This week is going to be a true test as to how tough it is to beat the same team twice in one season. The Class 5A football playoffs have moved into the quarterfinals and of the four games on the schedule this week, three of them are rematches of games that took place in the regular season.
With tape to study from the previous matchups, it’ll be interesting to see how those six teams adjust to either show something different to get another win or correct mistakes that led to a loss.
Here is a quick rundown of the four 5A football playoff games for this week.
FEATURE PHOTO BY KEVIN KEYSER
#9 Columbine (9-3) at #1 Valor Christian (11-0)
To get into the quarterfinals, Valor Christian didn’t need a lot from one of its standouts. Gavin Sawchuk carried the ball just five times for 30 and watched as little brother Gabe carried the ball 13 times for 93 yards and two touchdowns as the Eagles beat Fort Collins 52-2. The Eagles jumped out to a quick 45-0 lead in the first half and cruised through the second half thanks to a running clock. Mitchell Bigelow, Gavin Bibik and Trey Stott all picked off as part of the solid defense effort from the top team in the state. Now the Eagles look toward Columbine. The last time the two teams met in the quarterfinals, it was the Rebels surviving and advancing. In the regular season meeting this year, the elder Sawchuk ran for 154 yards and scored three touchdowns.
Giving Andy Lowry a second chance at any team can be dangerous. The Rebels gave the Eagles on of their best games of the season and learning from that loss is something the longtime Columbine does better than most in the state. Seth Cromwell ran for 135 yards and a touchdown in that loss and will likely see plenty of carries going his way. In last’s week’s win over Arvada West (another team that beat Columbine in the regular season), Cromwell found the end zone three times. If the Rebels can sustain a solid ground attack and keep the Eagles past-paced offense off the field, there is a possibility that the No. 1 seed could be sent home early.
#7 Regis (8-3) at #2 Cherry Creek (9-2)
Cherry Creek junior quarterback Christian Hammond may have had his best offensive game when the Bruins beat Regis 34-14 back on Sept. 24. He threw for 243 yards and a touchdown to give the offense a needed spark. It was Blake Purchase and the Bruins defense that truly set the tone, however. He sacked Exander Carroll twice and the team finished with five sacks overall. Aiden Knapke contributed by picking off a Brandon Severn’s pass. That defense was on fully display again last week as Cherry Creek beat Mountain Vista 34-0 to advance to the quarterfinals.
The Raiders didn’t quite have the easy path to the quarterfinals that Cherry Creek did. They met a very hot Pomona squad and battled to a 28-21 win. Carroll led all rushers with 136 yards while his brother Zavier found the end zone twice. The siblings combined to rush for 67 yards in the loss to Creek earlier in the year so they’ll have to find a way to be more productive on the ground if they plan on playing in the state semifinals next week. This will be the sixth meeting between Regis and Cherry Creek in the postseason. The Bruins have won all five of the previous meetings with the most recent coming last year when they topped the Raiders 29-6.
#5 Ralston Valley (9-2) at #4 Grandview (9-2)
It was Week 3 of the regular season when Ralston Valley handed Grandview its first loss of the season. The Mustangs jumped out to a quick 17-0 lead in that game and Zach Friedman finished the day with 158 passing yards and one touchdown. Friedman and Marquel Collins each scored rushing touchdowns to put the game out of reach for the Wolves. Logan Madden took over the passing attack last week and threw for 229 yards and four touchdowns as the Mustangs beat Cherokee Trail 42-20 to advance to the quarterfinals. The Mustangs got off to a bit of a slow start and fell behind 14-0 after the first quarter, but when the offense found its rhythm, it was nearly impossible to slow down. They finished the day with 522 yards of total offense which would get a win in any round of the playoffs.
The loss to Ralston Valley came primarily as a result of the Wolves being ineffective on the offensive side of the ball. They totaled just 212 yards for the entire game and were limited to 83 yards on the ground. Moosah Alsaffar was contained to just 68 rushing yards, one of just three games in which he was held under 100 yards. In last week’s playoff win over Mullen, Alsaffar rushed for 101 yards and scored a pair of touchdowns. Liam Szarka had himself a solid day as well, throwing for 314 yards and two touchdowns. The Mustangs and Wolves have met in the playoff one other time and that was when Grandview got a 17-14 win in the third round of the 2011 playoffs.
#6 Arapahoe (9-2) at #3 Legend (10-1)
Of the four games on the schedule, this is the only one in which the teams did not play each other in the regular season. In terms of common opponents, they both played Mountain Vista and Rock Canyon. Legend beat both teams while Arapahoe split the contests, beating the Jaguars and losing to the Golden Eagles. This is also the first time that Warriors and Titans have met in the postseason. The Warriors got to the semifinals with a 23-16 win over ThunderRidge, but led the game wire-to-wire, taking a 7-0 lead in the first quarter and never looked back. A win over Legend would give Arapahoe two playoffs wins in the same season for the first time since 2012.
A win for Legend would put the Titans in the semifinals in back-to-back years for the first time in school history. They reached the semis last year before losing to Valor Christian 45-0. But this is a much different Legend team. In last week’s win over Rock Canyon, Bryce Vaz ran for 150 yards and three touchdown and figures to once again be a big part of the game plan for the Titans. Vaz has gone over 100 rushing yards seven times this season and twice he has gone for over 230. In the last four games, he has run for a total of 705 yards and 13 touchdowns. The Titans have long been seen as a dangerous team in the playoffs and if Vaz continues to dominate the run game the way he has recently, they could find themselves making their way to Empower Field at Mile High in a couple of weeks.