The temperatures are dropping and snowflakes are falling in certain parts of the state. It must be playoff football time.
The state playoffs for six of the seven classifications begin this week. Class 3A still has one week of regular-season play but everyone else is in a win-or-go-home situation. We take a quick look at some of the teams and players to watch for during the next month as teams battle for the right to be called state football champions.Class 5A // Bracket
In some ways this bracket feels very tilted toward the usual suspects in 5A. Valor Christian (Highlands Ranch)
enters the tournament as the No. 1 overall seed, which doesn't come as a surprise. The Eagles were slightly tested by Columbine (Littleton)
on Sept. 24, but have pretty much been in cruise control since the season began. A big reason for that is Gavin Sawchuk
. The University of Oklahoma commit has rushed for 1,546 yards and scored 25 touchdowns. His top in-state performance came just this past week in the Douglas County League championship game where he ran the ball 23 times for 233 yards and three touchdowns. The Eagles also showed an impressive pass rush that game as Luke Meyer
recorded three sacks.
Defending champion Cherry Creek (Greenwood Village)
has the No. 2 seed after a season that saw its in-state winning streak come to a halt. Quarterback Christian Hammond
had a solid season, passing for 1,492 yards and 14 touchdowns. Although the Bruins ran for more than 1,400 yards as a team, their leading rusher Carlson Tann
had just 530 yards and six touchdowns. Teams should fear the Bruins defensively as they recorded 21 sacks and gave up just 11 points per game.
If last year's playoff run taught 5A teams anything, it's that Legend (Parker)
is a legitimate state championship threat. Bryce Vaz
has been an elite runner, putting up 1,393 yards and 21 touchdowns. Colton Warner
has added a passing element to the Titans' offense that hasn't been around for a few years, as he's thrown for 1,844 yards and 20 touchdowns. The defense has been opportunistic with 24 takeaways, including six interceptions from Nate Smith
Even coming off a loss last week, Arapahoe (Centennial)
might be coming into the 5A state tournament with more confidence than any other team in the field. That's what happens when beating Cherry Creek, which hadn't lost to an in-state opponent since 2018. The Warriors get the job done on the defensive side of the ball with 25.5 sacks and 12 takeaways. Jack Weiler
has picked off four passes and returned one of them for a touchdown. Arapahoe might be the No. 6 seed but it is also a dangerously confidence team heading into a stretch of the year where that is a necessary asset.
With the teams above hanging at home for a bye week, there are several good games to check out in the first round of the 5A state tournament. Fossil Ridge (Fort Collins)
travels to Cherokee Trail (Aurora)
, Fairview (Boulder)
goes to ThunderRidge (Highlands Ranch)
and Mountain Vista (Highlands Ranch)
is at Legacy (Broomfield)
Class 4A // Bracket
The moment that Montrose
beat Palmer Ridge (Monument) 28-21 on Oct. 1, it became a bonafide No. 1 team in 4A. That got solidified when the Indians grabbed the top seed heading into the state playoffs. They will try to utilize a heavy rushing
attack to justify their perfect regular season and make a push through the playoff bracket. Like the rest of the top eight teams on the bracket, Montrose has a bye this week and will meet the winner of
Mesa Ridge (Colorado Springs)
and Denver South
. Dakota Ridge (Littleton)
also gets a bye as the No. 2 seed, but the Eagles aren't worried so much about who they will play in a week but rather how they will play. Adam Graves
put together a solid passing season with 1,603 yards and 18 touchdowns to just five interceptions. That effort is only better when factoring in Noah Triplett
rushing for 1,069 yards and 24 touchdowns. Dakota Ridge looks to be one of the best offenses in the state. It's not bad on defense, either, as Dante Capolungo
has six picks and two recovered fumbles, and the team overall has 24 sacks.Pine Creek (Colorado Springs)
presents an interesting case for the 4A playoffs as it competed in a 5A league this season. The Eagles finished the season at 8-2 and that includes going 3-0 against 4A teams. Josiah Roy
provided the offense with a dual-threat option as he threw for 1,305 yards and 15 touchdowns while also running for 786 yards and 16 scores. Adding Mason Miller
and Zion Hill
into the fold only makes the Eagles look ready to reclaim a 4A state title.
Throughout the season, it felt like no one talked about defending champion Loveland
. The Red Wolves deserve a huge amount of respect in the postseason as they went 9-1, only losing to 5A's Ralston Valley (Arvada). Garrett Harstad
ran for 1,100 yards in the regular season with 16 touchdowns to go with that mileage. Drew Foley
nearly crossed the 1,000-yard mark, as well, as he went for 928 and 13 touchdowns. Loveland's running game powered it to the 4A title last year, and the Wolves are hoping the same strategy can garner the same result in about a month.
Each of the top seeds listed above has a bye this week, but some good games to check out would be Denver South at Mesa Ridge, Broomfield
and Vista PEAK Prep (Aurora)
at Pueblo West
.Class 2A // Bracket
Since the day Eaton
hoisted the 2A state championship trophy last December, it has continued to look the part of the best football team in the classification. The Reds outscored their opponents 324-53 on the year. The only team to score more
than a touchdown on them was University (Greeley) on Oct. 14.
, Ethan Florez
and Ryan Dirksen
have each scored seven rushing touchdowns. Dirksen has also been a monster on the defensive side, recording 10 sacks and recovering two fumbles.Cade Palmer
looks every bit like a standout running back, and that's the status he's hoping to carry for the next few weeks as The Classical Academy (Colorado Springs)
hunts for a state championship that seems to elude the program each year. Through eight games, Palmer had rushed for 1,266 yards and 22 touchdowns. He gets about 13 yards per carry, which is a great tool for a playoff team to have at its disposal. The No. 3 Titans take on Northfield (Denver)
in their first-round game this week.
In eight games this year, Resurrection Christian (Loveland)
attempted just 40 passes. This is a run-heavy team which is a vastly different look from a year ago. Quarterback Eddie Lemos
leads the rushing attack with 1,149 yards and 19 touchdowns. Cade Dunlap
adds 670 yards and nine scores. The one way in which this team looks every bit like last year is on the defensive side. The Cougars have forced 13 turnovers, and Justin Hawthorne
has 10 of the team's 31 sacks. Resurrection Christian is the No. 2 seed on the bracket and opens against La Junta
has been on a little bit of a roll because of some youth on the team. Freshman quarterback Ty Reed
hasn't been asked to do too much since taking the job, but if feels like he over-delivers every week. He has passed for 839 yards and 12 touchdowns against just two interceptions. He's had big help with the running game as Timothy Horn
has rushed for 1,034 yards. The Panthers have been solid defensively when they've needed to be, and it showed when they held Moffat Country (Craig) to just 14 points on Oct. 22. The Bulldogs averaged nearly 42 points per game this year.
Class 1A // Bracket
As is normally the case, Limon
enters the 1A bracket as the top overall seed and is looking to win a staggering fourth consecutive state title. Although some key members of last year's team graduated, Trey Hines
is still controlling the offense under center. His experience goes well with Jeremiah Leeper
's playmaking ability. Leeper has rushed for 1,236 yards and 13 scores. Hines is one of five different players on defense to record an interception for the Badgers. They start their state title defense against Bennett
For the last few years, it has been Strasburg
advancing to the state title game only to lose to Limon. There are a few other teams looking like they want a shot to dethrone the Badgers. Centauri (La Jara)
looks every bit the part as the Falcons rolled through the regular season with an unbeaten record. Early in the season, Mason Claunch
was well on his way to another standout year. He was averaging 10 yards per carry and two touchdowns per game. The Falcons championship hopes likely hinge on how effective the senior can be on the ground.Buena Vista
was just a game away from playing for the 2A Season C state title, and this fall the Demons look hungry to breakthrough the bracket and make their way to Pueblo. Haden Camp
has been impressive on multiple fronts as he has 731 passing yards to go with 954 rushing yards. The Demons strength defensively has been forcing opponents into passing situations. Orion Herrle
and Jacob Phelps
have each picked off three passes this year and are itching to get their hands on more interceptions in the playoffs.
A six-point loss to Buena Vista is the only reason Florence
didn't finish with a perfect regular-season record. The Huskies have a dominant running team, and it has been that way for the last several seasons now. Jian Aguilar
leads the team with 728 yards and 12 touchdowns while Jacob Kennedy
has 657 yards and seven scores. Combine the running game with the defense's ability to create turnovers (23 combined) and the Huskies will be a dangerous team each and every week they take the field.Class A 8-Man // Bracket
This is the year that someone not named Sedgwick County (Julesburg)
could claim the 8-Man title. The Cougars suffered a couple of regular-season losses to Colorado teams, a rare event for much of the last decade. At 6-3 they enter the postseason as the No. 6 seed and will likely have to go on the road a few times in order to get to the state title game.Haxtun
enters the playoffs as the top overall seed after thoroughly dominating the regular season. The Bulldogs used a stout ground game to run their opponents into the ground week after week. Michael Gerk
rushed for 1,056 yards and 14 touchdowns, while Isaac Andersen
added 904 yards and 18 touchdowns to the ground attack. Overall, the Bulldogs scored 53 rushing touchdowns as a team. Mancos
gets the No. 2 seed on the bracket, and although the Bluejays have also been a run-dominant team, their attack is focused more with one player. Chase Moore
accounted for 1,260 of the team's 1,785 rushing yards through the first five games. He has also found the end zone 18 times in that span.
With the No. 3 seed on the bracket, Vail Christian (Edwards)
has hopes that its high-powered offense can carry the team to a state title. The Saints are led by quarterback Taylor Shull
, who has thrown for 1,475 yards and 20 touchdowns. He has been picked off just once all season and his ability to take care of the ball will come in handy for a playoff run. His favorite target has been Jeffrey Hall
(542 receiving yards and seven touchdowns).
At 8-1, everyone should also be paying attention to Holly
. The Wildcats dropped an overtime game to Akron earlier this year and quarterback Dakota Eaton
has been solid with 1,887 passing yards and 23 touchdowns. Class A 6-Man // Bracket
The 6-Man bracket has a bit of a different look with the No. 1 seed as Cheyenne Wells
takes the top spot. The Tigers rattled off a perfect regular season and scored a blistering 528 points in just nine games. Cade Mitchek
needed just eight games to rush for over 1,000 yards and rack up 24 touchdowns. He also picked off four passes and returned them for an average of 24 yards per interception. Evan Worley
was a nightmare for opposing quarterbacks as he recorded 16 sacks throughout the regular season.
Two-time defending champion Fleming
is back on the bracket, only this time as the No. 5 seed. The Wildcats have a bit of balance offensively as Braylen Feather
has passed for 682 yards and 13 touchdowns, while Nolan Japp
leads the team in rushing with 812 yards and 16 touchdowns.Granada
would love to get another crack at Cheyenne Wells, as the only loss on its schedule is courtesy of the Tigers. The Bobcats provide a different look from some of the other top teams as they run a pass-heavy offense. Through just six games, Dominic Coleman
threw for 1,421 yards and 27 touchdowns. He has thrown just one interception. As a team, the Bobcats have rushed for 669 yards. They also have been good on the defensive side, forcing 10 turnovers. Idalia
is another team with championship ambitions coming into the postseason. The Wolves dropped games to Stratton
and Granada but have looked very strong otherwise. Yahir Enriquez
has rushed for 1,145 yards and gets more than 10 yards per carry. He has found the end zone 21 times and looks to get there several more times to help the Wolves work their way through the bracket.
After reaching the championship game the past two years, Stratton enters as the No. 2 seed. The Eagles outscored their opponents 516-121 and want to keep that disparity going for four more games.