The playoff field was pared to four teams last week, and those four will soon become two. This weekend’s semifinal round includes a regular season rematch in the top half of the bracket, while the bottom pairing has two programs that are trying to reach the 8-man championship game for the first time. Both games are slated for 1pm kicks on Saturday, and they are listed in bracket order.
#5 DAYSPRING CHRISTIAN EAGLES (10-1) AT #1 SEDGWICK COUNTY COUGARS (11-0)
Dayspring Christian trailed #5 Vail Christian 16-6 through one quarter of last week’s quarterfinal contest, but then the Eagles exploded for 24 second period points to gain the upper hand in that affair. A third quarter tally by the visiting Saints cut the DCA lead to 30-28 heading into the fourth quarter, but the Eagles sealed the deal with a final touchdown and conversion in the last frame to advance, 38-28.
Christian Still threw for two scores and rushed for another, while Garrett Krehbiel powered the rushing attack with 148 yards and two touchdowns. Caden Bonnell, who caught one of the TD passes from Still, tallied a team-high 24 tackles, 3.5 for loss. Caleb Martin rang up 14 stops and added an interception, while Connor Clark registered two of the three sacks credited to the Eagles’ defense. Still offset the interception that he threw by picking off a pass on defense.
For Sedgwick County, last week’s quarterfinal tilt with Merino was business as usual. The Cougars picked up their fourth straight shutout and second over the Rams in as many tries, 54-0. Sedgwick County’s defense helped the team build a 26-0 first quarter lead, turning a Merino fumble into a touchdown during the frame. An interception early in the second led to more points, as the Cougars had the mercy clock rolling by halftime. Two more third quarter touchdowns provided the final margin.
This is a rematch from a game played in Julesburg back on October 11th. The teams were knotted at 8 when the first quarter expired, but Sedgwick County pulled away with 48 points over the final three periods. The defense picked off Still twice, and limited Dayspring Christian to just 38 yards on the ground, as the Cougars won 56-16. Clark had 10 tackles for the Eagles, including 1.5 sacks, and Krehbiel had a hand in both offensive scores for DCA, throwing one to Still and rushing for the other.
For all of the history between the two programs, including meeting in the regular season since the Sedgwick County co-op was formed in 2007, they have never met in the playoffs. That regular season series stands at 8-5 in favor of Dayspring Christian, but the Cougars have garnered all of their victories during this five year period of dominance in the classification. Dayspring Christian is seeking to make the finals for the sixth time, and the first since winning its third title in 2013. A win by the Cougars will put them in the championship contest for the fifth consecutive year.
#7 PIKES PEAK CHRISTIAN EAGLES (10-1) AT #3 FOWLER GRIZZLIES (11-0)
After knocking out the number two seed, Sanford, last week, Pikes Peak Christian in the lowest remaining seeded team still in the bracket. As has been the case all season, the defense stood tall for the Eagles in the victory, holding the Indians to 42 points below their season average in the 28-6 decision. That unit forced six turnovers, including a pair of fumble recoveries by Nathan Seay. Hudson Grant had a pick and a fumble recovery for the Eagles.
Offensively, it was the running game that got the job done for Pikes Peak Christian. On a day where the Eagles did not complete a pass, Seay rushed for 158 yards and two scores, while Grant added 143 yards and a TD. That duo combined for 43 carries, as the Eagles utilized a ball control offense. Jackson Thorne also supplied a rushing touchdown, as PPC gained 329 yards on 52 running plays. Grant was perfect on his four PAT kicks, making him 17 of 20 on the season.
The narrowest margin of victory in the quarterfinals belonged to Fowler, who ousted #6 Mancos 34-28 on the road. The Grizzlies did not take their first lead in the contest until a two-point conversion put them on top 22-20 midway through the second quarter. Fowler would own a 28-20 lead at the half, and they extended it to 34-20 early in the fourth quarter. The Bluejays answered immediately, and the Grizzlies had to hold on for the victory.
It was a tough passing day for Luke Bitter, who had more interceptions (2) than completions (1), but he contributed to the rushing attack with 62 yards and a touchdown. Jackson Bates (112 yards, 1 TD), Joshua Daniels (80 yards, 2 TD), Thor Schiffer (77 yards), and Damien Romero (52 yards) helped the Grizzlies amass 383 yards on the ground. Defensively, Braxton Bates picked off a pair of passes, and Bitter offset one of his miscues with an interception, as well. Johnathan Mobbley also had a scoop-and-score for the opportunistic Fowler defense.
By reaching the semifinals, Pikes Peak Christian has matched the deepest playoff run in program history, as the Eagles also made the semis last year. They came up short in that contest with Hoehne. Fowler has made the semifinals only one other time in 8-man, back in 2012. The Grizzlies, who have four championships in five appearances in other classifications, are looking to make their first trip to the finals in this class. The winner of this match-up will host the championship game.