Through the first five weeks of the season, Colorado Preps has often referred to the depth and big number of quality teams in Class 4A football.  It’s been a non-conference schedule filled with quality matchups but now the fun begins as league play opens across the board.  Several good matchups to review but the best on paper is inside the Southern 1 division between Montrose and Palmer Ridge.


Both clubs are 5-0 and together have outscored opponents by a combined 293 points.  Each has been challenged just once this year.  Montrose edged Fruita Monument 26-22 but has beaten four other clubs by at least 28 points.  Palmer Ridge survived Mesa Ridge 30-27 with the remaining four wins by 27 points or more.  RPI is also a factor as Palmer Ridge is 2nd in points this week with Montrose sixth.

The Indians of course will come at you with a strong running attack that looks to chew time off the clock.  And then on defense, they rely on a very good linebacker group that is among the best in Class 4A.  That defense will be challenged by a Palmer Ridge offense with proven ability to move the football either by running or throwing.

Sophomore Derek Hester appears to be the next in the getting to be long-line of top notch quarterbacks from Palmer Ridge.  Through his first five starts, he’s thrown for 1,188 yards and 12 TDs.  He has an excellent set of receivers; KC Fackerell has 20 catches for 269 yards and a score, Anthony Costanzo has five touchdowns among his 12 catches and Kaden Smedley has grabbed onto 10 passes for 185 yards and a score.

On the ground, the Bears can give it to either Gator Robinson or Connor Cook.  Robinson has 356 yards and Cook 342 and together they have hit paydirt 10 times.

The Southern 1 league is much more than just Palmer Ridge and Montrose.  Two other teams are in the top 8 of RPI as well with Ponderosa #5 and Vista Ridge #8.  The Mustangs have won four straight while Vista Ridge has a loss to Pine Creek as their only blemish to date.  Ponderosa is favored at Air Academy (3-2) this week and the Wolves should get by Heritage (1-4).

Another very deep conference is the Metro 1.  Not sure why it’s not called the Jeffco but it features unbeatens Dakota Ridge and Golden (5-0) along with one loss squads Chatfield and Bear Creek (both 4-1).  Standley Lake (2-3) is under 500 but remains a playoff contender and they can upset any of the big four in the conference this year.

The Gators challenge Golden this week while Bear Creek meets up with Dakota Ridge.  Chatfield, after suffering their lone loss to Pine Creek last week (28-22), should return to the win column as they visit Wheat Ridge (0-5).

Bear Creek enters the conference fray off a quality 24-14 win over Windsor.  The defense was sharp as they limited the Wizards to 114 yards on 37 attempts.  Colten Henderson had 11 tackles and Emilio Mendoza 10.  Three different players also recorded two sacks apiece.  On offense, Jaedon Minter had a big day throwing the football; finishing with 267 yards.  Blake McComber had seven catches for 183 yards and Ryan Segovia exploded for 253 yards rushing as well.

They may need a similar effort this week to match points with Dakota Ridge.  The Eagles blew past Brighton 54-13 in their final non-conference game last week.  Adam Graves was almost perfect in the air; completing 16 of 18 passes for 247 yards and two scores.  Graves also scored twice in the running game.  Noah Triplett ran for 117 yards and a TD and caught four passes for 63 yards and a second score.  The other TD toss went to Connor Fitzhugh.

Defensively, the Eagles gave up some yardage (337) to Brighton but limited them to two late scores after the outcome was already decided..

Golden is unbeaten but only two of their wins are against teams with current winning records (Green Mountain and Skyline).  They’re a very young team with both sides of the ball dominated by juniors and sophomores.

One of the juniors is Jazel Riley.  He’s already been involved in 19 scoring plays this year including 13 TD passes.  On defense, Johnny Meyers has 32 tackles and heads up a defense that has forced 12 turnovers.  Skye Brion, with four sacks, is another big player defender.

Standley Lake is equally young as their offense is directed by sophomore Fulton Jackson.  He has 595 yards and seven scores passing in five games.  The running game also churns out 198 yards per game with 10 TDs so they have the ability to beat any league team despite entering the schedule with three straight losses.  All three setbacks are against teams with winning records in Green Mountain, Ponderosa and Denver South.

Another quality league with plenty of depth is the Southern 2.  Five of the six league members have winning records so it will be surprising if one team can run the table and finish with an unbeaten league mark.  On the schedule this week are games between Coronado and Pueblo West (both 3-2) and Fountain Fort Carson (4-1) and Mesa Ridge (3-2).  Fruita Monument (3-2) is the fifth team with a winning record and they’re favored at home against Rampart (1-4).

Coronado may need the most help from league play as the Cougars enter ranked 30th in RPI.  That would not be good enough for a playoff berth at this point as only 24 teams make the bracket.  Pueblo West is 7th in RPI so they don’t have as much on the line as the Cougars this week.

This one should be determined by which team runs the football more effectively.  Pueblo West was able to do that in last week’s 31-0 shutout of Pueblo East despite not having standout QB Cole Brinkley in the lineup.  Jeremiah Sanchez took over QB duties and picked up 109 yards rushing with three touchdowns.  Hunter Johnson added another 92.

Coronado’s offense is led by Dylan Jardin with 438 yards and three touchdowns.  Jayden Rempel also has three scores on the ground and throws it just enough (270 yards) to keep defenses somewhat honest.  The Cougars defense has 27 tackles for loss and nine turnovers created.  They’ll look to push back the Pueblo West offensive line and make some plays in the backfield.

Mesa Ridge enters conference play riding momentum from a 35-20 win over Canon City.  They scored 14 fourth quarter points to pull away for their third win of the season.  Noah Ramirez threw for 202 yards and Isaiah Jones scored twice on the ground.  Desmond Butler also returned a kickoff for a key score.

The key though for the Grizzlies this week, is likely defense as they must limit big plays from an explosive Fountain Fort Carson offense.  The Trojans earned 178 yards rushing from Dezmen Oliver and another 92 from Tai Faavae in the win over 5A Highlands Ranch last Friday (44-21).  Faavae is also among the best defenders statewide; he had 14 tackles and an interception against the Falcons.

With Falcon’s football program suspended, the league opener between Thornton (2-3) and Cheyenne Mountain (4-1) may end up determining the I-25 championship.  Since only the league winner can earn a spot in the playoffs, that makes the matchup extremely important.

The Red-Tailed Hawks scored an impressive 48-15 win over Air Academy last week.  They led 21-0 after one quarter and cruised from that point.  Cheyenne Mountain forced four turnovers including a fumble recovery from Sullian Moon.  He also blocked a field goal attempt.  Owen Growney had eight tackles with two interceptions.  On offense, the Hawks had another strong showing from Nico Gagliardi with 212 yards rushing and four TDs.  Jesse Boley caught six passes for 110 yards and a score.

Defense also carried Thornton past Mountain Range (26-21) last week.  The Trojans created a whopping eight turnovers including three interceptions from Isaac Gomez.  He now has six on the season.  Miles Poole leads the defense with 49 stops and also tops the rushing attack with 474 yards and three TDs.  Isaiah Reese has thrown for 625 yards with Gomez catching 29 passes for 394 yards.

The Metro 2 conference is an open race with Aurora Central (4-1), Denver South (4-1) and Vista Peak (3-2) the top contenders.  None of those three face off this week so there’s a good bet all three pick up wins.  Central and South face winless opponents in Grand Junction (0-5) and Gateway (0-3) so they’re heavily favored.  Vista Peak looks to snap a two-game skid by downing Centaurus.  They were stunned by Heritage in overtime two weeks ago and then blanked by Ponderosa (21-0) last week.

The Northern 2 league is filled with traditional football powers such as Broomfield, Windsor and Brighton but only Erie (5-0) and Silver Creek (3-2) start conference play with winning records overall.  And they meet in week one in the most attractive pairing.

Both teams have played Skyline and Longmont over the past two weeks.  Erie won both and Silver Creek came up short in each.  Erie averages 46 points per game this year and has given up only 48 overall.  Silver Creek allowed 479 yards passing and five TDs to Longmont’s Keegan Patterson last week and now they face another multi-threat QB in Blake Barnett.

Barnett and Caleb Thiesen continue to serve as offensive leaders for Erie.  Barnett finished with 198 yards passing and Thiesen 125 rushing last week.  Both were also involved in three touchdowns.  Erie’s defense was also very good; limiting Skyline to just seven yards rushing and 78 passing.  Six sacks came from six different players and 21 players earned at least one tackle in the 49-point win.

If it becomes a shootout, Silver Creek can move the football and score points.  Bryce Gorr will be the key after combining for 285 yards against Longmont last week.

Windsor (2-3) also hosts Broomfield (1-4) this week.  The Wizards are 20th in RPI and the Eagles are 31st so it’s a big game for both teams concerning playoff hopes.  Brighton (2-3) is favored to beat Greeley West (0-5).

Defending state champion Loveland (4-1) is likely the favorite in the Northern 2.  The Red Wolves begin the league run at home against Monarch (1-4) this week.  Skyline (3-2) looks to rebound from the Erie loss; venturing to Greeley Central (1-4).  The Wildcats picked up just their second win in three years last week as they beat Greeley West for the first time since 2013.

Now the best game in the conference may be between Grand Junction Central and Longmont.  Both teams are 2-3 and seeking momentum for a late playoff push.  Longmont is 19th in RPI and the Warriors are 24th so both are on the bubble.

A low scoring game favors the Warriors while the Trojans and QB Patterson want to run as many plays as possible.  Patterson has 1,457 yards passing in just four games this year with another 324 on the ground.  He did not play in the loss to Erie.

Central nearly pushed Fruita into overtime last week as their last drive stalled on the one yard line with 50 seconds remaining.  The final was 14-7 so the Warriors were one yard away from tying the game.  They average 154 yards on the ground and probably need to be well above that number this week to keep the Longmont offense on the sideline.