The Class 5A football season is down to just 24 teams and that number will start to whittle away this weekend. The postseason has arrived and everyone is gunning to remove Cherry Creek as the dominant football team in 5A.

While Valor and Legend look like capable threats, the reality is that anything can happen on any given week.

Here is an overview of this week’s games where winners will move on to take on the likes of Valor Christian, Cherry Creek, Legend, Grandview, Ralston Valley, Arapahoe, Regis Jesuit and Arvada West.

Colorado Preps previews the matchups and will recap the action during a special Saturday playoff edition of the Bank of Colorado Scoreboard Show which airs from 3:30-5:00pm.


#24 Far Northeast Warriors (5-5) at #9 Columbine (7-3)

The Far Northeast Warriors are looking to capitalize on the momentum of their Season C 5A championship. They got back to the fall season playoffs for the first time since 2013 and are looking to get their first fall playoff win since 2004 when they beat Regis Jesuit 21-14. This is the third time that Montbello/Far Northeast and Columbine have met in the playoffs. The Rebels won the first two meetings. The Warriors have had to do most of their offensive work on the ground this season as Dre’monti Jackson has rushed for 561 yards and a pair of scores. Antavius Hughes has also gone over the 500-yard mark to give the Warriors some depth and versatility when running the ball.

Columbine is just two years removed from a 5A championship game loss to Cherry Creek and still knows what playoff football is about. The Rebels have stuck to their traditional game plan of generating offense with the ground game and being physical and unrelenting on defense. Seth Cromwell leads the way with 1,057 rushing yards and 17 touchdowns. Payton Wainwright and Logan Corray have made for a tough pass-rush duo as they each have six sacks on the year.


#23 Castle View (6-4) at #10 Pomona (6-4)

This is the first time that Castle View and Pomona will clash in the postseason and it might make for a good matchup. The teams enter the bracket with identical 6-4 records and know that a first-round quick could spark some momentum heading into a second-round showdown with Regis Jesuit. While the Sabercats have been a run-heavy team, they’ve been productive with several players taking on key roles in the running game. Marc Wessbecker leads the team with 762 rushing yards and eight touchdowns. Joe Ursetta fell just shy of the 700-yard mark, totaling 697 yards. The defense has sacked opposing quarterbacks 17 times and has forced 17 turnovers through the course of the season.

Pomona’s slow start is the reason that the Panthers have to play a game this week. While losses to Grandview and Cherry Creek shouldn’t have come as a shock, it was a 28-27 loss to Smoky Hill that truly woke a sleeping giant. The Panthers won their next four games and allowed just 31 total points defensively. Chase Muller and Deion Maes combined to rush for 177 yards in the Oct. 7 win over Ralston Valley. A 20-6 loss to Columbine is the only reason that the Panthers didn’t win the Jeffco League outright. 


#22 Fairview (6-4) at #11 ThunderRidge (8-2)

Standout Fairview freshman Bekkem Kritza makes his playoff debut against a ThunderRidge team that put up an early fight against Valor Christian. His 3,192 passing yards fit right in with what the Knights have done the last several years with a few different quarterbacks. This will be the third time that the Knights and Grizzlies have played each other in the postseason with each team winning one. The most recent contest was a 30-13 win for ThunderRidge back in 2018. But there was Kritza on that roster. His 6-foot-4 , 175-pound frame doesn’t scream “freshman” any more than his stats do. 

He may have his hands full with a ThunderRidge team that has seen a bit of a resurgence this season. The Grizzlies’ only losses this season were to Arapahoe and Valor Christian, two teams that played well enough to earn bye weeks. Seth Frasier has thrown for 1,599 yards and 27 touchdowns this year. He’s been a dual threat as he also has 829 rushing yards to his name. He’ll likely try and control the game on the ground, but if it divulges into a shootout with the freshman gunslinger, Fraiser has shown he has no problem keeping up.


#21 Fossil Ridge (5-5) at #12 Cherokee Trail (6-4)

For the first time since 2015, Fossil Ridge is in the 5A playoffs. This is just the fourth playoff appearance in school history and they’ll head to Legacy Stadium looking for its second postseason win. The Sabercats rely heavily on its passing attack as quarterback Tyler Kubat has thrown for 2,750 yards and 24 touchdowns. Mac Busteed has established himself as a top receiving target in the class, catching 66 passes for 998 yards and nine scores. Their ability to move the ball and score touchdowns is crucial with the defense surrendering 26.2 points per game. 

The Cougars are well-suited to get into a shootout offensively. Logan Brooke has thrown for 2,647 yards and 27 touchdowns. He has been picked off just four times all year. He put up three straight 300-plus passing yard performances toward the end of the season so if the Sabercats get out to a lead, Brooke can supply the firepower to bring the Cougars back. Michael Hemingway will be prowling the secondary and leads the team with three interceptions this year. He’ll look to feast on any mistake Kubat could make through the course of the game. The Cougars have been eliminated in the first round of the playoffs four of the last six years and are hoping to make a deep run this time around.


#20 Douglas County (6-4) at #13 Mullen (3-7)

The Huskies and Mustangs met three straight times in the postseason from 2005-07. Douglas County won two of the three meetings and is looking to reaffirm its postseason edge against Mullen. That edge will be reliant on AJ Jackson’s ability to move the ball both on the ground and through the air. He has 1,618 passing yards and also leads the team with 670 rushing yards this season. It has been an up-and-down season for Douglas County as it won its first six games of the year before going 0-4 to close out the regular season.

Playing in a tough Jeffco League certainly helped Mullen when it came to seeding time, but the Mustangs just haven’t been at their best this season. Their best win of the year came in Week 2 when they took down Legend 25-21. Sophomore quarterback Blake Palladino was very efficient through the air, going 13-for-17 with 173 yards and two touchdowns. To advance to the second round, the Mustangs will likely lean on running back Kyle Krebs who has gone for over 100 yards five different times this season.


#9 Rock Canyon (5-5) at #14 Smoky Hill (4-6)

Rock Canyon is back in the playoffs after missing out on the previous five seasons. Getting there was step one for the rebuilding of the program and getting the program’s first playoff win is certainly another step in that direction. The Jaguars are a run-heavy team that focuses on a one-two punch of Aidan Duda and Croix Burney. The duo has rushed for a combined 1,813 yards and 16 touchdowns. Defensively, the goal for the Jags is to force the Buffaloes into passing situations and turn Bobby McCabe and Brady Campbell loose. The duo has combined for 14 sacks this season and if they can get to Taliq Bowers, they might be able to score the upset.

On the flip side, Smoky Hill is looking to keep the game close so they can feed their own ground game. The Buffaloes are 3-1 this season when running back Marvin Jones III gets at least 15 carries. In those games, he has 524 rushing yards and seven touchdowns. This is the third playoff appearance for Smoky Hill in the last threes which is an impressive mark considering the Buffaloes went 11 straight seasons without a postseason appearance. This is the first postseason meeting between Rock Canyon and Smoky Hill.


#18 Mountain Vista (4-6) at #15 Legacy (6-4)

With last year’s playoff field limited to just eight teams, Mountain Vista missed out on reaching the postseason in back-to-back years. This season is an indication that the team is on a steady rise with Garrett Looney at the helm. This will be the first-ever playoff meeting between the Golden Eagles and the Lightning but should be a competitive game through all four quarters. Each team averages more than three touchdowns per game and have some balance offensively. Freshman quarterback Austyn Modrzewski has played admirably all season with 1,028 passing yards and nine touchdowns. In the last two games of the regular season he threw for a combined 705 yards and seven scores. As long as he’s not blinded by the playoff lights, he could solidify himself as a standout player for the next three seasons.

Legacy’s game plan took a big hit with the injury to Braelon Tate early in the game against Fossil Ridge. He was limited to just two carries and will likely give it a go on Saturday. He has been a big part of Legacy’s success, rushing for 1,386 yards and 16 touchdowns this year. William Moore is the team’s second leading rusher at 335 yards and seven touchdowns. Even if Tate is able to go, Moore will likely see an increase in carries to help the Lightning try to breakthrough the first round. 


#17 Chaparral (5-5) at #16 Fort Collins (7-3)

There was a point in the year where Chaparral was considered a top-10 team in the state and the Wolverines would love to get back to playing at that level. They’ll have a chance to get into the second round of the postseason, despite having to travel north. Fort Collins came away with the Metro 1 League title, but Chap has every intention of being the toughest team that the Lambkins have seen all year. Kylan Wilson has been a two-way threat, throwing for 1,420 yards and running for another 947. He also shares the team lead in interceptions with Brayden Munroe with four apiece. 

This is the first time that Fort Collins has reached the fall 5A playoffs since 2013. The Lambkins made it to the 5A Season C playoffs last spring and were a 4A program in the two playoff appearances before that. They’ve never faced Chaparral in the playoffs. They’ll look to keep the ball on the ground and out of the Wolverines hands. Max Jones has rushed for 123 yards per game and if he can maintain that average and erase some of the clock, Fort Collins could be looking at its first postseason victory since 2014.