For so many Class 5A football teams in Colorado, this week has so much weight to it. Three league championships can be won by teams sitting atop the standings. That means automatic playoff berths are clinched and we will be one step closer to the start of the postseason.
But they play the games for a reason. Although these teams are close to clinching league titles, they have not done so yet and if last week taught players and coaches anything, it’s that any team can lose on any week.
But that’s what makes this slate of games so fun. Some of them seem like foregone conclusions, but there is always that off chance that someone can pull off an upset. Just ask Cherry Creek.
With the playoffs approaching, there are several key games throughout the state that fans should be paying attention to.
- Arapahoe at Smoky Hill
- Rock Canyon at Valor Christian
- Ralston Valley at Columbine
- Adams City at Fort Collins
- Fossil Ridge at Rocky Mountain
- Legend at Doherty
It seems like years since Cherry Creek has lost to an in-state opponent and that’s mainly because that’s exactly how long it’s been. Dec. 1 2018 is the exact date and it was in the state 5A state championship against Valor Christian. That made Arapahoe’s 13-10 win over the Bruins that much more impressive. The Warriors made field goals in the second and third quarters and scored a touchdown in the fourth. Holding the Bruins to just 10 points also gives Arapahoe’s defense instant credibility. With a win over Smoky Hill, the Warriors will become the unlikely Centennial League champions.
The Buffaloes have no intention of being anyone’s trophy. At 4-4 on the season, they need the win as they sit at No. 20 in the 5A RPI as of Wednesday night. Marvin Jones III has been very good this year, rushing for 653 yards and nine touchdowns in seven games, but rushed the ball just five times for four yards as Smoky lost to Cherokee Trail last week. They know this game counts as much for them as it does for Arapahoe so this game might have the biggest impact on both teams involved.
There isn’t too much worry that Valor Christian will lose this week, but the Eagles just need to make sure they don’t get tripped up in a trap game. A win this week puts Valor on a crash course with ThunderRidge for the Douglas County championship on the line next week. The Grizzlies have Highlands Ranch this week, so Valor should see a tougher challenge in Rock Canyon. The Eagles needed just six passing attempts in the 48-6 win over the Falcons. Gavin Sawchuk had just two carries for 79 yards and two touchdowns. He should see a little more action this week and significant carries next week against ThunderRidge.
Rock Canyon has a little something going for it this week in that it will remain in the league title hunt with a win over the Eagles. To get it done, the Jaguars will have to keep the ball away from all Sawchuks involved. They have a solid rushing tandem of their own in Croix Burney and Aidan Duda. They have combined for over 1,500 yards and 16 touchdowns. If they can put together a solid performance, they might have a shot to slow down that explosive Valor offense.
Turning to the Jeffco League, this will be a big week for Columbine. With just a loss to Arvada West, a league title could still be in play for them should they get a win over Ralston Valley. The Rebels face Pomona and a win could put them in play for the Jeffco title should Arvada West drop a game to either Lakewood or Ralston Valley. In last week’s win over Mullen, Tyree Trusty and Seth Cromwell combined for 175 rushing yards and two touchdowns. They each averaged over six yards per carry which should give the Rebels a great shot at a win.
The Mustangs have been steady offensively, but where they can get the win over Columbine is by forcing turnovers. Eight of the 12 turnovers they’ve forced this year have been on fumble recoveries. If Columbine keeps the ball on the ground as they are prone to do, the Mustangs have been able to lodge the ball free and jump on about once per game. If the Mustangs can take down the Rebels and Pomona gets tripped up by Mullen, the league title picture would get very interesting next week.
Having already beaten both Boulder and Westminster already this season, a win over Adams City would give Fort Collins the Metro 1 league title and send the Lambkins into the 5A playoffs as the only rep from that league. Fort Collins has been balanced offensively, but they’ll likely work through Max Jones who has rushed for 885 yards and eight touchdowns. The Lambkins have been quietly good this year, losing their two games by a combined three points.
Adams City has seen successful moments this season, but last week’s loss to Westminster likely killed its league championship and playoff hopes. Levi Deaguero looked for Miguel Hernandez often and the two connected on 10 passes for 135 yards. Deaguero rushed for two touchdowns, but it wasn’t enough for the Eagles to keep pace with the Wolves. For this week, the playoff hopes might be gone, but Adams City could always enjoy playing the role of spoiler.
The rivalry game between Fossil Ridge and Rocky Mountain has several implications attached to it. Pride being first and foremost, but a win by the Lobos would give Legacy the North League title. Fossil Ridge and Legacy are set to face off to close out the regular season next week, but if the Sabercats had two league losses, they can’t claim a league title. So this week is a must-win in their eyes. In the two league wins this year, Fossil Ridge quarterback Tyler Kubat has thrown for 594 yards and five touchdowns. The Sabercats will lean on his passing ability to keep league title hopes alive next week.
The Lobos will try to do what Fairview did a week ago and make the Sabercats very one dimensional. Fossil Ridge averaged just over two yards per carry on the ground which made the passing game predictable, allowing the Knights to steal the win. Linebacker Hakan Le Fevre has 48 tackles this season and if he can anchor the front seven and limit the run game, Rocky Mountain might be able to stop the passing attack they know is coming.
The South title should be claimed this week as Legend takes on Doherty. Both Pine Creek and Regis Jesuit have just one league loss, both they each lost to the Titans. With one of them set to lose on Friday night (Pine Creek and Regis play at Regis), Legend would claim a league championship with a win. That will be the mission for Bryce Vaz as he is averaging 120 yards per game and has scored 12 touchdowns. He’s fast, explosive and should help the Titans get off to fast start over Doherty.
The Spartans are staring down the barrel of a winless season which hasn’t happened since before MaxPreps starting tracking win/loss records in 2004. Scheduling has certainly been tough but the hope is that quarterback Kaden Becker can lead a senior class into next season ready to compete. He has found a reliable receiver in Solomon Latimer, who averages 21 yards per catch and has scored three touchdowns this season.
With four teams sitting at 2-1 in the Metro 2 League, no one can outright claim a championship but next week’s slate of games in that league will be filled with plenty of drama on its own.