With seeds one through eight on byes, 16 teams in Class 4A are battling to extend their seasons this weekend. Top-seeded Montrose is the best of the Western Slope, while No. 2 Dakota Ridge reps the Denver metro area. No. 3 Pine Creek is the top team out of Colorado Springs, while perennial power Palmer Ridge sits at No. 4. Reigning fall champ Loveland is seeded at No. 6 and spring champ Thomas Jefferson dropped down to 3A.
PHOTO PROVIDED BY LANCE WENDT
Here’s a preview of the first-round games with teams hoping to rewrite the bracket.
Colorado Preps provides two Bank of Colorado Scoreboard Show this weekend as we provide normal coverage from 9:30-11:00pm on Friday night followed by a special playoff edition on Saturday from 3:30-5:00pm
No. 24 Cheyenne Mountain at No. 9 Golden
Golden brings a top-10 passing offense into the playoffs, led by junior quarterback Jazel Riley IV. The dual-threat QB has 1,760 yards and 21 touchdowns through the air, with another 892 yards and 16 touchdowns on the ground. His favorite target is senior Josh Torrey, who ranks second in the classification with 14 receiving touchdowns. His 929 yards is sixth among 4A wideouts as well.
Meanwhile, Cheyenne Mountain features an excellent secondary. The Red-Tailed Hawks 12 interceptions this season, tied for seventh-most in 4A. Senior Owen Growney and junior Brody Dwyer have three picks apiece, while senior Sullivan Moon and junior Gabriel Lucas have two each.
No. 23 Aurora Central at No. 10 Ponderosa
Few teams fly around the field like battle-tested Ponderosa. The Mustangs lead all 4A teams with 833 tackles and they’re paced by a pair of seniors. Linebacker Brady Porter has 95 tackles, 10 for loss, and four sacks. Fellow linebacker Zachary Pekarek has 80 tackles and eight tackles-for-loss. Rounding out the linebacking group, junior Ethan Rodriguez leads the team with 13 tackles-for-loss and five sacks. Ponderosa plays in the stacked Southern 1 Conference, which features four playoff teams. The Mustangs battled top-seeded Montrose in the final week of the season and lost 19-14. It was the Indians’ closest contest since Week 2.
Aurora Central won the 4A Metro 2 Conference on the legs of running back Cai’Reis Curby. The junior has a 4A-best 1,528 yards to go with 18 touchdowns. He’s run for at least 100 yards in every game after the first week of the season. On defense, the Trojans have allowed only 79 points this season, second-fewest in the classification. Senior Marcus Howard leads 4A with 22 sacks, more than two per game.
No. 22 Skyline at No. 11 Vista Ridge
The top college prospect for the 2023 class plays for Vista Ridge. Junior quarterback Brayden Dorman has drawn interest from Iowa State and Wisconsin, plus several programs closer to home. He’s thrown for 2,236 yards and 23 touchdowns on 60% passing. He’s limited turnovers with only seven picks and spreads the ball around to a trio of receivers: Brandon Hills, Kyshawn Bridges and Keyshawn Dooley.
A pair of Skyline players have more than 1,000 all-purpose yards. Senior Wynn Drews leads the team with 919 yards rushing to go with 109 yards receiving, all culminating with a team-high 13 touchdowns. Junior Logan Miller is the team’s leading receiver with 580 yards and he’s added another 476 yards on the ground.
No. 21 Brighton at No. 12 Fruita Monument
Rushing, rushing and more rushing. Fruita Monument ground out games with a bevy of backs. The Wildcats’ rushing attack is fifth-best in 4A, but no individual player has more than 800 yards. Sophomore Wyatt Sharpe, junior Kaison Stegelmeier and senior Armony Trujillo all figure heavily into the offense, and junior quarterback Corben Rowell leads the team with seven rushing TDs.
Brighton won a pair of close games to punch their ticket to the playoffs, knocking off Windsor and Silver Creek in consecutive weeks to finish with a .500 record. Senior quarterback Nathaniel Griffeth is a dangerous passer with 1,589 yards and 10 touchdowns.
No. 20 Vista PEAK Prep at No. 13 Pueblo West
Defense is the name of the game for Pueblo West as they’ve had three shutouts this season. The defense is ranked 12th in scoring and is anchored by a pair of backfield monsters. Junior Jacob Trader is seventh in 4A with 16 tackles-for-loss, while senior Sonntag Porter has eight sacks, tied for third in the classification.
Vista PEAK is riding a three-game winning streak into the postseason after victories against Grand Junction, Gateway and Denver South. They won those contests by a combined score of 117-21. Quarterback Jordy Ruiz is eighth in 4A with 1,800 yards and 19 touchdowns, while also accounting for 302 yards and three touchdowns on the ground.
No. 19 Windsor at No. 14 Bear Creek
Bear Creek quarterback Jaedon Minter is one of five QBs in 4A to cross the 2,000-yard mark. Twelve of Minter’s 20 touchdowns have gone to senior Blake McOmber, while senior running back Ryan Segovia has 1,116 yards and 13 touchdowns on the ground.
Windsor has lost two straight heading into the postseason but features the same strong defense and rushing attack it has been known for in the past. The team’s 275.6 rushing yards per game ranks fourth in 4A even though no individual back has more than 1,000 yards. Senior Dax Polka 901 yards and 16 touchdowns, joined by the 894 yards and seven scores from junior Jaden Thomas.
No. 18 Broomfield at No. 15 Longmont
Class 4A’s top passing offense resides in Longmont. The Lancers have 3,025 yards through the air, the bulk coming from senior quarterback Keegan Patterson. He’s passed for 2,931 yards and 27 touchdowns this season, both classification-bests, while also piling on a team-high 554 yards and 15 touchdowns on the ground. Longmont has some recent history with Broomfield as the Lancers won 38-29 in Week 2. Patterson threw for 329 yards and two touchdowns, but had his season-best rushing performance, totaling 108 yards and three TDS with his legs.
Broomfield lost four of its first five games — facing four playoff teams in the process — then went 4-1 the rest of the way. They’ve leaned heavily on junior quarter Cole LaCrue, who has 2,179 yards passing, 487 yards rushing and a combined 27 touchdowns.
No. 17 Denver South at No. 16 Mesa Ridge
The closest-seeded game of the 4A slate features two strong offenses. Mesa Ridge has more than 2,000 yards passing and 1,000 yards rushing as a unit and has scored at least 35 point five times this season.
Denver South has 41.3 points per game this season, third-most in the classification. They feature the three-headed attack of quarterback Joseph Capra, running back Chevelle Early and receiver Rashad Caldwell. Capra has 2,130 yards and 30 touchdowns, more than half of both stat pools going to Caldwell, making him 4A’s top receiver. Early, meanwhile 899 yards and 16 touchdowns on the ground.