5A FOOTBALL QUARTERFINALS PREVIEW

5A Football Quarterfinals Preview
Fairview is the lone newcomer to the 5A quarterfinals and they will challenge two-time state finalist Pomona in one of four battles on tap this weekend.

Welcome to the 2017 Class 5A quarterfinals, not to be confused with the 2016 5A quarterfinals.

However, if you are, we understand.

Seven of the eight teams from a year ago have returned – simply substitute Fairview for Mullen — including two-time defending state champion Valor Christian; Pomona, which has finished runner-up the past two seasons, and Cherry  Creek and Regis Jesuit, which also made the semifinals a year ago.

All have been recognized as recent or long-ago powers. All know how to make playoff noise. All know how to score as well as play defense. And just about all, as in six of the eight, are from the previous Centennial and Jefferson County leagues, so the chances for a big-school champion outside of the historically powerful groups are shrinking by the round.

The one thing the big-school quarterfinals round usually does do, though, is provide arguably the best series of the playoffs. Over the past three decades, the Great 8 has been, well, great, a tough road to a final four.

And the scores figure to be much closer than the nearly 27-point average margin of the preliminaries.

With only three weekends of schoolboy football to go, below is a game-by-game preview  to keep you up to speed:

 

(8) Grandview (9-2) vs. (1) Valor Christian (11-0), Friday, 7 p.m., Valor Christian

The Wolves are 2-4 against Valor, the last time nearly a year ago to the day, a 66-35 whipping in the – you guessed it — 2016 quarterfinals. … Since 2004, Grandview is 27-9 in the playoffs, an impressive mark under head coach John Schultz, who quietly is closing in on 110 victories since taking over in 2004. … Last week, the Wolves, who have won seven games in succession, beat Lakewood by the mercy rule, wining 42-0. … Grandview rolled to 452 yards of offense, a whopping 372 rushing, a high total for a 5A team. It was led by 210 yards on 26 carries by Jordan Billingsley, a junior who also rushed for four TDs. Senior Aaron Harris contributed 107 yards on 11 carries for another TD, and QB Kyle Smith was 4-of-7 passing for 80 yards and a TD, to senior Andrew Turner, a 39-yarder. … Meanwhile, Valor has turned 21 in consecutive victories, won 10 playoff games in succession and snagged a championship in every year but two of its existence – Year I, in 2008, and in 2014, when it lost by a point in the final to Cherry Creek. … as it seeks its eighth title in nine years, one of the greatest stretches on Colorado record. … Last week, the Eagles turned in a workmanlike performance against Chaparral, winning 35-7 and having just 273 yards of offense. Joshia Davis rushed for 66 yards and a TD and Blake Stenstrom, sharing time with Luke McCaffrey, was 6-of-11 for 56 yards and a TD. … The Valor defense permitted only nine first downs, had an interception, was credited with four sacks and was headed by Peyton Polson being in on eight tackles.

 

 

(5) Fairview (10-1) vs. (4) Pomona (9-2), Friday, 7 p.m., NAAC

The Fairview Knights have only won two of their past six games against Pomona, most recently a 35-24 victory in the 2013 quarterfinals, when they went on to lose to Valor in the championship game. … Fairview’s only setback to date was in Week 6, Oct. 6, a 35-14 setback to Columbine to open the Mt. Cameron League. … Fairview punished Arvada West 55-21 in last week’s preliminaries. … It’s another pass-happy Knights group. Sophomore QB Aidan Atkinson is 196-of-285 for 3,025 yards, 22 TDs and only three interceptions. … Junior Matt Greenwald has caught nine of the TDs on 26 receptions for 711 yards. … Another junior Bryce DeJardins, has 54 receptions for 744 yards and five TDs. … As for the ground game, it’s about senior Mariano Kemp and his 1,271 yards rushing and 22 TDs. … Concerning Pomona, credit head coach Jay Madden and the Panthers beyond football. Indeed, they ripped Poudre 68-27 in the preliminaries, but the compassion they threw the Impalas’ way was an even bigger score. A Poudre player and his mother were killed right after last week’s team dinner. … Bigger Pomona news – QB Ryan Marquez returned after four weeks from a fractured wrist. He threw for three TDs on nine completions and Max Borghi scored four TDs on 15 rushing TDs. … The Panthers have won eight of their past 10 playoff games.

 

(6) Regis Jesuit (10-1) vs. (3) Columbine (10-1), Friday, 7 p.m., Jefferson County Stadium

The Raiders are zero for their last three against Jefferson County’s Columbine. In a not-so-frequent series, the Rebels won 27-14 in, of course, the 2015 quarterfinals. …Regis Jesuit, winner of nine games in a row, is fresh from a gritty 17-10 victory at home against longtime parochial-school rival Mullen, the one program to beat the Raiders. In Week 2, the Mustangs had a comeback 40-39 victory, also at the Raiders’ Lou Kellogg Stadium. … In the prelims, Jake Heimlicher had a big game, making an athletic interception and a long return to halt a scoring drive in addition to catching a 16-yatrd scoring pass, and the ever-present Tama Tuitele was in on 23 tackles, a very large 17 of the solo variety. In all, Regis Jesuit had 13 tackles for loss in botting up the Mustangs running game. … The Rebels haven’t lost to a 5A team this season. Their one setback was to nearby 4A Chatfield, 35-14 on Sept. 22. The Chargers, in case you were wondering, are in the 4A quarters. … In a 45-14 blowout of Douglas County’s Highlands Ranch in the prelims, the Rebels led 31-0 at halftime. … The Rebels rushed for 291 yards. Sophomore Tanner Hollens ran 10 times for 79 yards and two TDs, and QB Logan DeArment had six carries for 73 yards and another two TDs. … Sophomore Justin Lohrenz had two sacks. Andrew Arterburn and Brady McLean each contributed interceptions. … Columbine went down a year ago to Jeffco-rival Pomona, by 42-21 in the quarters.

 

(7) Cherry Creek (9-2) vs. (2) Eaglecrest (11-0), Saturday 1:00pm, Legacy Stadium

The Bruins have won nine of their past 12 meetings against the district-rival Raptors. The last time resulted in a 42-7 victory in 2015 in the Centennial League, the year before 5A opted for the waterfall outlay. … Cherry Creek dropped its opener by 25-20 to Regis Jesuit and wrapped up nonleague with a 26-14 loss to Valor. … In handling Ralston Valley 34-21 in the first round, the Bruins led 17-14 at halftime, then put up 17 points in the fourth quarter to win it. … Junior QB Alex Padilla threw for two TDs, giving him 39 on the season, both to University of Colorado-bound Dimitri Stanley. Padilla, who has only seven interceptions on the season, threw for 201 yards and rushed for 16. … Stanley is now up to 77 receptions for an even 1,100 yards and 20 TDs. … The Bruins rang up four sacks and Christopher Ditzenberger added an interception. … Eaglecrest has been undefeated in each of the past two regular seasons and is 22-1 over the span. It’s the best stretch for the Raptors since going 14-0 and winning the 5A title (in a 6A system) in 1993. … Last week, the Raptors opened the playoffs with a home 35-14 victory over Fountain-Fort Carson. … RB Kenny Wantings rushed for four TDs and Jalen Mergerson threw for another TD, to Corey Corbin. … It’s a second consecutive quarterfinals showing the Raptors. A year ago, they went down by 34-24 to nearby Regis Jesuit.

 

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Neil Devlin
About Neil Devlin 15 Articles
Neil H. Devlin is in his 38th 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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