Both familiar and unfamiliar names can be found in the 3A football state semifinal pairings this week. Palmer Ridge and Pueblo South are both familiar with these surroundings as they’ve combined for three state titles in the past two years. Frederick is in the Final Four for just the second time in school history and Green Mountain is making their first appearance since 1999.
#8 Green Mountain (10-2) vs #4 Palmer Ridge (10-2)
The Rams scored an impressive win over top seeded and previously unbeaten Mead in the quarterfinals and their big reward is a date with two-time defending state champion Palmer Ridge in the semifinals. Green Mountain slowed down a high powered Mead offense in gaining the 30-21 last week but that group faces an even bigger challenge against a Bears offense that has totaled 119 points in playoff wins over Holy Family and Conifer.
And that offensive firepower is not limited to just this year. The Bears head to Saturday with a ten-game playoff winning streak and they’ve scored at least 40 points in nine. They were “held” to just 28 in last year’s quarterfinal win over Palisade.
Slowing down the Bears is difficult as they feature big play weapons at almost every skill position. Raef Ruel is the latest on display as the senior galloped for 324 yards in last week’s win over Conifer. That effort put him over 1,400 yards for this season and 4,000 for his career. He’s rushed for at least 1,000 yards each of the last three seasons.
If defense load up the box on Ruel, then the secondary is left bare a bit against the passing arm of Luke McAllister (2,233 yards and 24 TD’s) and the receiving trio of Anthony Roberson, Kaden Dudley and Kieran Fry. Roberson, who did not play against Conifer, still leads the team on the seasonw ith 45 catches for 892 yards and 11 TD’s. Dudley is next with 31 receptions and seven scores. Fry has not reached the end zone but still has 26 catches for 233 yards.
So looking to Saturday, it’s a good guess that the Rams may have to score quite a few points to reach the state championship game . And they may have the group to do it. QB Trey Towndrow will be the key. The senior leas the Rams with 1,860 yards passing and 1,114 yards rushing and a combined 32 touchdowns. In last week’s win over Mead (30-21), Towndrow threw for 195 yards and ran for 75.
The Green Mountain offense has other weapons. Trey Corkin, with 50 catches and five TD’s, is the top receiver but seven others have at least one touchdown catch. Jacob Chavez needs 119 yards to reach 1,000 for the season. He’s reached the end zone on 14 carries.
Even with those offensive numbers, defense will likely determine if the Rams advance. They held Mead to 152 yards rushing, which was nearly half their season average. Quinn Meinert, Allen Ortiz and Brag Golgart each finished with 11 tackles. Golgart, with 92 stops, leads the team overall and Danny Wisor is next with 79. Ortiz has a team best 13 tackles for loss.
The Rams also have 30 sacks including eight from Matt Schlieper and that group hopes to get pressure on McAllister. They’ve picked off 18 passes including five each from Towndrow and Darius Padilla.
Palmer Ridge also features a big play defense. They have 26 sacks and 35 turnovers. Fry, with six interceptions, is the top thief. Dudley and Marcellus Reed each have five picks.
There are two common opponents for the two clubs and both results give the edge to Palmer Ridge. The Bears beat both Conifer and Lutheran while the Lobos and Lions handed Green Mountain their two losses on the season.
- History: This is the first time the Rams and Bears have played in the post-season. Palmer Ridge has won 10 straight in the playoffs and needs two more to win a third consecutive 3A state championship. Of course, this is the third straight semifinal appearance for the Bears but also just the third in school history. Both previous trips came against Palisade. They beat the Bulldogs 42-7 last year and 28-14 in 2017. This is the first season Green Mountain has won two playoff games in the same year since they won the 1999 4A state crown. This is also their first semifinal appearance since then. They’ve won their last two semifinal games; beating Fruita Monument 42-15 in 1999 and Adams City 34-21 in 1995. Each time, they won the state championship the following week. The Rams are 2-2 all-time in semifinal action.
#6 Frederick (11-1) vs #2 Pueblo South (11-1)
In stacking up the numbers, this should be a very good contest. Frederick has the advantage in team stats as they’ve scored 544 points on the season compared to 440 for Pueblo South; plus the Warriors have allowed 176 points, which is 25 less than the Colts (201). Pueblo South counters with a stronger regular season schedule. Their opponents won 60 percent of their games compared to just 46 percent for Frederick. So in our mind, it all balances out.
Both teams are coming off exciting and late quarterfinal wins. Frederick scored on a 78 yard pass from Jake Green to Blake Duran with eight seconds left to stun Discovery Canyon 32-25. Pueblo South earned a short touchdown from Logan Petit with 1:11 left as the Colts topped Durango 21-14.
Quarterback play is crucial for both sides. Green has had a tremendous season with 1,571 yards and 25 TD’s through the air along with 1,674 yards and 19 scores on the ground. He combined for 408 yards in last week’s win over Discovery Canyon. Petit has 1,813 yards with 19 TD’s passing and while he’s rushed for just 480 yards, he’s also reached the end zone on 13 carries including last week’s game winner vs Durango.
Other weapons can be found for both teams across the board. South gets an effective running game through George Longoria. He sits at 1,752 yards and 21 scores through 12 games. And Jackson Dickerson is among the top receivers in the class. He’s recorded 58 catches for 959 yards and 14 TD’s. Hunter Fair is next with 33 catches and Jace Bellah is coming off a solid effort last week where he caught three balls including a key reception on the game winning drive.
For Frederick, tight end Dylan Sindelar is a tough matchup for any defense. He leads the Warriors with 34 catches and 10 touchdowns. Brandon Hornby is a dual threat. He’s rushed for 791 yards and along with Dominik Schleif (564 yards) has combined for 17 scores. Hornby is second in receptions with 16 and caught two scoring strikes from Green last week.
- History: This is the first ever playoff meeting between the Colts and Warriors. Frederick’s only other semifinal appearance came in 2011 when they fell to Windsor 19-0. They have just five playoff wins in school history with two coming this year and two others in 2011. The Warriors’ only other post-season win came in 2010 against Roosevelt (12-0). Pueblo South is in the semifinals for the second time in three years and fifth time in school history. They are 1-3 all-time in this round with their lone win coming two years ago against Broomfield (21-14). The Colts then topped Pine Creek 25-14 the next week to claim the 4A state championship; the only football crown in their history.
Note: Both games are available through live video streams. The Green Mountain-Palmer Ridge game is provided by www.NFHSNetwork.com with the Frederick-Pueblo South contest made possible by www.thegameofthenight.com.