Week nine brings with it the first chance for 3A football teams to clinch a playoff berth and several teams have that opportunity with wins this week.  Our weekly report turns its attention completely to the conference races and we breakdown all the scenarios.
Please note the records listed by each team represent their conference mark.  All games listed are on Friday unless otherwise indicated.


Kennedy (1-2) at Palmer Ridge (3-0)
Vista Peak (2-1) at Thomas Jefferson (2-1)
Denver North (1-2) at Lincoln (0-3) — Saturday
By beating Denver North and Thomas Jefferson over the last two weeks, Palmer Ridge sits alone in first place and has control of the championship race.  The Bears clinch the crown with a win if Thomas Jefferson also beats Vista Peak.  If Vista Peak wins, they stay a game back of Palmer Ridge and challenge the Bears in week 10.  If both teams win this week, then that game will a head-to-head battle for the league championship.
Vista Peak stayed in the race thanks to a 48-6 win over Lincoln last week.  Derrick Smashum had his second highest yardage total of the season throwing for 243 yards and five touchdowns.  His previous best was a 296-yard effort against Erie in the season opener and his five touchdowns were a season high.
Thomas Jefferson played well in a tough loss to Palmer Ridge but the Spartans will likely need to be better defensively to knock off Vista Peak.  The Spartans gave up 190 yards passing and a touchdown to Palmer Ridge standout Ty Evans but also surrendered 130 yards rushing.  Raef Ruel led that effort with 101 yards and two scores.
Palmer Ridge is safely in the playoff bracket and is battling Mead for the overall top seed.  The Bears are second at .725 with Mead a step higher at .729.  Thomas Jefferson is 14th so they could use another win while Vista Peak is 21st and may need to win the league title to get a bid.  Their strength of schedule is .547 and should go up by finishing with Thomas Jefferson and Palmer Ridge who are a combined 14-2.


Northridge (1-2) at Fort Morgan (3-0)
Thompson Valley (0-3) at Centaurus (1-2)
Silver Creek (1-2) at Longmont (3-0)
Since league leaders Fort Morgan and Longmont square off in week ten, neither can clinch the outright championship this week.  Wins are crucial for almost every team concerning the playoff picture as there’s a chance only the conference champion gets into the bracket.  Longmont is 16th in RPI this week, Fort Morgan is 18th and Silver Creek has slipped to 20th.  Teams that don’t win a league crown must reach the top 16 of RPI points to make the playoffs.
Both league leaders are favored to win at home this week but the Trojans may have the more difficult assignment as they meet in-city rival Silver Creek.
Silver Creek stumbles into the game a bit as they’ve lost back-to-back games for the first time since rejoining the 3A ranks before last season.  Because of the slip in RPI, the Raptors desperately need a win to keep playoff hopes alive.  They’ll also be fired up to play the Trojans as city pride and bragging rights are also on the line.
Fort Morgan QB Isaac Linker has thrown for at least 110 yards in five of his last six games.  In the last two wins, the junior has completed 18 of 33 passes for 275 yards and three touchdowns without an interception.  The running attack is balanced as six players have between 120 and 230 yards this season plus the Mustangs have a dozen touchdowns on the ground.
Against Northridge, the Mustangs defense will be focused on QB Chance Eben.  The senior leads the Grizzlies in passing with 877 yards and rushing with 505.  Overall, he’s been involved in 22 of the teams 23 touchdowns.


Sierra (0-3) at Pueblo Central (0-3) — Thursday
Durango (1-2) at Pueblo County (1-2)
Pueblo East (3-0) at Harrison (3-0)
Don’t look now but the three-time defending state champions are just one win away from clinching a playoff berth.  Pueblo East dropped all five non-conference games but three straight wins in conference play has them on the verge of reaching the bracket.  If they manage to beat Harrison on Friday, the Eagles will clinch a post-season invitation.  Since the Eagles are 22nd in RPI this week, it may be their only route there.
Harrison is unbeaten overall and in much better shape at 7th in RPI but league championships have been rare for the Panthers of late so that’s the immediate goal.  They can only clinch the title this week with a win if Pueblo County also beats Durango.  The Demons play Harrison next week and start this week just one game back in the league standings.
Aumiere Shedrick and Orlando Westbrook remain the two biggest offensive threats for Harrison.  Westbrook has thrown for nearly 15-hundred yards and 14 touchdowns and added 398 yards and 12 more scores on the ground.  Shedrick has reached 100 yards in seven of eight games this year totaling 1,124 yards and 13 touchdowns overall.
On the outside, David Barrow will draw the attention of the Pueblo East defense.  He’s caught a team best 43 passes for 822 yards and 11 touchdowns.
After relying on Bryson Torres in the ground game the past four years, Pueblo East has turned to a group of players in their rushing attack.  Sebastian Benavidez is the top rusher with 401 yards and QB Luc Andrada has 337 yards but three others are near or above 200 yards overall.  Andrada, in his second year as the starter, has completed 79 of 166 passes for 1,045 yards and nine TD’s.
In addition to staying in the league championship chase, Durango could use a win to improve their overall playoff chances.  They enter the week 17th in RPI points battling the likes of Thomas Jefferson, Holy Family and Longmont for one of the final few available spots.  Pueblo County is 33rd in RPI and relegated to playing the role of spoiler.


Woodland Park (1-2) at Canon City (3-0)
Discovery Canyon (2-1) at Mitchell (0-3)
Lewis Palmer (1-2) at Falcon (2-1)
Thanks to their win over Discovery Canyon last week, Canon City is just one win away from wrapping up the league championship.  The Tigers lead the Thunder and Falcon by one game going into week nine but they’ve already beaten both giving them a chance to clinch this week.
Canon City totaled over 400 yards of offense in last week’s win and moved the ball equally on the ground (231) and through the air (176).  Zac Hanenberg completed 8 of 10 passes for 100 yards and a touchdown.  Kadin Porter also completed three passes for 76 yards and a second score.  He also led the ground game with 163 yards and two scores.  The senior now has 1,051 yards and 13 scores for the season.
The loss did not end Discovery Canyon’s chances at a playoff berth as the Thunder are 12th and still very much in the picture.  They should easily get by Mitchell this week and then battle Falcon for second place in the final week.  Falcon is only 35th in RPI and will be eliminated if Canon City beats Woodland Park.


Berthoud (0-3) at Holy Family (0-3)
Mead (3-0) at Erie (2-1)
Roosevelt (2-1) at Frederick (2-1)
Erie’s two-point loss to Roosevelt last week took a bit of the luster away from their matchup with Mead but it’s a still a very important game to the overall playoff picture.  The Mavericks are trying to hold off Palmer Ridge for the top overall playoff seed.  A win this week should keep them there and it will also give the Mavericks the Tri Valley title.
Erie dropped three spots to sixth in the RPI this week.  A win by the Tigers sets up a three-way tie for first with the Mavericks and the winner between Roosevelt and Frederick.  That scenario sets up several championship possibilities entering the final week.
Controlling Erie’s Noah Roper was the key for Roosevelt in their win last week.  Roper ran the ball 20 times but was held to season lows in yards (85) and touchdowns (1).  It also marked the first time this season the senior did not crack the 100-yard barrier.  As a result, don’t be surprised if the Mavericks defense crowds the line of scrimmage to slow him down this week.
Mead’s offense has not been slowed down this year, totaling 354 points in eight wins.  The Mavericks have gained at least 229 yards rushing in every game this year and exploded for a season high 639 yards in last week’s win against Holy Family.  They’ve scored 37 of their 46 touchdowns on the ground.
QB Tyler Keys (908) is the leading rusher and needs 92 yards to reach 1,000 for the season.  He has scored a team best 17 touchdowns.  Nathan Mackey has reached the end zone nine times and is second with 878 yards.  Overall the Mavericks average almost nine yards an attempt.
Roosevelt and Frederick are playing for league and playoff positioning.  The Riders are fifth in RPI and the Warriors 11th so right now both appear safe for playoff bids.  But as mentioned, the winner stays in the league championship picture if Erie finds a way to beat Mead.
Despite winless conference records, Berthoud and Holy Family both have plenty to play for.  Berthoud is 13th in RPI and Holy Family 15th so both would be in the bracket if the playoffs started this week.  That may not be the case next week for the loser.


Alameda (0-3) at Skyview (2-1)
Conifer (1-2) at Lutheran (1-2)
Evergreen (3-0) at Green Mountain (2-1)
Evergreen controls the race as a win this week gives the Cougars another league crown.  Since edging Skyview 10-9 in the conference opener, the Cougars have been dominant in beating Lutheran (51-17) and Conifer (38-13).  They could face a tougher task this week against a Green Mountain team that also played well in a loss to Skyview (21-14) two weeks ago.
The Rams are 3-5 overall and only 25th in RPI so they’re likely in a must-win situation as winning the league title is their only chance at a playoff berth.  A loss this week ends those hopes.  A win though creates a potential three-way tie with Evergreen and Skyview if the Wolverines beat Alameda as expected.
QB Trey Towndrow has had a solid sophomore season throwing for 834 yards with 12 touchdowns against just five interceptions.  He’s led the Rams to win in three of their last four games including a season best 155-yards and three TD’s against Conifer.  He also tossed three scores in last week’s win over Alameda (52-0).
Evergreen’s lone loss is a three-point decision to Harrison (26-23) in week three and they’ve won five straight since.  Jack Wagner has 10 TD passes with 719 yards this season.  Luc Lajoy (485) and Devin O’Toole (329) lead a balanced running game and have combined for six touchdowns.  The Cougars are 8th in RPI.
Skyview is playoff bound regardless of where they finish in league play.  The Wolverines are 4th in RPI points but could lose a bit of ground down the stretch.  Even if they beat Alameda this week and Conifer next week, the Wolverines will take a hit on strength of schedule since the opponents are currently a combined 2-13.


Summit (1-2) at Palisade (3-0) — Thursday
Eagle Valley (0-3) at Battle Mountain (1-2)
Rifle (3-0) at Glenwood Springs (1-2)
Rifle and Palisade face off next week so the champion won’t be crowned until that game finishes.  Both teams though can clinch no worse than a second-place finish by winning games this weekend.  And they’re both favored to do so.
Neither club has been pushed in league play.  The Bears have outscored opponents 147-49 and the Bulldogs by a 112-23 margin.
As in the past, Rifle relies heavily on a ground game chewing up 368 yards a game on the ground.  They’ve also scored 38 touchdowns on running plays.  Tanner Vines leads that list with 16 scores and tops the yardage chart with 1,435 yards.  He’s been over 200 yards in four games including twice in league play; gaining 240 yards against Battle Mountain and 226 against Eagle Valley last week.
Camron Shepherd (537) and Joel Lopez (455) add good depth to the running game.  They’ve combined for 11 scores.  QB Luke Ellis has provided 544 yards through the air on just 18 completions.
Palisade stretched their winning streak to four by blowing past Battle Mountain 42-3 last week.  The Bulldogs defense has allowed just three points over the last two games.  They limited the Huskies to just 125 total yards last week.
No other league team will make the playoffs.  Summit (29th) and Battle Mountain (30th) are the next two highest ranked teams in the RPI.  Glenwood Springs was forced to forfeit all previous wins before last week’s victory over Summit due to the inadvertent use of an ineligible player.  As a result, they tumbled all the way to 40th in RPI this week.