It’s probably the best schedule to date in Class 5A as our preview looks at three top 10 clashes. The outcomes of course, will impact all the various polls next week but more importantly start the process of sorting out which clubs will reach the playoffs. #1 Cherry Creek is challenged by #8 Grandview, #4 Pomona faces #6 Ralston Valley and #7 Regis squares off against #10 Legend.
We begin the preview with the defending state champions as Cherry Creek carries a 16-game winning streak into the matchup with Grandview. The Wolves though are the last team to beat the Bruins in regular season play; outlasting them 28-21 in overtime on October 26, 2018. Cherry Creek hasn’t lost since falling to Valor Christian (24-14) in the state finals that year.
Grandview’s defense forced five turnovers last week and Kahden Rullo returned both a fumble and interception for a touchdown, but the Wolves still came up short to Eaglecrest (43-42). The Raptors scored a touchdown and game winning two point conversion in the final seconds.
Now the Wolves face a Bruins offense that was nearly perfect in last week’s 49-7 win over Cherokee Trail. Julian Hammond completed 12 of 13 passing attempts; throwing for 179 yards and four touchdowns. Two of them went to Gunnar Helm who finished with three receptions for 36 yards. Chase Penry led the Bruins with five catches and 72 yards with a touchdown. James Walker also gained 111 yards rushing on just nine attempts.
Regardless of outcome, both teams will remain in the playoff picture. Both clubs are on pace to finish in the top three of the Centennial conference and those three clubs will likely get playoff invites based on past history and earned respect across the division.
If defense does indeed win championships, then both Pomona and Ralston Valley are strong title contenders again this year. Combined, the two clubs have allowed just three points through the first two weeks of the season. Pomona has blanked both Chaparral (35-0) and Lakewood (42-0) while Ralston Valley shutout Battle Mountain (42-0) in week one and then moved past Mullen (21-3) last week.
Juju Howard leads Pomona with nine tackles with Deion Maes and Marcus Geypens both collecting eight. They helped the Panthers limit Chaparral to just 83 total yards and Lakewood to 130. On offense, Jack Pospisill has rushed for 228 yards and passed for 202 yards. The signal caller has been involved in seven scores.
For Ralston Valley, the defensive leaders are Bubba Harr (17 tackles), Rocco Tate (10) and Will Lester (10). Marquel Collins has three sacks and Gavin Hodgson two. The Mustangs have also forced four turnovers. Their offense is led by Zach Friedman as the QB is 21 of 36 for 294 yards with four TD’s through the air. Three of those touchdown tosses have gone to Devin McNearney who has a team-best six catches for 98 yards.
Due to all the post-season success and recent tradition, the Centennial and Jeffco could easily grab five or six playoff berths. That means the other conferences could be battling for just two or three available slots. That makes the battle between Regis and Legend extremely important to the overall playoff picture. The winner will be in the best shape to land a post-season bid but may also have to get past 4A defending state champion Pine Creek later in the season to remain in contention.
Neither team has been pushed through two games. Regis has outscored Mountain Vista and Chaparral by 72 points and Legend blanked both Mesa Ridge (42-0) and Doherty (49-0).
Regis has focused on the run in their two wins, gaining 515 yards on the ground. David Dody leads the chart with 207 yards on 30 carries. Clay Nanke paces the defense with 16 tackles.
Legend features good balance. Connor Eise has picked up 267 yards with two touchdowns and is averaging 9.2 yards per carry. Kalen Shoemaker has thrown for 331 yards and four touchdowns with each score going to Blake Doud. He leads the Titans with nine catches for 143 yards. On defense, Jaxon Muma is the big play man. He tops the team in tackles (16) and has already picked off three passes.
The remaining four teams in the rankings are all favored to reach 3-0 with wins in week three. #2 Valor Christian goes to Mountain Vista, #3 Columbine heads to Lakewood, #5 Eaglecrest hosts Overland and #9 Fairview is on the road to Fossil Ridge.
Of the four, Fairview may have the most difficult test as the Knights line up against a 2-0 opponent. Fossil Ridge opened with a solid win over Horizon (21-14) and then took out Prairie View (28-6) last week. Tyler Kubat has already amassed 501 yards passing with seven touchdowns. Mac Busteed is his top target with 14 catches and five touchdowns. Chris Bowerkind adds balance with 311 yards rushing.
Fairview is coming off a solid 26-7 win over Rocky Mountain. The Knights averaged just 2.9 yards per rushing attempt but Liam O’Brien still threw for 230 yards and two touchdowns. Four receivers caught at least three passes; a group led by Aidan Christiansen with five including two scores.
Valor Christian has scored 100 points and allowed zero in easily getting past Doherty (51-0) and Rock Canyon (49-0). Their biggest threat may come in week four against Castle View. Gavin Sawchuk has just 19 touches in the run game but has picked up 328 yards with six scores.
Columbine is averaging 37 points a game while beating Rock Canyon (39-13) and Arvada West (34-10). As always, the Rebels have shown they can run the football; averaging 308 yards per game. Seth Cromwell is the ring leader with 272 yards and six touchdowns.
Eaglecrest could use an easy outcome with Overland. The Raptors have been highly stressed in two victories, outscoring both Cherokee Trail (62-50) and Grandview (43-42). As mentioned, the Raptors stunned Grandview in the final minute to grab a second high scoring win.
Points have come from many players. JP Luketu was involved in four touchdowns against Cherokee Trail and threw a TD pass and scored the game winner against Grandview. Ty Robinson had two TD catches in week one and added a third against Grandview. Khalil Howard tossed a TD pass and also scored on a 74 yard run last week. Aidan Medina also scored twice last Friday.
Two other games we’ll keep track of this weekend find Smoky Hill facing Cherokee Trail and Castle View going up against Rock Canyon. The Smoky Hill-Cherokee Trail winner remains in contention for a top three finish in the Centennial which could be good enough to climb into the playoff bracket. Leslie RIchardson, with 610 yards passing in two games, paces the Smoky Hill offense along with receivers Anthony Harris (11 catches) and Alec Pinkowski (10). Cherokee Trail averages 28.5 points per game despite their frustrating 0-2 start.
Castle View seems to be the top challenger to Valor Christian in the Douglas County chase. The Sabercats face Valor next week and must avoid looking past the winless Jags this week. Castle View did not play in week one but opened 2020 by beating ThunderRidge 42-28 last week. They ran for 265 yards including 147 from Zane Wodark and 84 from Noah Jamero.