Mead Mavericks, Erie Tigers, Harrison Panthers, and Palmer Ridge Bears – oh, my!
With three weeks remaining in the Colorado Class 3A prep football regular season, that is the fearsome foursome that remains unbeaten and, not so coincidentally, occupies the top four spots the coaches’ poll and Ratings Percentage Index standings.
The Bears were perhaps the most impressive in earning their seventh win of the season, pummeling previously unbeaten Denver North 58-0 in a battle of the East Metro League elite.
While junior quarterback Ty Evans has been the big story all year for the Bears, and rightfully so due to his 1,897 passing yards and 25 touchdowns, it has been the emergence of the defense which has helped Palmer Ridge solidify itself as a serious state contender of late.
The Bears have allowed just 10 points in their last three games, including two wins over previously unbeaten teams, and scored in all three phases last week against the Vikings. That included an interception return for a touchdown and a blocked punt for another score, moving to 7-0 for the first time in program history.
Next up for Palmer Ridge comes another crucial East Metro showdown against second place Thomas Jefferson (6-1). Here’s how this week’s slate of top games shakes out.
Holy Family (4-3, 0-2) at No. 1 Mead (7-0, 2-0)
When: 7 p.m., Friday
Where: Mead High School
The Blitz: Big-bodied tight end/defensive end Kyle Helbig has taken over quite formidably at quarterback for Holy Family in the absence of the one who used to throw him the ball, Stone Samaras, but the Tigers have found themselves in the midst of a tough three-game losing streak. It certainly doesn’t help that the Tri-Valley League is arguably the toughest in the state, and it doesn’t get a whole lot easier with a battle against Mead. The Mavericks’ potent ground attack averages 334.3 yards per game and has a combined 32 touchdowns, good for the second best in the state in each of those categories. But even more importantly, the Mavericks have taken care of the ball, surrendering just one turnover all season. On the other side, six players have at least one interception, including two each by Bryson Tillema and Jake Wachter, helping Mead to a +17 turnover differential and a 7-0 record.
No. 2 Palmer Ridge (7-0, 2-0) at Thomas Jefferson (6-1, 2-0)
When: 7 p.m., Friday
Where: All City Field
The Blitz: Coincidentally, this East Metro League showdown would also be an opening round playoff matchup if the season were to end today. Palmer Ridge sits as the top team in the RPI, while Thomas Jefferson is clinging to the final playoff spot at No. 16. Of course, the season doesn’t end today, and there is still a whole lot of moving and shaking to be done. The Spartans are hoping to propel themselves up in the standings with an upset, and with three straight wins by a combined score of 141-30 it would appear they have begun to hit their stride. Meanwhile, the Bears have been in stride since day one, averaging 47.7 points per game and proving they aren’t expecting to win every game through the air. Last week they leaned heavily on the ground game and defense to get the job done, rushing for four touchdowns while also scoring on two pick-sixes and a blocked punt against Denver North.
No. 3 Erie (7-0, 2-0) at No. 5 Roosevelt (5-2, 1-1)
When: 7 p.m., Friday
Where: Roosevelt High School
The Blitz: The Rough Riders bounced back from a loss to Mead in their Tri-Valley opener with a narrow 22-18 win over Berthoud last week, knocking the Spartans out of the top 10 and keeping their playoff hopes very much alive. Quarterback Trent Beall got it done through the air and on the ground, much like he’s done all season, accounting for 212 total yards and a pair of scores. Now Beall and company face one of the best backs in the state in Erie’s Noah Roper, who has gashed defenses to the tune of 1,298 yards and 19 touchdowns. Oh yeah, and watch out for his arm, too – Roper used it to hurl a 60-yard touchdown to Alex Mathis on a beautifully executed halfback pass in last week’s 43-21 win over Holy Family.
Pueblo County (2-5, 1-1) at No. 4 Harrison (7-0, 2-0)
When: 7 p.m., Friday
Where: Harrison High School
The Blitz: In South-Central League action, Harrison escaped a bit of a scare at Pueblo’s Dutch Clark Stadium last week, erasing an early 14-0 first quarter deficit against Pueblo Central to win 33-14 and move to 7-0. Quarterback Orlando Westbrook had more rushing touchdowns (3) than rushing yards (2), while the backfield duo of Aumerie Shedrick (119 yards, 2 TDs) and Daymion Richard (126 yards) carried the load to help get the most important stat: a “W.” Pueblo County surrendered 14 unanswered in the third quarter in a 35-25 loss to cross-county rival Pueblo East, though speedster Adrian Soto stood out with 145 yards and a touchdown.
No. 9 Canon City (6-1, 2-0) at Discovery Canyon (4-3, 2-2)
When: 7 p.m, Friday
Where: District 20 Stadium
The Blitz: It might not be an overstatement to consider this the de facto Southern League title game, even with three weeks remaining in the regular season. The Thunder and the Tigers are the only teams with winning records in the league, and both have been seemingly gaining steam as they’ve gone through their first two conference contests. The Thunder, state runners-up a year ago, have recovered from a shaky start with two straight wins to get right back in the playoff conversation (RPI No. 11). The Tigers, meanwhile, jumped back into the CHSAA poll and sit at No. 6 in RPI after also picking up two straight wins, including a 27-16 win over Falcon last week which saw running back Kadin Porter rumble for 163 yards and three scores. Buckle up, this is going to be a good one.
Extra Points
Conifer (2-5, 1-1) at No. 6 Evergreen (6-1, 2-0)
Evergreen has taken a major step up in the West Metro, picking up a 10-9 win over Skyview to hand the Wolverines their only loss on Oct. 6 before thumping Lutheran 51-17 a week ago. The Cougars sit at No. 8 in the RPI, led by senior quarterback/safety Jack Wagner – who has picked off five passes from opposing quarterbacks – and look to keep building on their four-game winning streak.
Rifle (6-1, 2-0) at Eagle Valley (0-7, 0-2)
Over on the Western Slope, the Rifle Bears (RPI No. 10) are gaining steam after a 1-1 start and suddenly find themselves in the middle of a five-game winning streak. That’s thanks in large part due to their potent running attack, which ranks ahead of Mead as the best in the state in terms of sheer numbers, and is led by Tanner Vines (1,209 yards, 15 TDs).