All seven classifications in Colorado finally have hit the postseason. Only a month remains before the season draws to a close. Here’s a glance at what’s on the schedule this week.
The field is down to a manageable 16 teams, seven of which scored upsets, based on seeding, in the first round last week. Could the big-school bracket be in for another jolt with a second wave of upsets? That appears unlikely, but there are certainly a handful of games worth following in the second round.
Cherry Creek, last season’s state runner-up, is playing its best football. That’s not surprising considering All-Colorado performer Kain Colter is back under center for the Bruins. In a 23-7 victory against ninth-seeded Chatfield last week, Colter passed for 202 yards and rushed for another 187 to set up a meeting against ThunderRidge.
The eighth-seeded Grizzlies have lost only three games since moving up to 5A last season (against 18 wins) and appear to have developed some consistency on offense, which was lacking earlier. Still, it figures to be up to a physical defense to try and slow Colter and the Bruins.
Bear Creek, seeded 22nd, knocked out Highlands Ranch and now takes its shot at No. 6 Thomas Jefferson. Until last week’s 20-14 victory against Douglas County, Thomas Jefferson had not won a game outside its Central Metro League (losses to Monarch and Columbine). The Spartans are the lone team from the Central Metro remaining, while the Big 8 (in which Bear Creek competes) and Centennial leagues each have five teams alive.
Another one to watch is No. 18 Grandview at second-seeded Fairview. The Knights have proven themselves all season so there is no reason for alarm, but the Knights will be facing a defense that is allowing 12 points a game and is led by All-American Chris Martin. The Wolves finally were able to generate some offense last week, too, in a 31-7 win against No. 15 Rangeview.
The Arvada West-Mountain Vista game will be broadcast live at 7 p.m. Friday on FSN Rocky Mountain.
Monarch edged out Greeley West by a little more than a point for the top seed. The Coyotes own wins against Thomas Jefferson and Cherry Creek, which still are competing in the 5A bracket. Greeley West, the state runner-up last season, is the top seed in a lower half of the bracket that is simply loaded. Not only is defending state champion Wheat Ridge in that quadrant, but so is undefeated Pine Creek. The Eagles advanced to the semifinals a year ago.
Of note, 16th-seeded Castle View and No. 13 Standley Lake are in the playoffs for the first time, while Liberty and Durango are making their first appearances since 2001. Durango, under first-year head coach Greg Wyatt, has engineered quite a turnaround. The Demons went 0-10 last season.
If one is looking for spoilers in the brackets, look no further than Northern League stalwarts Loveland and Longmont. Loveland, a perennial power, returns to the playoffs after a one-year absence with a defense that returned 11 starters. The eighth-seeded Indians allow just 10 points a game. Their only losses have come against 5A Fairview and Greeley West.
Meanwhile, 11th-seeded Longmont is led by all-state quarterback Jake Johnson, a Division I recruit who has passed for 1,382 yards and rushed for 579. His versatility and playmaking abilities are difficult to contain, and he has a solid corps of receivers. The Trojans advanced to the quarterfinals last season.
Pueblo Central survived a rugged Southern League schedule unscathed to earn the top seed. The Wildcats (10-0) also rebounded nicely from a 2008 season where they finished 3-7. This is their first playoff appearance since 2000. They are led by running back Keanu Valdez, who has rushed for 1,223 yards and 17 TDs.
The field is highlighted by playoff-tested teams, as D’Evelyn, Mountain View and defending champion Glenwood Springs played in the semifinals last season. Four teams enter unbeaten, with Steamboat Springs and All-American quarterback Austin Hinder set to challenge Pueblo Central in the upper half of the bracket, while Mountain View and Valor Christian are the top seeds in the lower half. Valor Christian is making its first playoff appearance.
It might seem that way, too, for Delta, which will be playing its first postseason game since 1999. The Panthers are led offensively by Michael Patton (1,144 yards) and defensively by Gene White (113 tackles, seven sacks). D’Evelyn counters with an offense that is averaging 39 points a game behind quarterback Caleb Flack (2,444 passing yards, 25 TDs).
This field has a familiar look, as 12 of the 16 teams return from last season. Only Bayfield, Weld Central, Lamar and Salida were not in the brackets in 2008.
And not only are most of the teams the same, so are the favorites in top-seeded Faith Christian and defending champion Olathe, which has won 24 consecutive games. Faith Christian is making its seventh straight trip to the postseason, paced by a defense that has yielded only 50 points in 10 games. The Eagles will open with Bayfield, while Olathe will play host to Salida.
Ninth-seeded Aspen at No. 8 Pagosa Springs might be the best matchup on paper, but the one to watch this weekend is No. 10 Erie at seventh-seeded Kent Denver. This one has star power, featuring the top two running backs in the classification. Kent Denver’s Tyler Jackson leads 2A with 2,072 yards and 27 TDs, while Ortega has totaled 1,737 yards (third in 2A) and 23 TDs. Erie lost in overtime in the title game last season.
Ninth-seeded Meeker’s 28-17 win at Ignacio was the only game that upset the brackets. Otherwise, it was business as usual in this classification, which also has a familiar feel. Six of the eight remaining teams were in this position a year ago. Only Meeker and Burlington were not in the 2008 quarterfinals.
Top-seeded Yuma continued its impressive role with a 64-0 pasting of Crowley County and will travel to Meeker, while three-time defending champion Akron advanced with an easy win against Denver Lutheran. The Rams will renew playoff acquaintances with Lyons (9-1). The Lions’ only loss came to Yuma.
The two remaining quarterfinals figure to be outstanding games. Limon will play host to undefeated Hotchkiss, while Burlington makes the trek to Rye to take on the undefeated Thunderbolts. Rye is averaging 53 points a game, while allowing only nine. Burlington will not be intimidated, though, as the Cougars have faced the best the state has to offer. Burlington suffered close losses to Akron (24-21) and Limon (24-20) and also beat 2A qualifier Lamar.
Class A 8-Man
Blowouts were the name of the game in the first round, as Springfield’s 32-22 win against La Veta was the only opener closer than 16 points. The other seven first-round games were won by an average margin of 34.7 points.
Matters figure to be tighter this week in what should be four quality games. Top-seeded Merino didn’t miss a beat in dispatching Holly in Round 1, and next up for the Rams is a Caliche team it bested 39-6 on Oct. 2 in league play.
Undefeated Antonito has the home-field advantage for its matchup with fourth-seeded Elbert, while Springfield will take to the road for a long trip to Greeley to meet defending champion Dayspring Christian. In the remaining quarterfinal, high-scoring Miami-Yoder will play host to second-seeded and undefeated Norwood. Champions of the Western League, Norwood is allowing only 8.4 points a game, while putting up 42.
Class A 6-Man
It’s no surprise that the top four teams all season have advanced to the semifinals. In addition, three of the four semifinalists return from a year ago. Only Eads did not make it this far last season.
Idalia remains the favorite, as it beat the other three teams during the season, which includes a 40-14 win against Otis on Oct. 23. That means the teams will meet for the second time in less than a month. The Wolves held Otis to 165 yards of offense in the first meeting.
The other semifinal also is a rematch from the regular season. Hi-Plains beat Eads 48-32 in Week 3, using a 28-point fourth quarter to secure the victory. Kraig Tagtmeyer rushed for 196 yards for Hi-Plains in that one, while Eads quarterback Charlie Johnson passed for 202 yards and three TDs.
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