The Class 5A football playoffs roll on as games are set to begin on Thursday night. There will be no teams watching at home this week as everyone who sat out with a bye for the first round are now in action.
There are just 16 teams remaining, making all eight games must-see action for high school football fans. Here is our breakdown of every game on the bracket this week.
#16 Fort Collins (9-2) at #1 Valor Christian (10-0)
This will be the first playoff matchup ever between the Eagles and the Lambkins. Fort Collins is riding high after a big 34-20 win over Chaparral last week. Senior quarterback Andrew Seest controlled a well-balanced offense as he threw for 243 yards and two touchdowns. He got big help from running back Max Jones, who had 22 carries for 122 yards and a score. The stat that really jumps out in last week’s win is that Fort Collins punted just once the entire game. The Lambkins’ best shot to beat the top-seeded Eagles will be to sustain drives and not find themselves in punting situations. If the offense can find its groove like last week, this could be an interesting matchup.
Of course, Valor wants to make sure that’s not the case. The Eagles will probably give Fort Collins a heavy dose of Gavin Sawchuk. The senior running back finished the year with 1,546 rushing yards and 25 touchdowns. If the Eagles can build a lead, they can let their opportunistic defense go hunting for turnovers. They forced 13 of them during the season and Max House was a big reason why as he picked off two passes and recovered a fumble.
#9 Columbine (8-3) at #8 Arvada West (8-2)
Perhaps the best game on the docket, Columbine will get a chance to avenge a three-point loss to the Wildcats that they suffered on Oct. 1. Tyree Trusty and Seth Cromwell each rushed for over 120 and they combined for all three touchdowns for the Rebels, but it wasn’t enough to stay in the Jeffco league title race. In last week’s win over the Far Northeast Warriors, Columbine scored five passing touchdowns, a sight not usually seen when watching an Andy Lowry team. They also grabbed two pick-sixes and returned a kickoff for a score. The Rebels established confidence that if the ground game doesn’t work against Arvada West, they can find other ways to score.
Arvada West will likely stick to the formula that helped them go 8-2 in the regular season. Ethan Cook has been steady under center all year long and thrown for 1,857 and 20 touchdowns. In the win over Columbine, he went 17-for-28 with 289 yards and two touchdown passes. His favorite target was Drew Martinez and if they discovered anything about themselves, they know that playing from behind isn’t a death sentence. The Wildcats were down 21-10 at halftime during the regular season and battled back to get the win. These teams last met in the postseason in 2008 when Columbine got a 28-7 win.
#13 Mullen (4-7) at #4 Grandview (8-2)
The last time that Mullen and Grandview faced off in the 5A playoffs, it was the Mustangs pulled out a 41-7 win to advance to the state title game. They got their playoff run off to a good start last week with a 34-7 win over Douglas County. Kyle Krebs led the offense with 69 rushing yards and two touchdowns. Michael Brouillette added a special teams boost as he returned a kickoff for a score. Getting a boost from every phase of the game will be vital if Mullen intends to move on to the quarterfinals.
The Wolves should look rested and healthy after their bye week. They established themselves a bit more on the ground over the last three games of the regular season, rushing for an average of 259 yards in those three contests. Moosah Alsaffar has been the tone setter throughout the year. He has 755 total rushing yards and five of his seven touchdowns have come in the last three games.
#12 Cherokee Trail (7-4) at #5 Ralston Valley (8-2)
Cherokee Trail left no doubt that they were a top-16 team in the state with a dominant 41-29 win over Fossil Ridge last week. That win put them into the next round of the 5A playoffs where they’ll see Ralston Valley. The programs are no stranger to each other in the postseason as they have three previous matchups, with Cherokee Trail holding a 2-1 edge. They last met in 2019 where Ralston Valley rolled to a 52-0 win. The Cougars got an outstanding performance from quarterback Logan Brooke last week as he threw for over 400 yards and six touchdowns. They still have a solid rushing attack with Nate Gaye leading the pack. If Cherokee Trail gets solid performances from their offensive studs, an upset isn’t out of the question.
Ralston Valley has been diverse in its offensive production. James Wochner and Zach Friedman have each thrown for over 750 yards and have combined for 13 touchdowns. If the Mustangs are going to set themselves apart from Cherokee Trail early, they may have to provide that separation on the defensive side of the ball. If Brooke is going to take to the air, Ralston Valley will send its pass-rushers, who have recorded 22 sacks on the year. Eli Keith leads the team with five while Gunner Schoepflin has four.
#18 Mountain Vista (5-6) at #2 Cherry Creek (8-2)
Mountain Vista freshman quarterback Austyn Modrzewski has the poise of a senior even if it’s just his first year in the postseason. He threw for 317 yards and six touchdowns to lead the Golden Eagles to a 42-17 upset win over Legacy last week. His reward for his playoff debut is a test against the defending 5A champs. This will be the first time that Mountain Vista and Cherry Creek have met in the playoffs, but given how the freshman gunslinger has performed this year, it’s unlikely that he’ll go into the game wide-eyed and overwhelmed.
For the first time in a while, the Bruins enter the playoffs looking like a team that can be beat. Mostly because they’ve been beat. As the No. 2 seed, they certainly appear to be favord to advance to at least the semifinals and even the state title game. A loss to Arapahoe on Oct. 15 just might give teams the confidence to beat Creek in the playoffs. But games aren’t won with just confidence. Teams still have to find a way to slow down quarterback Christian Hammond, who has thrown for 1,492 yards and 14 touchdowns. They also have to get around a Cherry Creek defense that has allowed fewer than 12 points per game.
#10 Pomona (7-4) at #7 Regis Jesuit (7-3)
Pomona showed a bit of poise last week as they battled back from a 7-0 hole to beat Castle View 14-7 in the first round of the playoffs. They fell behind in the second quarter before the defense pitched a shutout in the second half. Greg Maes and Jaden Barrientos each recorded a sack and Isaiah Alvarez picked off a pass. The Panthers are battle-tested having faced Grandview, Cherry Creek, Ralston Valley, Arvada West, Mullen and Columbine this season.
Regis Jesuit is looking to do something in this game it hasn’t done since 1982. The Raiders are trying to beat Pomona in the playoffs. The two teams have played each other four times with Pomona getting wins in their last three meetings. The only Regis win came in the 1982 4A semifinals. Exander Carroll could held lead the Raiders to that evasive win as he has thrown for 1,322 yards and 14 touchdowns while running for another 479 yards and seven scores. The only three losses for Regis this year have come at the hands of the top three seeds of the 5A playoffs.
#19 Rock Canyon (6-5) at #3 Legend (9-1)
It was a bit of a surprise when Rock Canyon edged Smoky Hill in its playoff opener last week and the Jaguars are now looking to capitalize on that momentum. They executed a sound game plan as the offense totaled nearly 500 total rushing yards. Aidan Duda led the team with 189 while Deandre Horn added 113. The high scoring affair may have given the appearance of a good old fashioned quarterback shootout, but it was Rock Canyon’s running game that sparked the offensive fire. It was the first playoff win in Rock Canyon history, so regardless of how this week’s game turns out, the Jaguars have already made school history.
If Legend hadn’t been tripped up by Mullen early in the year, it might be considered the second best team in the state. Bryce Vaz is a prime player of the year candidate with 1,393 rushing yards and 21 touchdowns. Colton Warner has the ability to attack through the air if he needs to, but the Titans will likely establish the ground game with Vaz and then adjust as needed. This is the first playoff meeting between Legend and Rock Canyon and could be one of the more entertaining matchups of the weekend.
#11 ThunderRidge (9-2) at #6 Arapahoe
A forfeit from Fairview put ThunderRidge into the round of 16 with the same ease that the eight teams on a bye all had. The Grizzlies are looking for a bit of revenge as Arapahoe handed them their first loss of the season back on Sept. 17. The game was tied at halftime before the Warriors outscored the Grizzlies 24-0 in the second half. ThunderRidge should be better offensively than they were in that game as Seth Frasier was limited to just 127 passing yards and -4 rushing yards for the day. And for a defense that was consistently getting better than a turnover a game, the Grizzlies couldn’t get the ball away from Arapahoe.
The Warriors have shown they can survive through the air and on the ground and will try to keep ThunderRidge off balance all night. If Frasier tries to attack through air again, Arapahoe has the players to counter the attack as Jack Weiler has picked off a team-high four passes. The defense’s ability to limit ThunderRidge’s offensive production was a major reason the Warriors won the first meeting between the two, so they’ll lean on the unit to again shut the Grizzlies down. This is the second time these teams have met in the playoffs. ThunderRidge beat Arapahoe 28-14 in the first round of the 5A playoffs in 2011.