5A FOOTBALL SEMIFINALS PREVIEW

Both Class 5A state semifinals are rematches of regular season contests. Cherry Creek topped Pomona 31-17 and Ralston Valley edged Columbine 24-23. PHOTO BY JACKSACTIONSHOTS.com.

Say what you will about Class 5A football in 2019, and many out there certainly continue to do so, but the following must be included: Big-school play has been forced to stand up to a rash of selfishness by Jefferson County.

It’s true. The left side of the Denver-metropolitan area has been convincing, and from top to bottom with Northwestern Jeffco (Pomona and Ralston Valley) as well as Southwestern Jeffco (Columbine) combining for three of the semifinalists. They are a combined 30-6.

The fourth, of course, is ever-present Cherry Creek (12-0), so there aren’t any of the local fab-four variety that can be called shockers, surprises or just plain lucky football teams.

Why?

Consider our basic, in-state prep rules and outlooks. Football’s leagues are different from every other sport’s. Example: In football, the top three in Jeffco are in what has turned into a very powerful Metro West and Cherry Creek is in the Metro East. In nearly every other sport, Jeffco teams are in the Jeffco League and Cherry Creek in the Centennial League. The two groups that basically line the left and right sides of the metro area have dominated big-school play since suburban sprawl became a thing in Denver.

To wit:

— Since 1990, the time of the last significant jump in classifications, the Centennial and Jeffco leagues have accounted for 88 of the 120 semifinalists, a whopping 74 percent.

— Consistency and dominance? The two loops have had at least three of the final four in 23 of the past 30 seasons.

— Centennial and Jeffco teams have had six seasons of accounting for all semifinalists, including in 2019, and over the past 30 seasons there has been only one, in 2013 (Centennial’s Cherokee Trail), when they haven’t had multiple teams in the final four. No league has garnered all four spots.

— The last time the two leagues failed to have a team advance to the semis? It was in 1989, when the Denver Prep had three along with the Northern’s Poudre.

— And the Centennial and Jeffco groups have managed to stay atop the class even with the advent of powerful Valor Christian.

So there’s really no reason to further disguise the Centennial and Jeffco.

We know who they are and what they can do … and what they’re going to do by season’s end.

After we have turkey, we’re looking at two rematches from earlier in 2019, one a nonleaguer, the other a do-it-again game from the Metro West.

Below are the four teams in this week’s matchups explained and available to aid your viewing pleasure:

 

Columbine (10-2) vs. Ralston Valley (12-0), Friday, 7 p.m., Jefferson County Stadium

Technically, it will be an away game for the Rebels at their home field. Ralston Valley ordinarily plays its home games at the NAAC in Arvada, but the site at Sixth Avenue and Kipling Street in Lakewood is more accessible and better equipped to handle a bigger game. … Columbine is here for the third consecutive season, fourth in five years and fifth this decade. … The Rebels are coming off the most-interesting victory of the round, if not the bracket, to date – they won 37-30 at defending state champion Valor Christian and had a 19-point fourth quarter. It was only the third loss in 44 postseason games for the Eagles. … Columbine was thorough, too, holding edges in plays, 66-44; first downs, 25-12; and time of possession, 30 minutes, 58 seconds-to-17:02. … While Columbine was an efficient 2-of-2 passing for 15 yards, it rushed for 361 yards and six touchdowns. Tanner Hollens had 31 carries for 216 yards and three TDs, and Adam Harrington had 21 carries for 110- yards and three TDs. … So there will be no secret. The Rebels dare you to stop their ground game and have for decades. … Ralston Valley has been in two big-schools semis, losing both times, in 2014 and 2012. … RV also won the head-to-head matchup 24-23 in Week 8 in league. … The Mustangs are 2-3 against the Rebels since first meeting in 2014. … RV is fresh from a 42-14 spanking of Eaglecrest in the quarters, erupting for a 28-point second quarter and 35-7 halftime lead. … QB Walker Brickle threw for two TDs and Chase Wilson rushed for two more. … Further good news – the Mustangs scored twice on defense, both in the first half. Zach Friedman had a 45-yard return of a fumble for a score and J.J. Galbreath returned an interception 47 yards for another.

 

Cherry Creek (12-0) vs. Pomona (8-4), Saturday, 1 p.m., NAAC

Over the decades, this matchup has taken place under most in-state circumstances – nonleague and all rounds of the playoffs. The only one it hasn’t involves being in the same league, although Pomona for a while in the 1980s was known as “Cherry Creek West.” … Cherry Creek won the earlier meeting 31-17 in Week 4. … Of the seven meetings this decade, the Bruins have won four of them, including the past three. … In last week’s 28-14 victory at previously undefeated Regis Jesuit, Sanjay Strickland rushed for two TDs and A.J. Zamora one. … Brady Ritzmann also connected with Chase Muller for a 51-yard TD pass. … Pomona held a 28-14 halftime lead. … The Panthers ran 60 plays to Regis Jesuit’s 45 and held possession for more than 32 minutes. … RJ also rushed for only 100 yards. … This is the Bruins’ second consecutive semis showing and fifth since 2014. … Cherry Creek escaped what could have been a trap game last week, when it outlasted Fairview 42-28. The Knights entered without all-time passing yardage and TD leader Aidan Atkinson, who was arrested on sexual-assault charges. And Fairview actually led after a quarter and it was tied after three. … Jayle Stacks rushed for 199 yards and two TDs, and junior QB Julian Hammond, held to 94 yards passing, threw for two TDs to Chase Penry. Even better was the very athletic Myles Purchase, who returned an interception 23 yards for a TD and a punt for 72 yards and another TD. … A dominant fact to know and tell – the Bruins have made at least the semifinals in 15 of the past 30 seasons.


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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