Based on results during the regular season, we expected the 4A playoff bracket to be filled with surprises and several upsets. But of the 22 playoff games across the division the past month, only five were won by the lower seed. Erie and Chatfield though combined for four of those wins and they collide this Saturday for the state championship. The Tigers seek their first crown since 1997 and the Chargers their first since 2001.
Erie is unbeaten (13-0) but seeded fifth overall in the bracket. They outlasted #4 Palmer Ridge 28-18 in the state quarterfinals and then stunned top ranked Montrose 29-28 in the semifinals last week. Erie trailed 28-14 with six minutes remaining but Blake Barnett cut the lead to 28-21 with a short TD at the four minute mark. Following a wild onside kick recovery, the Tigers then marched for another score as Barnett connected with Jaylin Klickna from 10 yards out. Barnett then ran in a two point conversion to finish off the come-from-behind victory.
7th seeded Chatfield (10-3) has avenged two of their three regular season losses by beating #2 Dakota Ridge and #3 Pine Creek over the last two weeks. After falling to Dakota Ridge 29-28 in conference play, the Chargers rallied from 27-7 down to stun the Eagles 42-31 in the quarterfinals. The games with Pine Creek were almost identical. Pine Creek won the regular season contest 28-22 and Chatfield the semifinal 28-21.
Execution in the running game has pushed Chatfield to the state finals. They picked up 234 yards on the ground in last week’s win over Pine Creek and went past the 300 mark in each of their previous two playoff games. They’ve scored 12 touchdowns in the run game including five in the wild win over Dakota Ridge. Mason Lowe, with 122 yards, led the charge last week and Jake Marschall scored twice despite being limited to 44 rushing yards. Freshman Brock Narva contributed 59 yards and another touchdown.
Marschall is the team leader this year and needs just eight yards to move past 1,800 yards rushing for the season. He’s reached the end zone on 26 carries. Lowe is next with 630 yards and ten scores with Narva adding 451 yards and four touchdowns. The Chargers average nearly seven yards each carry with 49 rushing touchdowns.
QB Jake Jones has thrown the football just 24 times in the three playoff wins; completing nine for 169 yards and a touchdown. His best effort came last week as the threw for 96 yards on four completions. Joe Walker caught two of those passes and tops the club with 18 for the season. Narva and Lowe have each caught two touchdown passes as well.
Defensively, the Chargers have created 28 turnovers with 19 of those coming on interceptions. Lowe and Mason Golliher each have four interceptions and Blake Cowgill three. To go along with the aggressive secondary, the Chargers have registered 21 sacks. Elijah Rodriguez is the team leader with seven while Cade Logan and Campbell Packebush each have five. Overall, Cade Thomas tops Chatfield with 144 yards and Logan has 77. Rodriguez has added 66.
Erie’s come-from-behind win over Montrose last week was something the TIgers had not pulled off at any other point of the season. They won every regular season game by at least 18 points and then easily took out Fruita Monument 50-26 in round one. Their quarterfinal win over Palmer Ridge was by just 10 points (28-18) but they led the game throughout and clinched when Barnett scored with less than four minutes remaining for the final margin.
While official stats for Erie have not been posted to MaxPreps in the playoffs, BoCoPreps.com has a recap of each playoff win and those victories were spearheaded offensively by Barnett and Caleb Thiessen. Barnett threw for 218 yards and was involved in three scores last week; he passed for 114 and ran for 107 against Palmer Ridge in the quarterfinals and was involved in four touchdowns against Fruita Monument. Thiessen combined for 184 yards in rushing and receiving yards last week and scored an important touchdown right before half that created a 14-14 tie. He totaled 155 yards against Palmer Ridge and also had three rushing touchdowns in the opening win over Fruita Monument.
Erie also features a big-play defense that will look to create mistakes by the Chatfield offense. They had 24 takeaways during the regular season along with 30 sacks. Ryan McConnell led the Tigers with 51 regular season tackles; CJ Reeves was next with 48 while Jett Cooper added 34 and Jayce Ohnstad 34.
The two state finalists have not met before in any playoff game and we could not find any regular season matchup in the MaxPreps era dating back to the 2004 season. As mentioned, Chatfield won the state championship in 2001 and this is just their second appearance in school history. Erie is in the finals for the fourth time and each appearance has not come in a different class. Their lone title came in 1997 when they trounced West Grand 42-14 for the 1A crown. The TIgers fell to Olathe 22-21 in overtime in the 2008 2A state finals and they then came up short to Palmer Ridge (46-21) in the 2017 3A championship tilt.