It was less than a year ago that Erie was playing in the Class 4A football championship game and to get back there, the Tigers have work to do. A slow start of the season prevented them from getting a first-round bye in the state playoffs, but if they can catch momentum, the sky is the limit.

The same can be said for Fruita Monument, who was looking good early in the year but has seen some stumbles as well. Both these teams will be in action in the opening round of the 4A state tournament.


Quadrant 1

(24) Grand Junction Central at (9) Fruita Monument, Saturday 1 p.m.

The Wildcats are an interesting nine seed with an overtime loss against Grandview and a big win over Montrose. If this team gets some momentum from a win in the first round, it could pose a legitimate threat to Palmer Ridge in the second round. In the Week 1 win over Central, Kaison Stegelmeier and Wyatt Sharpe each rushed for a touchdown.

All but one of Central’s losses have come against teams that are on playoff brackets this weekend. Devin Hickey will try and lead the Warriors to a Round 1 upset. He has thrown for 1,313 yards and nine touchdowns this season.

Winner: @ (8) Vista Ridge

(17) Widefield at (16) Skyline, Friday 7 p.m.

Skyline opens its postseason at home after going 6-4 on the season. Kaiden Box has been a good passer, throwing for 1,713 and 18 touchdowns. His favorite target has been Logan Miller who has totaled 913 receiving yards and 11 touchdowns.

The Gladiators are in the postseason for the first time since 2011. Their only loss on the year was to Mesa Ridge and they have looked much improved after struggling for much of the last decade. Paul Mitchell has thrown for 1,431 yards and 18 touchdowns and has been effective for the Widefield offense all season.

Winner: @ (1) Palmer Ridge

Quadrant 2

(21) Rampart at (12) Golden, Friday 7 p.m.

The Demons won their final five games of the regular season, including all four league contests, to get the No. 12 seed in the 4A state tournament. Jazel Riley is averaging 136 yards per game and has scored 16 touchdowns this season. He’ll try and help Golden control time of possession which will be crucial to get into the second round.

Rampart welcomed back Rob Royer as head coach this year and despite some stumbles, played well enough to get into the postseason field. Maciu Ramaqa will be key in the Rams’ bid for an upset. He has totaled 841 rushing yards and nine touchdowns this season.

Winner: @ Montrose

(20) Longmont at (13) Dakota Ridge, Friday 7 p.m.

Dakota Ridge didn’t quite have the regular season it had last year, but considering the playoff exit the Eagles had, a little adversity coming into this postseason might not be the worst thing thing in the world. Four of their five wins came against teams that made the 4A playoffs. Noah Triplett has been a workhorse with 1,377 rushing yards and 22 touchdowns this season.

Longmont limps into the tournament with two straight losses and will try to put together a solid effort against a tough Dakota Ridge team. Cole Gaddis rushed for 1,131 yards and 20 touchdowns in the regular season and will give the Trojans more than a fighting chance.

Quadrant 3

(23) Monarch at (10) Mesa Ridge, Friday 7 p.m.

The Grizzlies have put together a nice season thanks in part to an explosive offense. Bryce Riehl has thrown for 1,897 yards and 21 touchdowns and Carver Cheeks has flashed his ability at receiver with 915 receiving yards and 13 scores. There’s balance as well as Isaiah Jones has rushed for 1,121 yards and 13 touchdowns.

Monarch finished the regular season at 5-5 but is riding a bit of momentum with two straight wins coming into the postseason. Asher Ewing can sling it when he needs to and has thrown for 2,104 passing yards and 17 touchdowns. He threw for 395 yards and three touchdowns in a win over Pueblo South, showing that his arm can be a huge weapon for the Coyotes.

Winner: @ (7) Heritage

(18) Bear Creek at (15) Windsor, Friday 7 p.m.

Windsor won four of its last five games, the loss coming against Loveland, to end the regular season. In all, the Wizards got wins over three 4A playoff teams which will give them confidence for the first couple of rounds. Jaden Thomas rushed for 1,435 yards and 14 touchdowns and has been a tough running back to slow down this season.

Bear Creek lost three of its last five games, each of those losses coming against playoff teams. The Bears have definitely had solid moments this season and that includes a close loss on the road against Fruita Monument. Adrian Rico has thrown for 288 yards per game and totaled 28 passing touchdowns. Elijah Thomas Jr. and Ryan Bobick each caught eight touchdowns.

Winner: @ (2) Broomfield

Quadrant 4

(22) Air Academy at (11) Erie, Saturday 11 a.m.

The Tigers were regarded as a favorite to win the state title at the beginning of the year but had a tough schedule and got off to a slow start. They ran the table against their league opponents and won the League 2 title. Blake Barnett threw for 1,800 yards and 19 touchdowns and rushed for an additional 673 yards and 11 touchdowns.

Air Academy’s best shot at a win is controlling time of possession and it has just the running back to do it. Sam Beers rushed for 1,583 yards and 21 touchdowns in the regular season and he could shorten the game and give the Kadets a shot to win late.

Winner: @ (6) Denver South

(19) Standley Lake at (14) Pueblo West, Saturday 1 p.m.

The Cyclones were riding high until a 40-0 loss to Fountain-Fort Carson slowed their momentum. Losses to Mesa Ridge and Palmer Ridge definitely exposed some gaps on the roster, but Clint Buderus has had his quad battling hard each week. Gavin Lockett showed growth as a sophomore quarterback and threw for 1,258 yards and 13 touchdowns this season while Jacob Trader balanced out the offense with 1,051 rushing yards and 14 scores.

Bear Creek was 5-1 before losing four straight games to close out the regular season. Blake Stout rushed for 151 yards per games in seven games played. He hasn’t seen the field since the Oct. 20 loss to Bear Creek.

Winner: @ (3) Ponderosa