If there is one thing that the Class 4A football field hasn’t lacked in 2022, it’s drama. That will be the case on Saturday as well as No. 2 Broomfield and No. 4 Loveland will face off for the state championship at Empower Field at Mile High.
The teams got a tour of the facility on Tuesday and the next time both teams enter the doors to that stadium they’ll be prepping for their biggest game of the year.
They enter the state title game with a combined record of 25-1 with the one loss coming at the hands of a 5A playoff team. The road for each team has been impressive and has given fans a clear indication of how they’ll each try to claim a championship when the game kicks off at 11 a.m. on Saturday.
When the CHSAANow.com preseason rankings came out in August, Broomfield came in at No. 8 and didn’t receive a single first-place vote. By Sept. 19, the Eagles had jumped to No. 2 which is where they sat for the remainder of the year and it matched the playoff seed that they got heading into the state tournament.
With good reason. Quarterback Cole LaCrue has been the face and the leader of the Eagles undefeated season, but he’ll be the last person to take credit for it. He has thrown for over 2,400 yards and rushed for over 800, which includes scoring a team-high 18 touchdowns.
Broomfield is a run-first offense and has put together a solid team effort on that front. Luke Francis has 1,004 rushing yards and goes for 6.7 yards per carry. He went over 100 yards five times, including a season-high 140 in the Eagles playoff opener against Windsor.
The defense has put together strong efforts all year as well, but playing into Loveland’s style might result in the Eagles best defensive capability being neutralized. As a team, they have picked off a staggering 28 passes this season. Mikhail Bennett leads the team with 10. The problem is that the Red Wolves are more of a run-first team than Broomfield. In fact, they’d prefer to be a run-only team.
The Eagles have forced and recovered 10 fumbles this season, but creating a turnover when Loveland isn’t throwing the ball will certainly be a tougher task on Saturday.
The Red Wolves came up a game short of the 4A semifinals last year. They returned there this season to see a familiar foe in Palmer Ridge, the very team they beat in the 2020 state championship game.
They got a similar final result in the rematch, although it was a much closer game than it was two years ago. Down 7-0 going into the second quarter, Trey Olsen connected on a 25-yard field goal to get Loveland on the board.
Then on the first play of the second half, quarterback Garrett Harstad did Garrett Harstad things. He broke for an 80-yard touchdown to give the Red Wolves the lead and they held on to win the game 10-7 to return to the state title game.
Harstad has been a beast on the ground as he has 1,832 rushing yards and 24 touchdowns to his name this Eason. Drew Foley adds another 918 yards and 12 scores to give the Red Wolves arguably the best running attack by any team in the state, regardless of classification.
Should Broomfield jump out to a lead and force Harstad to throw the ball, he has shown he has the ability to be effective putting the ball in the air, but the numbers would indicate that throwing is a last resort. In fact, in the 2020 title game, Loveland did not register a single pass attempt and completely dominated Palmer Ridge 42-6.
Defensively, Loveland looks more than capable of slowing down LaCrue’s offense. Olsen and Cody Lease share the team lead with three interceptions and Caden Stansbury leads the team with four fumble recoveries. The pass-rush has been effective all season as the team has totaled 22 sacks with Stansbury leading that effort with five.
Both teams have their strengths and both teams have their weaknesses but one thing is for certain. Whoever puts together the best effort through 48 minutes of play will emerge as a deserving state champion.