Three regular season rematches can be found in the first round of the Class 3A playoffs. The list of teams also includes 10-0 clubs Mead and Conifer along with four one loss teams in Harrison, Pueblo South, Discovery Canyon and Frederick. We preview all eight opening games.
#1 MEAD (10-0) vs #16 HARRISON (9-1)
The Mavericks boast one of the most favorable point differential in Class 3A as they’ve outscored opponents 415-96 on the season. That includes a very important 27-20 win over Frederick last week where they captured the North Metro league title. Harrison is also a league champ as they captured the Southern race for a second straight year but RPI and the football index dropped them all the way to the 16th spot.
In the win over Frederick, Brady Veltien had a big day throwing the football. He finished 12 of 19 for 213 yards. The running game, which has been strong all season, totaled 236 yards despite missing leading rusher Jake Wachter. Wachter is 8th in Class 3A with 1,022 yards on the ground and 15 TD’s. In his absence, Braden Keys picked up the slack with 149 yards on 13 carries.
Harrison is strong on the defensive end with Makeah Scippio (11.5) and Jailen Simmons (8.5) combining for 20 sacks. Alex Clarke has six interceptions; tied for the 3A lead with two other players. Davonn Stevens tops the team with 105 tackles. On offense, Romeo Wells leads all runners with 1,020 yards and 12 scores.
- History: Mead is in the playoffs for a fifth straight with wins in their last three first round games. Their deepest run since re-establishing the school came in 2016 when they reached the semifinals. Harrison is in the bracket for a third straight year and fourth time in five years. Their victory over Holy Family (34-28) in the first round last year was the first in school history. The teams met two years with Mead picking up a 56-19 win in the opening round.
#8 GREEN MOUNTAIN (8-2) VS #9 ERIE (7-3)
Erie grabbed another North Valley title with a crazy win over Fort Morgan last week. Leading 23-6 in the fourth quarter, the Tigers seemed to be in control but the Mustangs then scored 21 straight points to take a 27-23 advantage late in the game. Mason Vevo’s kickoff return on the ensuing kickoff set up a game winning drive and allowed the Tigers to gain a fifth straight win.
Vevo has been one of the offensive keys through the entire season as he enters the playoffs with 1,163 yards rushing and 15 TD’s. Gavin Mendoz went over 1,000 yards passing last week and he has 12 scoring passes. Grayson Schenbeck is the top threat on the outside with 18 catches for 399 yards and four TD’s.
The Tigers are battle tested with losses coming to Mead, Pueblo South and Frederick. Those three opponents are a combined 28-2 with the Mavericks and Colts holding down the top two playoff seeds.
Green Mountain is 2-2 against playoff teams with wins over Harrison and Palisade and losses to Lutheran and Conifer. They’ve won four straight since falling to Conifer. QB Trey Towndrow is a dual threat with 1,593 yards passing and 826 yards on the ground. He’s responsible for 28 TD’s. Other weapons include Jacob Chavez (12 TD’s rushing) and Trey Corkin (5 TD receptions).
The Rams will look to avenge a 34-0 second round loss to Erie a year ago. Towndrow was held to 74 yards passing and 66 rushing and the Rams generated only 147 total years. Erie ran for 227 yards and four touchdowns.
- History: Green Mountain has qualified for the second straight year and the sixth time since winning the 1999 4A state championship. Their win over Thomas Jefferson (34-14) was also their first win since the 1999 finals. Erie is making their fourth straight playoff appearance and has reached at least the semifinals in the last two. That includes a state championship appearance in 2017. As mentioned, this is the second straight year the two clubs will meet in the playoffs and they represent the only meetings.
#4PALMER RIDGE (8-2) VS #13 HOLY FAMILY (5-5)
The two-time defending state champions dropped to the fourth seed following a closing loss to Discovery Canyon but they still remain one of the teams expected to push for the 2019 crown. They’ve won eight straight in the playoffs and feature one of the more explosive offenses in Class 3A.
The problem last week came on defense where in the wild 56-49 loss, the Bears gave up a whopping 554 yards rushing. They must be better defensively if they wish to earn a third consecutive state championship.
The trio of Luke McAllister, Raef Ruel and Anthony Roberson are key figures on offense. McAllister has 1,697 yards and 17 TD’s passing with 39 of those completions and 807 yards going to Roberson. Ruel is 9th in Class 3A with 1,021 yards and 21 TD’s rushing.
Holy Family has played six playoff teams with a lone win coming against Roosevelt (14-7). Losses are against Mead and Frederick in conference play along with Skyline, Discovery Canyon and Pueblo South. Four of those schools are in the top seeds of the 3A bracket.
The key offensively is Calahan Carter who leads Class 3A with 2,483 yards and 24 TD’s passing. Seven receivers have at least 13 catches; a group led by Braden Peters with 31 for 447 yards and seven scores. Ben Nappe is next with 26 catches for 629 yards and five scores. He averages 24 yards per reception.
- History: Palmer Ridge has nine playoff wins in school history with eight coming in the last two years on their way to state championships. Six of those eights wins are by at least 25 points. Holy Family is in the playoffs for the second straight year and 17th time since 2001. They won 2A state championships in 2002 and 2005. The Tigers are 1-7 all-time in the 3A playoffs with the lone win coming in 2016 over Rifle (47-0). This is the first playoff meeting between the Tigers and Bears.
#5 CONIFER (10-0) VS #12 FORT MORGAN (7-3)
This is a rematch from the regular season where Conifer scored a 35-28 decision on September 28th. The Lobos led the game 35-14 before two late scores pulled the Mustangs within range. Conifer was very good offensively that night; rushing for 272 yards and throwing for 254. Noah Wagner has 1,413 yards rushing and 25 TD’s this season. He picked up 118 in the win over the Mustangs. JR Hart has 1,801 yards passing on the season and hit 16 of 24 attempts that night. Sam Horneck caught five passes for 113 yards and has 39 catches for 1,017 yards overall. His yardage leads all 3A receivers.
Fort Morgan also suffered through a slow start against Erie last week and as mentioned, nearly came all the way back in that one as well. They must avoid a similar start in the Conifer rematch or they may see their season come to a close. Key players are Briggs Wheatley and Fernando Marquez. Wheatlhy threw for 163 yards and ran for 159 against Conifer in the first meeting. Marquez has six interceptions; sharing the 3A lead.
- History: Conifer qualified for the playoffs 12 times from 2000 through 2016 but this is their first appearance in the past three years. Their last win came in 2012 when they beat Eagle Valley (16-10) in the state quarterfinals. This is the fifth appearance in the past six years for Fort Morgan. They had won nine straight playoff openers before falling to Palisade (38-7) in the first round last year. The teams met in the 2016 playoffs with Fort Morgan scoring a 49-35 win. It’s their only playoff meeting.
#2 PUEBLO SOUTH (9-1) VS #15 LUTHERAN (6-4)
The second seeded Colts played one of the more difficult schedules in 3A as they went 4-1 against playoff teams. Their lone loss came to Palmer Ridge (24-19) but they also scored wins over Holy Family, Erie, Discovery Canyon and Durango. The last two were very important as the first kept Pueblo South ahead of Discovery Canyon in the bracket and the second gave the Colts the South Central league championship.
With 51 catches for 859 yards, Jackson Dickerson is one of the best receivers in 3A and will draw plenty of attention on the outside. Logan Petit gets him the ball and enters the post-season with 1,456 yards and 17 TD’s. He’s added 358 yards rushing. Most of the ground game is centered on George Longoria with 1,438 yards and 16 scores.
On defense, Jace Bellah is a big playmaker. His six interceptions tie with him with two others for the division lead.
Lutheran also features a talented receiver in Andre Normal. He has 36 catches for 697 yards which is fourth best in 3A. Max Rivken is the quarterback and through the regular season totaled 1,237 yards with 13 TD’s.
The Lions also need to get their offense back in mid-season. They’ve scored just 20 total points as they finished the regular season with losses to Discovery Canyon and Thomas Jefferson.
- History: Pueblo South won the 2017 Class 4A state championship and is in the 3A bracket for the second straight year. They fell to eventual champion Palmer Ridge in the first round last season. The Colts are 10-11 all-time in the first round. Lutheran is in the playoffs for the first time since 2014 and seeking their first win since 2011. They made the 2A semifinals in both 1999 and 1985. The clubs have not met previously in the playoffs.
#7 DURANGO (7-3) vs #10 PALISADE (7-3)
Another regular season matchup has the two Western Slope playoff participants matching up for a second time. Palisade won the first meeting 25-18 on the road thanks to a late game winning drive. Cam Tucker ran for 211 yards and two scores but left the game late in the drive due to injury; paving the way for backup Gabe Harrison to get the winning touchdown. Overall the Bulldogs ran for 416 yards and they would like nothing better in the rematch.
Durango moved the ball against Palisade as Jordan Woolverton threw for 147 yard and Everett Howland ran for 171. Woolverton has had a great year with 1,576 yards and 22 TD’s through the air and 878 yards and 14 scores on the ground. Howland is over 12-hundred yards on the ground this year with 12 scores and Ben Finneseth caught 37 passes for 664 yards.
Tucker battled the injury suffered against Durango for a good share of the season and saw action in just seven games. He still leads the team with 587 yards rushing and 633 passing. The senior seems to be in good health heading into the playoffs so look for the Bulldogs to again lean on his leadership and playmaking ability.
- History: Durango is playoff bound for the fifth straight year and 9th time since 2009. They have just two first round wins in that stretch; beating Canon City in 2017 and Aurora Central in 2015. They are 17-35-2 all-time. This is the 20th straight post-season entry for Palisade. The Bulldogs have eight state titles with the last coming in 2003. They also won four straight from 1994-97. This is the first-time the Demons and Bulldogs have squared off in the post-season.
#3 DISCOVERY CANYON (9-1) VS #14 ROOSEVELT (5-5)
These two teams also met during the regular season with the Thunder picking up a 35-21 win early in the season. Discovery Canyon used 207 yards rushing from Marshall Pike and a solid defensive effort to gain the win. They also threw for 133 yards. Roosevelt managed just 63 yards rushing and 52 passing and had just 30 plays compared to 71 for Discovery Canyon.
The potent ground game and control of the clock has led Discovery Canyon to their 9-1 record. They saved their best effort for last as they generated over 550 yards in the 56-49 win over Palmer Ridge last week. The Thunder twice trailed by 14 points early in the game but used 28 second quarter points to gain control. Three players had at least 100 yards rushing including two with over 200. Pike finished with 214 and Kevin Frye added 212 while Jonah Isakson added 109. Pike is the overall rushing leader in Class 3A with 1,539 yards and 24 TD’s.
Roosevelt will be without starting QB Brayden Saya for the playoffs. He’s missed the last couple of weeks but Brig Hartson has been solid as his replacement. He’s thrown for 421 yards and eight touchdowns this year and may need to produce big plays this weekend. JT Baughman, with 939 yards, will also get some attempts as will Cooper Walton with 466 yards. Walton, just a sophomore, is also the Riders top tackler with 121. His job on that side will be slow down Pike.
- History: Discovery Canyon first made the playoffs in 2012 and haven’t missed out since. They scored their first ever win in 2014 and have won four of their last five first round games. Their lone championship appearance came in 2016 when they fell short to Pueblo East (35-6). Roosevelt made the bracket for the 12th time since 2004 and first since 2017. They’ve won their last five first round games with their last loss coming in 2011. This is the first meeting between the two programs.
#6 FREDERICK (9-1) VS #11 THOMAS JEFFERSON (7-3)
The Warriors won their first nine games of the season but probably gained more respect by voters and ranking services for their 27-20 loss to top ranked Mead last week. That game was tied in the fourth quarter before the Mavericks pushed across the winning score. The game marked just the second all season they’ve given up more than 20 and despite the loss, have still outscored opponents 467-137 this year. They’re winning games by an average of 33 points.
QB Jake Green is over 1,200 yards rushing and passing with 37 TD’s this year, but he managed just 46 yards passing against Mead. He’ll look to get back to form in the passing game for the Spartans.
Thomas Jefferson has momentum entering the playoffs thanks to a 27-13 win over Lutheran to close the regular season. That win gave the Spartans third place in a very good Central league that also features Discovery Canyon and Palmer Ridge. They lost to both the Thunder and Bears along with 4A Silver Creek. In addition to Lutheran, they’ve also beaten playoff qualifier Fort Morgan.
They have not dominated this year; outscoring 10 opponents by just 83 points. QB Trenton Koser has thrown for 1,179 yards and nine scores and has two very good receivers in Craig Patterson and Keshaun Taylor. Patterson has 37 catches and Taylor 30.
- History: Frederick makes their second straight playoff appearance. The Warriors are 3-8 all-time with all three wins coming in 2010 and 2011. They’ve lost their last three first round games including a tough 34-31 overtime loss to Discovery Canyon a year ago. This is the third straight year in the playoffs for Thomas Jefferson. Their last win came in 2009 over Douglas County. That game came in the 5A bracket. They lost to Roosevelt and Green Mountain in the 3A division over the last two years. This is the first-ever playoff meeting between the Warriors and Spartans.