2021 seems to be the perfect year to expand the 4A playoff bracket out to 24 teams. There’s no clear cut state championship favorite in the division and the difference between teams 1-20 is very little. That type of parity should give fans a tremendous playoff month and also provides us with a great list of matchups every week of the regular season.
PHOTOS PROVIDED BY LANCE WENDT
The week three schedule is loaded with high-level matchups.
- #2 Loveland at #5 Ralston Valley
- #3 Dakota Ridge vs Thomas Jefferson
- #4 Montrose vs #2 Durango (3A)
- #5 Pine Creek at Vista Ridge
- #6 Erie at Bear Creek
- #7 Fountain Fort Carson at #8 Chatfield
- #9 Golden at #10 Skyline
And that’s just the best games in the top 10 as there are a few other attractive pairings outside the rankings.
- Broomfield at Denver South
- Longmont at Windsor
- Standley Lake at Green Mountain
Let’s take them in order; starting with Loveland at Ralston Valley. The Red Wolves have outscored in-city rivals Mountain View and Thompson Valley 83-0 but should get a much stronger challenge from a Mustangs group that is ranked fifth in Class 5A. Ralston blitzed Fossil Ridge 21-3 in their opener and then made it back safely from Florida after downing Freedom FL 30-17 last Thursday.
Two quarterbacks have seen considerable game action for Ralston Valley and both have put up strong numbers. James Wochner is 12 of 20 for 217 yards while Zach Friedman is 6 of 11 for 119 yards and both have tossed a TD pass. Sophomore Jackson Hansen has quickly turned into a big play threat; averaging 26 yards on his five catches with a touchdown. Trevor Pearce also has a 47-yard scoring play.
Ian Loomis (21 tackles) and Dylan Lindgren (20) will try to slow down Ralston Valley’s offense. They’re the top two tacklers for Loveland and each has three tackles for loss. Tyson Williams is responsible for two of the Red Wolves four turnovers as he’s recovered a fumble and picked off a pass.
Loveland has 110 offensive plays this year and not surprisingly, 101 of them have been on the ground. They’re averaging 356 yards per game and seven yards per carry as a team. QB Garrett Harstad, with 218 yards and five TDs, leads a deep backfield group that also includes Drew Foley (176 yards) and Williams (147). Foley has reached the end zone four times.
Dakota Ridge had to redirect their focus toward the end of last week as their scheduled contest with Vista Ridge was postponed on Thursday. The Wolves went into quarantine and could not play the game but the Eagles did find another opponent in Thornton. They made quick work of the Trojans, scoring all their points in the first half during a 42-14 victory. Dakota Ridge collected five sacks, including two from Isac Pingarron, and surrendered just 85 yards rushing on 27 attempts (3.1 per carry).
That run defense will be challenged against Thomas Jefferson. The Spartans ran for 301 yards in an opening overtime loss to Eagle Valley (38-30) and then tacked on another 350 in last week’s win over Sierra (41-8). QB Austin Lindegren has been over the century mark in both games with a total of 267 yards on the ground in two games. He also threw for 121 yards last week.
Montrose rallied from nine points down to beat Fruita Monument 26-22 last week and will again have their hands full against Durango this week. The Demons captured the 3A state championship last year behind a high scoring and wide open offense that could score from anywhere on the field. With new coach Todd Casebier at the helm, the Demons have turned into a physical running team and it’s worked very well in blowout wins over Pagosa Springs (58-0) and Aztec NM (54-0). They’ve rushed for a whopping 724 yards in those two wins with Nate Messier topping the charts at 288 yards. Both he and Zach Haber have scored four times.
Austin Griffin paced the Montrose rally last week. According to the Grand Junction Central, he finished with 158 yards and scored two of his three touchdowns in the second half.
Friday’s game continues the Western Slope non-conference slate for the Indians. They’ve also beaten Grand Junction Central this year and have games the next two weeks with Palisade and Grand Junction Central. Then a rugged league slate involves games with Palmer Ridge, Vista Ridge and Ponderosa.
After being absent from the rankings through the first three polls of the season, Pine Creek finally appeared and zoomed all the way to fifth this week. Staying there will mean they need a win at Vista Ridge on Saturday. It will be a great test for the Eagles defense which has not allowed a point in shutout wins over Pueblo West and Denver East. Gavin Whetzal tops the team in tackles with 15 including five for loss. Landon Neel has a dozen tackles and Kael Reeves-Dunbar 10. Reeves-Dunbar has matched Whetzal with five tackles for loss and the Eagles already have 25 behind the line of scrimmage this year.
Included in that number are nine sacks and they will need pressure to slow down Vista Ridge QB Brayden Dormann. As mentioned the Wolves did not play last week, but the junior signal caller threw for 318 yards and four touchdowns in leading Vista Ridge to a first week win over Windsor.
Erie may get a much needed test with Bear Creek who also enters the third week of the season at 2-0. The Tigers dominated Hinkley 64-14 in week one and then derailed Pueblo East by 22 points in week two. Bear Creek stunned Lakewood 32-27 in their opener and then rolled past Greeley West 40-13. This is their first game with a ranked opponent this year and win or lose, it gives the Bears an evaluation on how they stack up against a top shelf opponent.
To spring the upset, Bear Creek must find a way to slow down Blake Barnett. The Erie QB threw for 152 yards and ran for 132 in the win over Pueblo West. He was involved in three touchdowns. Caleb Thiessen added 81 yards rushing and Gauge Nichols caught four passes for 52 yards.
Caleb Sauseda leads Bear Creek’s defense with nearly 10 tackles per game. Zac Nash has two interceptions as well. On offense, the Bears feature a solid 1-2 punch in Jaedon Minter (245 yards passing) and Richie Caballero (189 rushing).
Fountain Fort Carson heads north for their much anticipated matchup with Chatfield. Could be a high scoring game as Chatfield has scored at least 43 points in their first two games and the Trojans tallied 48 in a week one win over Widefield. They earned a forfeit win over Liberty last week.
There is major offensive talent for both clubs. Dezmen Oliver paced FFC with 117 yards and three scores rushing in week one. Jake Marschall has already scored seven touchdowns for Chatfield with Mason Lowe and Jake Jones each chipping in two scores.
Chatfield’s defense has four turnovers already this year and will look for a couple more against the Trojans. Mason Goliher is the top tackler (14).
Another top 10 pairing puts Golden on the road to Skyline. This could be a difficult game for the Falcons as they’re mourning the loss of one of their players, Savion Lowe. He played an important role in Skyline’s easy win over Grand Junction just last Saturday but passed away unexpectedly this week. Always difficult to tell how a team will respond after battling through such a difficult experience.
Skyline’s offense is not nearly as explosive as the past few years but they are getting solid play from Logan Miller. He has 297 yards passing this year. Wynn Drewes, with 132 yards and two scores, paces the running game. On defense, juniors represent the top six names on the list; a group led by Maddox Leggett (18). Logan Trosper and Nathan Gelles each have two interceptions and the Falcons have already produced a whopping nine turnovers overall.
Golden relies heavily on talented QB Jazel Riley. He’s already been involved in seven scores in leading the Demons past Broomfield (29-22) and Green Mountain (35-14). The defense was also solid last week; limiting Green Mountain to just 95 yards of total offense.
Green Mountain (3A) looks to improve those numbers against another Jeffco rival in Standley Lake this week. The preview of that contest can be found in our weekly 3A roundup.
Longmont at Windsor shapes up to be a critical game. Both teams used impressive wins in week two to avoid an 0-2 start and now the winner on Friday will get back over five hundred at 2-1. Keegan Patterson had another huge game for Longmont last week; throwing for 329 yards and rushing for 108 in the 38-29 win over Broomfield. He was responsible for five touchdowns on the night. Windsor ran for 395 yards and five touchdowns in getting past Fossil Ridge 33-30. Jaden Thomas had 182 yards and Dax Polka 178 to pace the Wizards. Defensively, the Wizards gave up 294 yards passing and that group will need to be much improved against Patterson and the Trojans spread offense if they wish to gain another win this week.
Broomfield has played well enough to be 2-0 but find themselves 0-2 following narrow losses to Golden (29-22) and Longmont (38-29). They face another challenge on the road at Denver South Thursday night. A major concern for the Eagles is on the defensive side as they’ve surrendered at least 425 yards of offense in both games. This week, they must deal with Ravens dual QB Joseph Capra who has six touchdown passes and a seventh on the ground. He leads the Ravens in both passing (386) and rushing (176) yards.
On offense, Eagles QB Cole Lacrue is finding his rhythm. He threw for 212 yards on 13 completions against Longmont and added 61 additional yards in the run game. Kadin Quintana also picked up 81 yards rushing.
Ponderosa has another challenge as they face #9 Chaparral from 5A. The Mustangs were blown out in week one by Legend but played much better in last week’s wild win over Fort Collins (35-33). That game is part of our 5A Preview this week.
CLASS 4A – TOP 10 SCHEDULE
#1 Palmer Ridge vs Lewis Palmer
#2 Loveland at #5 Ralston Valley (5A) (THURS)
#3 Dakota Ridge vs Thomas Jefferson
#5 Pine Creek vs Vista Ridge (SAT)
#6 Erie at Bear Creek
#7 Fountain Fort Carson at #8 Chatfield (THURS)
#9 Golden at #10 Skyline