There's no better time of the season than playoff football. Through all the trials and tribulations that 2020 has brought to everyone, especially high school athletes, it should be savored that the Colorado state football playoffs begin this week.
Due to COVID-19 restrictions, each bracket was limited to eight teams, but that doesn't mean the play won't be top-notch and most of all, exciting.
While each game in each classification will be fun to watch, we've identified one marquee game in each bracket this weekend. By the time Thursday rolls around it will be time to kick back, grab some popcorn and enjoy each minute that the 56 teams still standing are going to provide fans throughout the state.Class 5A // Bracket(5) Eaglecrest (Centennial) vs. (4) Pomona (Arvada), Nov. 20, 5 p.m. at Valor Christian HS
These two teams met in the 2017 state title game, and Pomona who came away with the trophy. Coach Jay Madden's Panthers have been consistent on both sides of the ball. They scored regularly and held their opponents to an average of 10 points per game. Quarterback Jack Pospisil
has been electric on the ground, as he's rushed for 593 yards and 10 touchdowns.
Eaglecrest's high-flying offense is multi-dimensional, and it has served the Raptors well. JP Luketu
leads the rushing attack with 547 yards and 11 touchdowns. Khalil Howard
has completed 67 percent of his passes for 755 yards and five touchdowns. Three of those touchdowns have gone to Ty Robinson
, who is a big-time threat at wide receiver.Class 4A // Bracket(7) Pine Creek (Colorado Springs) at (2) Palmer Ridge (Monument), Nov. 21, 1 p.m.
There may not be a more attractive matchup, regardless of classification, than this first-round tilt between the defending 4A champion Pine Creek and last year's 3A champion in Palmer Ridge. Palmer Ridge has been right at home in the 4A field, cutting their opponents with relative ease. The Bears overcame a slow start against Montrose to finish their regular season undefeated. Luke McAllister
has shown poise under center this year, throwing for 1,070 yards and 16 touchdowns. Marcellus Reed
and Kaden Dudley
each totaled at least 275 receiving yards.
Pine Creek got into the tournament despite a 2-2 record in the regular season. The Eagles schedule consisted entirely of 5A teams, and the two losses came to playoff teams (Legend and Regis Jesuit) by a combined four points. Beau Freyler
has been a tank in the Pine Creek backfield, rattling off more than 7 yards per carry. Class 3A // Bracket(8) Fort Morgan at (1) Roosevelt (Johnstown), Nov. 21, 1 p.m.
This matchup features a common opponent between the teams in fifth-seeded Mead, which unfortunately had to forfeit its quarterfinal against Pueblo South. Roosevelt beat Mead 21-20 overtime on Oct. 16, while Mead rebounded with a 35-0 win against Fort Morgan. The Mustangs now get their shot to take the No. 1 seed out of the 3A tournament. Roosevelt doesn't rely on one individual player, as Keegan Sterkel
, Cooper Walton
and Brig Hartson
have all rushed for at least 200 yards and scored two touchdowns.
Fort Morgan also likes to attack in multiple ways. Briggs Wheatley
leads the team with 417 rushing yards and two touchdowns, while Frank Ortega
adds 348 yards and a score. Wheatley has also been sound through the air, throwing six touchdown passes this year. This should be a fun game strictly from the standpoint that each team has shown the ability to score a lot of points. Class 2A // Bracket(6) Delta at (3) Platte Valley (Kersey), Nov. 21, 1 p.m.
A battle between the two previous 2A runners-up should also provide a thrilling quarterback duel. Platte Valley is coming off a strong regular season in which its only loss was to defending state champion Sterling. Kade McDaniel
is in firm control of the Broncos offense as he threw for 890 yards and nine touchdowns, to go with his 600 rushing yards and eight touchdowns in the regular season.
Delta had a chance to close out the regular season unbeaten, but suffered a close 26-20 loss to Moffat County. Nolan Bynum
has looked solid all season for the Panthers as he's thrown for 848 yards and seven touchdowns, while also rushing for four touchdowns. Class 1A // Bracket(6) Centauri (La Jara) at (3) Florence, Nov. 21, 1 p.m.
For the first time this season, either Centauri or Florence is going to a lose a game and it might come down to which rushing attack fares better. Florence has averaged better than 44 points per game. A big part of that comes thanks to Owen Busetti
and Jacob Kennedy
, who have combined for 815 rushing yards and 17 touchdowns. Play by the offensive line certainly contributes to that, and the Huskies should also be commended for their defense, which hasn't yielded more than eight points to any one opponent.
Nearly the same accolades can be applied to Centauri. Mason Claunch
has rushed for 870 yards and a staggering 21 touchdowns. Equally as impressive is that the Falcons have allowed just 15 total points to their opponents. When Centauri does need to throw the ball, Mckay Russell
has been efficient by connecting on 65 percent of his tosses and has thrown for nine touchdowns this season.Class A 8-Man // Bracket(5) Rangely at (4) Dove Creek, Nov. 21, 1 p.m.
Dove Creek gets a home game even though it's the only team in this matchup with a loss. The Bulldogs fell to Sanford on Oct. 30, but rebounded with a win over Mancos, another 8-Man playoff team. Gage Bailey
leads the team in rushing yards with 716, but Gauge Thompson
and Chorbin Cressler
each added more than 400 yards to supplement his efforts. Thompson led the team in rushing touchdowns with eight.
Rangely finished the regular season undefeated and received just one scare from West Grand (Kremmling) on Oct. 24. With no games against playoff teams this year, it was vital to their playoff hopes that the Panthers went undefeated. Zane Varner
has been a big reason for Rangely's success, as he has rushed for 920 yards and eight touchdowns this season.Class A 6-Man // Bracket(6) Prairie (New Raymer) at (3) Cheyenne Wells, Nov. 20, 1 p.m.
On paper, this is the most intriguing 6-Man battle on the docket. Cheyenne Wells ran the table on its regular-season schedule, which included wins over two playoff teams (Eads and Kit Carson). The Tigers have shown to be a balanced team offensively. Evan Worley
has done the bulk of the work on the ground, totaling 667 rushing yards and 12 touchdowns. Preston Hernandez
has been effective through the air, throwing for seven touchdowns to just one interception.
Prairie enters the playoffs with a 5-1 record, and its only blemish was a 32-8 loss to defending champion Fleming. After that loss, the Mustangs rattled off three straight wins to end the regular season and outscored their opponents 177-56 in those three games. Prairie has a higher tendency to attack through the air, as Andy Long
g has thrown for 1,069 yards and 19 touchdowns.