Maybe the third time is the charm for Valor Christian. The Eagles have reached the Class 5A football state championship game for the third year in a row now and in the previous two, they’ve fallen to the same Cherry Creek program that they’ll see Saturday at 2:30 p.m. at Empower Field at Mile High.

Cherry Creek has definitely been a bit of a factory over the last four years as they’ve claimed four straight titles, beating Columbine in 2019 before starting a run of two in a row against Valor. Fans – and even Valor itself – know what the Bruins will be looking to do on Saturday. They are a disciplined football team and always have a tendency to shine on a big stage.

But there is one very important factor when looking at the 2022 Bruins. They aren’t unbeatable as seen in 24-21 loss to Grandview to close out the regular season.

If the Eagles can figure out what the Wolves did that was so successful against the three-time defending champions and figure out a way to replicate those success, fans should be in for a fun game on Saturday.

(Dan Mohrmann/

Cherry Creek

Not that anyone expected this to be the case otherwise, but the Bruins have yet to take a step back since they’ve become the dominant team of the classification. They’ve outscored their opponents 483-153 through the course of the season, allowing opponents 21 or more points just three times all year.

In what might be a big stage, freshman quarterback Brady Vodicka has held a steady hand since taking the majority of the snaps starting with the Oct. 7 win over Smoky Hill.

He’s completing 72 percent of his passes and has thrown for 1,091 yards and 13 touchdowns. Perhaps more impressively, he has been picked off just once all season. A big reason for all this is that coach Dave Logan isn’t putting all the offensive pressure on the underclassman.

That’s because the running game is the focus on that side of the ball. In 11 games, Bubba Tang has amassed 1,224 yards and 13 touchdowns. He went over 100 yards in eight games, including the quarterfinal win over ThunderRidge and the semifinal win over Pine Creek.

That allowed Vodicka to be efficient through the air when he needed to be. In the postseason, he is 22-for-26 for 396 yards and four touchdowns. He has not thrown an interception in the playoffs.

Defensively, Creek is as strong as ever. Blake Purchase is a game changer as he has totaled 18 sacks through the season. When he gets pressure on the quarterback, things tend to go Creek’s way as they’ve also picked off 18 passes. They’ve also recovered 11 fumbles.

(Dan Mohrmann/

Valor Christian

It took a little time for the Eagles to find their stride under new head coach Bret McGatlin, but since the end of September it’s hard to argue they haven’t been the second-best team in the state. A win over Ralston Valley at home got everyone’s attention and it certainly played a role in playoff seed which gave Valor a home game in the semifinals where they got an another win over the Mustangs.

McGatlin’s offense has gradually taken hold at Valor as Gabe Sawchuk and Asher Weiner have each rushed for over 650 yards and have scored seven touchdowns each. Trey Stott leads the Eagles in rushing touchdowns with 12. Weiner has been the team’s top passer, throwing for 1,025 yards and nine touchdowns. He has been picked off seven times, however.

The overall versatility of the Valor rushing attack could prove to be its biggest strength. The team overall has rushed for 3,315 yards and 45 touchdowns. While Cherry Creek primarily runs the ball with about two players, the Eagles will force the Bruins to account for multiple options on that front.

Defensively is a little bit of the same story. Roman Bradley leads the team with 102 total tacks and 12 tackles for loss, which include four sacks. Jackson Oriol has been outstanding in pass coverage with six interceptions while Stott adds three more.

Overall, the Eagles have put together similar scoring numbers as Creek, but have given up a bit more to opponents at 290.

Valor has had a bit of a tougher road through the playoffs and looked impressive in their first two wins which came against Legend and Regis Jesuit. In its rematch with Ralston Valley, Valor needed double overtime to get a 42-41 win.