Despite a strong rally and late win over Eaglecrest to close the regular season, Cherokee Trail just missed received a first round bye in the 5A playoffs. They open their post-season run at home against Fountain Fort Carson this week.

Elimination football, or extra football, is here for the Class 5A field of 24 with all of its anticipation, feeling and stakes.

While its odd that a high-school team would have a bye in the postseason (what are we, the NFL?), the big-school bracket is the largest of any of the seven classifications and contains the possibility of unique history – should any of the seeds from Nos. 9-24 advance to the title game, which will be played on Dec. 7 at Empower Field at Mile High, it would be in a 15th game. The current maximum number of games has been 14.

So the race is on to handle the usual Colorado heavyweights, three of which are undefeated, four others that have one or two losses and eight who have two weeks to prepare for their next game, in the second round.

Another oddity – there are four 3-7 teams in the round.

But here we go … below are the seeds, records and first-round byes as well as preliminary matchups as ColoradoPreps.com previews the preliminaries:

Byes: (1) Cherry Creek (10-0); (2) Ralston Valley (10-0); (3) Valor Christian (9-1); (4) Regis Jesuit (10-0); (5) Pomona (6-4); (6) Columbine (8-2); (7) Grandview (8-2); (8) Fairview (9-1).

 (17) Lakewood (5-5) vs. (16) ThunderRidge (6-4), Thursday, 7 p.m., Shea Stadium

The visiting Tigers are coming off a tough 27-21 loss at Mullen. A victory would have allowed them to host. … Junior Tyson Pallatt impressed with a 99-yard kickoff return for a touchdown. … Lakewood only generated 154 yards of offense. … Tigers are one of four Metro West teams in the field. … Last week, the Grizzlies grabbed a gritty 14-13 victory over Castle View. QB Brent Huber ran for one TD and passed for the other. … ThunderRidge was a quarterfinalist in 2018.

(24) Fountain-Fort Carson (3-7) vs. (9) Cherokee Trail (7-3), Friday, 7:30 p.m., Legacy Stadium

While the Trojans are tied for the worst record in the bracket, the Raptors are coming off a very big 36-32 decision of Eaglecrest. And Cherokee Trail scored all of its points in the second half after trailing 16-0. … The Raptors are 19-13 since head coach Joe Johnson came over from ThunderRidge. … Fountain-Fort Carson enters having lost two games in a row, to undefeated Regis Jesuit and Doherty, … For what it’s worth, FFC hasn’t had a winning records since longtime head man Mitch Johnson was dismissed after the 2015 season. The Trojans are 15-28 over the span.

(20) Doherty (3-7) vs. (13) Highlands Ranch (4-6), Friday, 7 p.m., Shea Stadium

Two weeks ago, the Spartans were 1-7. However, they won their final two games, tight ones against Legend and Fountain-Fort Carson, and nonleague games against 10-0 Cherry Creek, 4A power Pine Creek and Fairview certainly lifted their RPI standing. … Senior Brandon Becker has only 46 carries for 203 yards, but includes 13 TDs among his rushes. … How about the Falcons’ nonleague schedule – in order, Eaglecrest, Grandview, Regis Jesuit, Columbine and Pomona, four of which have first-round byes. … Highlands Ranch and Junior Daniel Gurule (734 yards rushing, seven TDs) responded by going 4-1 in the Metro South, losing only to defending state champion Valor Christian.

(21) Rocky Mountain (5-5) vs. (12) Legend (8-2), Saturday, noon, EchoPark Stadium

The Fort Collins’ Lobos flirted with winning the Front Range crown before dropping their last two regular-season games. … Rocky Mountain has passed for 1,804 yards to 1,111 rushing, and is headed by junior QB Giles Pooler, who has thrown for 1,423 yards and nine TDs. He also has been picked off five times. … The Titans, under first-year head man James Benson, won their first six games. … Senior Blake Rarog has been consistent as well as productive – he has rshed for 1,486 yards, has a 6.9 yards-per-carry average and compiled 20 TDs, 19 rushing. … Connor Eise has added 946 yards on the ground and 14 TDs.

(18) Castle View (6-4) vs. (15) Arapahoe (6-4), Friday, 7 p.m., Littleton Public Schools Stadium

Off to a 4-0 start, Castle View started to stumble a week before league play and finished 2-4, including losing in Week 10 to ThunderRidge. … Castle View has attempted only 106 passes to 512 rushing attempts, so it’s no secret what it wants to do on offense. Junior Ian Peirce (813 yards rushing, six TDs), junior Zane Wodark (798, eight TDs) and senior Jordan Jackson (626, 9 TDs) handle the load. … Don’t look for Arapahoe to be involved in any shootouts. Its scores have been, well, interesting. The Warriors beat Heritage 9-7, Cherokee Trail 10-7 and Overland 14-7, and lost 14-6 to Grandview. … And they finished 35th (of 40 teams) in points scored (122).

(23) Legacy (3-7) vs. (10) Eaglecrest (7-3), Friday, 4 p.m., Legacy Stadium

A year ago, Legacy was the No 21 seed and went into No. 12 Mullen and won 33-24. … So much for seeding. … The Lightning also was 1-7 before defeating Fossil Ridge (36-0) and Horizon (31-28) to qualify. …Senior RB Dakota Key heads the Lightning with 815 yards and seven TDs. … First-year Raptors head coach Shawn Marsh – also the program’s fourth in three seasons – and senior QB Max Marsh have made for a winning combination. Max has thrown for 1,512 yards and 10 TDs, and rushed for 601 yards and seven TDs.

(19) Mountain Vista (3-7) vs. (14) Mullen (4-6), Friday, 7 p.m., Brother Bernard Kinneavy Field at De La Salle Stadium

They have met three times since 2008 with Mullen winning all three by a combined 103-13. … First-year Golden Eagles head coach Garrett Looney was the interim man for Eaglecrest in 2018 and led the Raptors to the quarterfinals. He also was Columbine’s QB in winning the 1999 5A championship just months after the Massacre. … Mullen had a six-game losing streak (all six foes have byes in the preliminaries) before blowing out Arvada West (47-0) and getting past Lakewood (27-21). … Junior RB C.J. Smith turned in 106 yards rushing and three TDs the past week.

(22) Overland (3-7) vs. (11) Smoky Hill (10-0), Friday, 7 p.m., Stutler Bowl

Under former Denver East All-Colorado TE and first-year head coach DaVaughn Thornton, the Trailblazers enter the postseason on a five-game losing streak. They were 0-5 in the Metro East. … Overland QB Martavia Thrower – great name for the position – has thrown for 1,948 yards and 19 TDs. … It’s the second consecutive undefeated regular season for the Buffaloes, who would like to make a point for the Metro 10, the group for teams trying to reload their programs. A year ago, Smoky Hill fell behind by the mercy rule (a margin of 40-or-more points) before halftime to a 6-4 Regis Jesuit team and lost 48-14.

Neil Devlin

Neil Devlin

Neil H. Devlin is in his 40th year covering Colorado high-school sports. He's currently the Sports Information Director at Mullen High in southwest Denver. Twitter: @neildevlin. Web: www.mullenhigh,com

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