.9 points per game, with double threat QB Gultig (second in team with 451 rushing yards), the operator of a multiple attack that can harm teams in several ways. Now comes a Loveland defense that just held Broomfield to one touchdown in a 28-7 quarter-final win and limited Skyline to the lowest score of the season (26 points). The formula is simple for the Indians: hold the ball with Rakowsky and the run game, and keep the Eagles’ attack off the field.
No. 6 Fountain-Fort Carson (6-1) vs. No. 2 Palmer Ridge (5-0)
When where: Saturday 1 pm at the Guy R. Barickman Stadium
Last meeting: N / A
Players to watch: FFC – Q Jones, Sr., RB, 165-1,727 (19); Tavian Tuli, So. QB, 685 yards in total, 10 TDs (2 rushing); Tai Faavae, So., MLB, 47 tackles (3.0 for loss), 3.0 sacks, 2 INTs. PR – Luke McAllister, Sr., QB, 73 of 101, 1,437 (21); Marcellus Reed, Sr., WR, 16-520 (7); Cameron Jones, Sr., DE, 20 tackles (6.0 for loss), 4.0 sacks.
Two flammable offenses that get the job done in completely different ways meet in a battle for the forces of the Pikes Peak region. For Fountain-Fort Carson, it’s all about hitting the ball with the state’s leading rusher in Jones. For Palmer Ridge, it airs with CSU Commit McAllister and his many FBS guns, including senior Kaden Dudley and junior Anthony Costanzo. The Trojans survived a 41-38 barn burner against Ponderosa a week ago. Can they do the same against a Palmer Ridge defense that allows double digits in just one of the five disputed games?
No. 4 Pueblo South (5-0) vs. No. 1 Roosevelt (6-0)
When where: 1:00 p.m. Saturday at Roosevelt High School
Last meeting: N / A
Players to watch: South – George Longoria, Sr. RB, 129-816 (12); Jace Bellah, Jr., QB, 792 yards in total, 7 TDs (3 rushing); Luke Guarienti, Sr., WR, 15-307 (3). Roosevelt – Brig Hartson, Sr., QB, 1,177 yards in total, 15 TDs (2 rushing); Clayton Robinson, Jr. OLB, 44 tackles (14.0 for loss), 5.5 sacks; Cooper Walton, Jr., OLB, 55 tackles (13.0 for loss), 2.5 sacks, 1 INT.
Pueblo South has only played four disputed games this season – Mead forfeited last week’s quarter-final due to COVID-19 – but when the Colts saw the field, they were hard to stop. All-star running back Longoria has covered more than 160 yards per game, and double threat QB Bellah has kept the defense fair on the air. In Roosevelt, however, the Colts will face a defense that has lost only 16 points in their last four games – all of which achieved in a 17-16 quarter-final win over Fort Morgan last weekend.
No. 3 Durango (6-0) vs. No. 2 Holy Family (7-0)
When where: Saturday afternoon at Mike G. Gabriel Stadium
Last meeting: N / A
Players to watch: Durango – Jordan Woolverton, Sr., QB, 1037 yards in total, 15 TDs (6 rushing); Ben Finneseth, Sr., WR, 561 yards in total (324 rushing), 9 TD’s (6 rushing); Kyler Reimers, Sr., DE, 47 tackles, 4.0 sacks. HF – Michael White, Sr., QB, 59-106, 1145 (16); Trevin Johnson, Sr., RB, 99-869 (12); Justin Trostel, Sr., LB, 30 tackles (6.0 for loss), 3.0 sacks, 3 INTs.
Two programs unaccustomed to state semifinals – neither has reached this level in more than a decade – will compete to play the 3A title in Pueblo next week. Both teams have had relatively easy times this season so far, with Durango’s 17-8 win over Evergreen earlier this fall being the only single digit win of the two. Holy Family just defeated that same Evergreen team (without QB Griffin Lauritano) 41-6 in the quarterfinals, while Durango quickly beat Lutheran, 47-6.