5A Football First Round Preview
Smoky Hill ran the table in the Metro 10 conference to land a berth in the Class 5A playoffs. They open the run against another conference champion in Regis. The teams are seeded 16th and 17th in the expanded 24-team field. PHOTO PROVIDED BY GREG CANN.

And so it’s here, yet another new playoff format for Class 5A football … this one has 24 of the 40 big schools in the field, or 60 percent not having to turn in equipment.

It remains to be seen if this type of postseason bracket will affect any of the regular powers that always seem to win or are in final rounds, or if we’ll have our first football team play 15 games in a year like so many other states.

But what we do know is there are three undefeated teams as well as nine others at .500 or below. Plus, of the preliminary-round matchups, there are three first-time meetings and unusual meetings in addition to two games of teams 5-5 against two at 3-7, and another involving two at 4-6.

Yes, we are in Colorado.

Elimination play will begin this weekend with six games on Friday and two on Saturday.

The top eight seeds have byes, so (1) Valor Christian, (2) Columbine, (3) Cherry Creek, (4) Eaglecrest, (5) Grandview, (6) Ralston Valley, (7) Pomona, the defending state champion, and (8) ThunderRidge will have some invaluable time to heal as well as prepare for the second round.

Let this week’s games begin, and we analyze below for your viewing pleasure:

(17) Smoky Hill (10-0) vs. (16) Regis Jesuit (6-4), Friday, 7 p.m., Lou Kellogg Stadium

The visiting Buffaloes are a story in that they secured their first winning season since 1990, although there has been just as much buzz about having a representative from the Metro 10 League in the playoffs. Should big-school struggling programs be given a slot? … It’s an all-Aurora matchup. … Defensively, Smoky Hill has surrendered only 88 points. Offensively, Obasanjo Sanni has rolled to 1,839 yards and 17 touchdowns. And sophomore quarterback Leslie Richardson III has thrown for 13 TDs and one interception in five games. … The Raiders began 1-4, but swept through the new South by going 5-0. … Senior RB KIahn Martinez remains Regis Jesuit’s first option. He compiled 1,006 yards and 18 TDs in nine games. … Freshman QB Nicco Marchiol has been a find, going 111-of-171 (65 percent) for 1,379 yards, 13 TDs and five picks. … The Raiders gave up only 41 points in league.

5A Football First Round Preview
Lakewood looks to end a six-game slide with a win over Arapahoe on Saturday. PHOTO PROVIDED BY LANCE WENDT

(24) Denver East (8-2) vs. (9) Fairview (9-1), Friday, 7 p.m., Recht Field

The Angels also benefitted from being in the Metro 10, going 8-1 in the loop. … Denver East has won its most games in a season since going 8-3 in 2007. … Senior QB Myles Patterson is 150-of-300 for 2,386 yards, 21 TDs and six interceptions. … Between them, seniors Elijah Ewing and Corey Tate have combined for 66 receptions, 1,128 yards and nine TDs. … Junior Aaron Franklin has five of the teams’ 13 rushing TDs. … The big news is this – Knights junior QB Aidan Atkinson most likely will be out with a thumb injury that may require surgery, but he’s to see a doctor on Tuesday. Too bad – he had a state-record 55 TD tosses as well as 3,952 yards passing. … The Knights won the Front Range League. … Sophomore Liam O’Brien came on for Atkinson last week after his injury and was 10-of-13 for 201 yards and two TDs. … Even if Atkinson remains sidelined, Fairview has four talented receivers to help with the switch. Each has at least 46 catches, headed by Bryce DesJardins with 65 catches, 1,088 yards and 20 TDs.

(20) Lakewood (3-7) vs. (13) Arapahoe (5-5), Saturday, 1 p.m., Littleton Public Schools Stadium

After a 3-1 start, the Tigers have dropped six straight games, most recently 39-28 to Mullen. Lakewood was 0-5 in the Metro West. And in its regular-season finale, they put up 566 yards. … QB Pierce Holley threw for 399 yards and two TDs. On the season, he has 2,685 yards and 23 TDs. … Senior Kegan Hufford leads Lakewood with nine receiving scores. And senior Elias Borjas has proven elusive with 47 receptions for a 16.3-yard average and five TDs. … Lakewood has won seven state titles: 1943, 1944, 1946, 1960, 1964, 1968 and the legendary victory over Cherry Creek in 1985. … Arapahoe actually only has played nine games. The Warriors opted for a forfeit against Cherry Creek after multiple student suicides. … In their first season under new head coach Rod Sherman, late of Valor Christian, the Warriors began 3-1. They were on a four-game slide until handling Overland 44-7 last week to finish 1-4 in the new Metro East.

(21) Legacy (4-6) vs. (12) Mullen (4-6), Friday, 7 p.m., Bernard Kinneavy Field at De La Salle Stadium

The Lightning began anew this season after longtime successful head coach Wayne Voorhees opted to leave after problems with the administration. Corey Heinz took over and the Lightning went on to drop their first six games by a combined 266-118. However, they won their next four games to finish 4-1 in the Front Range and runner-up to Fairview. … According to team statistician Douglas Deitel, the Lightning ran the 30,000th play in program history last week. He indicated it was delayed by penalty. … Junior Dakota Key has 2,247 yards on the season, third in Legacy annals. … Mullen halted a five-game losing streak last week by beating Lakewood and roared to a season-high 506 yards of offense. … Junior RB Damien Cearns, back from injury, rushed 30 times for 258 yards and three TDs, scoring on runs of 46, 60 and 49 yards. … Senior QB Dom DePizzol threw for 255 yards and two TDs, one to senior WR Wind Henderson, who had five catches for 160 yards. … Junior Isaac White had a strong, two-way game at WR-DB, including an interception and receiving TD, and DL Aidan Keanaaina was a wall with two sacks and three tackles for loss.

(18) Doherty (5-5) vs. (15) Highlands Ranch (3-7), Friday, 7 p.m., Shea Stadium

The Colorado Springs’ Spartans have split four games since 2008 with the Falcons, most recently winning 20-17 in 2015. … Doherty began 2018 0-4 before winning five of its past six games. The first was a 28-27 decision of ThunderRidge at home. … There is no doubt about the Spartans’ offensive approach – they have had 447 rushing attempts to 123 through the air. … Senior Gage Vanaman has 768 yards rushing and a team-high six TDs on the ground. Brian Mosley has added 643 yards rushing with five TDs. … Four Spartans passers have combined for nine TDs and 12 interceptions. … John Trahan, previously at Smoky Hill, is Highlands Ranch’s third coach in three years. … Indeed, the Falcons have had their problems, but give them the following – they lost by only 18-13 to ThunderRidge and 25-15 to Valor Christian. Both games were in the Metro South and both opponents earned byes in the first round. … Sophomore Jake Rubley has thrown for 19 TDs, nine each to junior Konor Lahtrop and senior Lance Opp.

(21) Legend (5-5) vs. Arvada West (6-4), Friday, 7 p.m., NAAC

It will be the first meeting between the two programs. … The Titans also were 5-5 the previous two seasons. … Legend head coach Monte Thelen is in his third season since coming over from Cherokee Trail. … After dropping four of five games, the Titans beat district-rival Chaparral 24-14 the past week. … They were 2-3 in the 5A South. … Junior Blake Rarog remains the Titans’ first option, rushing for 929 of the team’s 1,599 yards and nine of its 16 rushing TDs. … A-West got off to a 4-0 start, ran into some heavyweights and is coming off a 53-27 whipping to undefeated Columbine. … Senior Johnny Krutsch, the program’s leading passer, has thrown for 2,921 yards in 2018 for 28 TDs. … Senior Chris McEahern has 75 catches for 1,252 yards (it leads all seven classifications) and 14 TDs. … The Wildcats are 23-28 under head coach Brad Pyatt, a former A-West All-Colorado player who went on to Kentucky and played in the NFL with the Indianapolis Colts.

(19) Fountain-Fort Carson (5-5) vs. (14) Castle View (7-3), Saturday, 1 p.m., Douglas County Stadium

The Trojans are 12-20 since Jake Novotny took command and they have increased their victory total in each of the past three seasons. … Fountain-Fort Carson is yet another big school that has had its roster ravaged by injuries and none was bigger than the broken leg suffered by promising sophomore Q Jones in Week 9 against Regis Jesuit. He had 1,406 of the team’s 1,957 rushing yards as well as 18 of the Trojans’ 24 scores on the ground. … Senior Mikeroy Markwei (seven) and Lawson White (six) head the Trojans in tackles for loss. … Fresh off a 24-14 setback to rival ThunderRidge, Castle View, in its first season under head coach Todd Casebier, already has its best 5A showing since joining the big boys in 2012 and is hungry for more. … The SaberCats are 1-5 against Fountain-Fort Carson. … Castle View has taken on Casebier’s preferred look – be strong up front and run the ball. To date, it has 503 rushing attempts to 101 passing attempts. … Senior Cole Oster (963 yards rushing, 13 TDs) and junior Jordan Jackson (805 yards, 15 TDs) handle most of the team’s carries.

(22) Poudre (4-6) vs. (11) Cherokee Trail (7-3), Friday, 7 p.m., Legacy Stadium

The Impalas began 2018 1-4 before rallying to go 3-2 in the Front Range. They will need additional rallying – they’re also trying to avoid their ninth non-winning season over the past 10. … Fort Collins’ Poudre is coming off a 35-14 setback to crosstown-rival Fossil Ridge. … Yes, they have played already. Cherokee Trail beat the Impalas 35-0 in Week 4. And it was their first meeting. … Junior Tate Satterfield heads Poudre with 222 carries for 1,109 yards and 12 TDs. … The Cougars began 6-0 before stumbling into the playoffs, but keep in mind their losses were to Grandview, Cherry Creek and Eaglecrest. Point taken. … The losses, by the way, came through a combined 91-28 scoring disdvantage. … In last week’s 28-14 setback to Eaglecrest, the 2017 state runner-up, Jaden La Vigne ran for a TD and passed for another, to Donovan Swift.


Playoff histories are now available on this website including the ability to search by head-to-head matchup.

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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