It appears to be a new era in Colorado Class 3A prep football.
For the first time in a long time, defending Class 3A state champion Pueblo East has dropped out of the top-10 rankings, as released Monday by the Colorado High School Activities Association.
Holy Family remained at the top spot, followed by Mead, Silver Creek, Palmer Ridge, and Fort Morgan, while Thomas Jefferson (3-0) popped in at No. 10 in place of East.
In fact, according to the CHSAANow.com annals, it’s the first time since the 2014 preseason, when the Eagles were coming off a respectable 7-5 season in which they saw the second round of the Class 3A playoffs, that they have been out of the top-10.
Of course, ever since then, all they’ve done is win the title in 2014. And 2015. And 2016. All with a combined record of 37-5.
But now, Pueblo East has opened the season at 0-3 for the first time since 2007. Of course, their slow start in 2017 is not for a lack of effort, nor is it the result of playing a patty-cake nonleague schedule. East’s losses have come to No. 9 Longmont, Class 4A No. 7 Pueblo West, and most recently in heartbreaking overtime fashion to No. 7 Discovery Canyon in a highly anticipated rematch of last year’s title game.
Because of that, there should still be hope for the boys from Pueblo’s Belmont neighborhood, though they do have a hill to climb at No. 36 in the initial RPI standings. But, East does still have two final tune-up games — at Canon City on Friday and back home against their bitter rival in Pueblo South in the latest iteration of the Cannon Game on Sept. 29 — before league play begins.
While there’s still plenty of season left to play, it certainly appears that there is a changing of the guard atop Colorado’s Class 3A division, which has long been ruled by the Eagles of the Steel City. If that turns out to be true, then it’s only right that we all stand back, if even for a moment before the season’s final whistle, and appreciate what a remarkable run it was.
Here’s how this week’s slate of top games shakes out.
No. 1 Holy Family (3-0) at Thompson Valley (0-3)
When: 6:30 p.m., Thursday
Where: Ray Patterson Stadium, Loveland
The Blitz: Holy Family leads the charge as the No. 1 team both in the coaches’ poll and in the initial RPI rankings, which determine the top 16 teams for the playoffs based upon a team’s own record, opponents winning percentage, and their opponents’ opponents winning percentage. And rightfully so. In what was a possible playoff foreshadow, the Tigers scored 16 unanswered points in the second half to fend off No. 5 Fort Morgan last week. Stone Samaras is coming off his worst game statistically (9-21, 111 yards, 1 TD, 3 INTs), but still leads 3A in passing with 858 yards. He and his favorite connection, Kyle Helbig (474 yards, 7 TDs), will look to get the offense back in-sync against the Eagles on Thursday night.
No. 2 Mead (3-0) at No. 9 Longmont (1-2)
When: 7 p.m., Friday
Where: Everly-Montgomery, Longmont
The Blitz: Mead (No. 9 RPI) has arguably been the most dominant team in the state to this point in the season, scoring an average of 50.3 points per game — including a 58-0 trouncing of Thompson Valley last week on homecoming. Now, coach Jason Klatt and his offensive juggernaut, with its three-headed rushing monster made up of Nathan Mackey (329 yards, 4 TDs), Derek Edwards (302 yards, 4 TDs), and dual-threat QB Tyler Keys (284 yards, 6 TDs), head into town to take on the Trojans. Longmont (No. 29 RPI) has dropped two straight after its opening win over Pueblo East, including a 15-12 fourth quarter collapse against Roosevelt last week, but the Trojans are likely to be extra hyped for their own homecoming and are always a threat to challenge any contender.
Roosevelt (2-1) at No. 3 Silver Creek (3-0)
When: 7 p.m. Friday
Where: Lyons High School
The Blitz: Speaking of the Rough Riders, here they are in Week 4 looking to knock of their second ranked opponent in as many weeks. After a win over Longmont, Roosevelt (RPI No. 20) and senior Angelo Hurtado (45 carries, 277 yards, 2 TDs) should be riding high. But Silver Creek, which enters the RPI at No. 2 and is fresh off a dominant 42-7 win over Frederick, has a serious playoff pedigree. The Raptors have gotten it done in a variety of ways this year, riding their defense to a 14-0 shutout over Dakota Ridge, utilizing their offense in a 45-33 shootout against Mountain View, and combining the strengths of both phases last week against Frederick. QB Collin Black (626 yards, 5 TDs) and RB Andreik Knechtel will surely be up for a challenge against Roosevelt.
No. 4 Palmer Ridge (3-0) at No. 7 Discovery Canyon (2-1)
When: 7 p.m. Thursday
Where: District 20 Stadium
The Blitz: The second of two 3A top-10 showdowns takes place down south(ish) in Colorado Springs. Discovery Canyon (RPI No. 10), which at one point reeled off 12 straight wins last season, escaped with a 35-34 overtime thriller against rival Pueblo East last week, returns home with an eye on starting a new streak. The Thunder are led by a balanced offensive attack — four rushers have at least 100 yards on the ground — while Palmer Ridge presents a different threat with an aerial attack led by Ty Evans (49-78, 816 yards, 12 TDs). Â Last year, the Thunder pummeled Palmer Ridge 55-6.
No. 8 Durango (3-1) at Bayfield (2A No. 2)
When: 7 p.m. Friday
Where: Bayfield High School
The Blitz: The Demons will play their final tune-up before hitting a bye in Week 5 followed by the South-Central League opener against Pueblo East on Oct. 6, though it’s only their second contest against an in-game opponent. Durango escaped with a 3-0 win over Delta in Zero Week after a 23-yard field goal from Harrison Kairalla, and then played three straight against New Mexico opponents — Aztec (35-14 win), Piedra Vista (29-0 win), and Farmington (34-7 loss). Bayfield, one of Class 2A’s powers, presents a new unique challenge for the No. 14 team in the RPI.
No. 10 Thomas Jefferson (3-0) at Skyview (3-0): Thomas Jefferson may have climbed into the coaches’ poll this week, but it’s Skyview that has rode its own 3-0 start to the No. 3 spot in the initial RPI rankings. This early battle of unbeaten upstarts should be a real treat; Thomas Jefferson (RPI No. 19) is averaging a whopping 58 points per game while allowing an average of 4, and Skyview is averaging 43.3 points/game against just 12.3. Players to watch: Skyview running back Deyvon Butler (608 yards, 8 TDs) and TJ back Daevon Hunter (266 yards, 8 TDs)
Glenwood Springs (3-0) at Harrison (3-0): Another intriguing battle of undefeated squads takes place in the Colorado Springs area, with the Demons from the Western Slope heading across the divide to take on the scrappy Panthers. Both teams have had promising starts and have their eye on the playoffs. Glenwood Springs sits at No. 16 in the initial RPI, while Harrison is all the way up at No. 7 thanks to fast starts by Orlando Westbrook (535 passing yards, 155 rushing yards, 9 total TDs) and Aumerie Shedrick (526 rush yards, 5 TDs).
No. 6 Erie (3-0) at Centaurus (0-3): This game deserves a mention not just because of the Tigers’ hot start (No. 12 RPI), but because of Noah Roper. Roper has gone off in Erie’s first three wins, including a 17 carry, 308 yard performance (18.1 YPC average) with FOUR touchdowns against Northridge last week. That makes 10 touchdowns already for the youngster, who had a total of 9 rushing touchdowns last year.