Posted On: 11/16/20 5:34 PM
There has long been reason to wonder if the day would ever come at all, but the high school football postseason has finally arrived in Colorado.
Starting this week in all classifications, teams that battled their way through a shortened season, rampant cancellations and COVID-19 protocols are scheduled to take the field and open the playoffs with the quarterfinals for all seven classifications. As we go bracket-by-bracket to look at each matchup and the game-changing prospects to keep an eye on, start at the top with Class 5A.
No. 1 Cherry Creek vs. No. 8 Regis Jesuit
Cherry Creek is the clear favorite here and the Bruins should be after leaving a trail of devastation while going undefeated and outscoring their six regular-season opponents by a 265-28 margin. The defending 5A state champions have simply overpowered teams this fall with a unique combination of power up front and speed all over the field. Cherry Creek has nearly a dozen high-profile recruits in its senior class alone, including Arden WalkerArdenWalker6'4" | DLCherry Creek | 2021StateCO (uncommitted), Gunnar HelmGunnarHelm6'5" | TECherry Creek | 2021StateCO (Texas), Al Ashford IIIAlAshford III6'1" | DBCherry Creek | 2021StateCO (Wisconsin), Chase PenryChasePenry6'1" | WRCherry Creek | 2021StateCO (Colorado), Myles PurchaseMylesPurchase5'11" | DBCherry Creek | 2021StateCO (Iowa State), Arden WalkerArdenWalker6'4" | DLCherry Creek | 2021StateCO (uncommitted), Gunnar HelmGunnarHelm6'5" | TECherry Creek | 2021StateCO (Texas), Al Ashford IIIAlAshford III6'1" | DBCherry Creek | 2021StateCO (Wisconsin), Chase PenryChasePenry6'1" | WRCherry Creek | 2021StateCO (Colorado), Myles PurchaseMylesPurchase5'11" | DBCherry Creek | 2021StateCO (Iowa State), Gus ZilinskasGusZilinskas6'3" | DLCherry Creek | 2021StateCO (Rutgers), Julian Hammond IIIJulianHammond III6'2" | QBCherry Creek | 2021StateCO (Colorado basketball), and others. James Walker IIJamesWalker II5'10" | WRCherry Creek | 2021StateCO is Cherry Creek’s leading rusher and poses a game-breaking threat whenever he touches the ball in any phase of the game, as does Purchase. Penry and Helm have combined for 13 receiving touchdowns while Ky OdayKyOday5'10" | WRCherry Creek | 2022StateCO (2022) has emerged as one of the top receivers in a graduating class that features premier offensive line recruit George FitzpatrickGeorgeFitzpatrick6'6" | OLCherry Creek | 2022StateCO. Luis Lozano (2021) and Jaxson Hurd (2021) are the tackling leaders on a Bruins defense that allowed just 4.7 points a game in the regular season. For Regis Jesuit, running back David DodyDavidDody5'11" | RBRegis Jesuit | 2021StateCO (2021) leads the offense with 514 yards and nine touchdowns through six games. Sophomore quarterback Exander Carroll has done well in his first opportunity, throwing for 570 yards and four touchdowns. Those two operate alongside several talented senior recruits in Clay NankeClayNanke6'6" | DLRegis Jesuit | 2021StateCO, Anthony TocchiniAnthonyTocchini6'4" | OLRegis Jesuit | 2021StateCO (New Mexico State), Matthew BaerMatthewBaer6'1" | DLRegis Jesuit | 2021StateCO, Alexander BrunsAlexanderBruns6'3" | OLRegis Jesuit | 2021StateCO and Bryan MottramBryanMottram6'1" | LBRegis Jesuit | 2021StateCO. No. 4 Pomona vs. No. 5 Eaglecrest Pomona reached the state semifinals a year ago before falling 14-7 to eventual champion Cherry Creek, so the Panthers are on the short list of teams with an outside shot at unseating the champs in a couple weeks. Eaglecrest is also near the top of that list but just suffered a 50-0 loss at the Bruins’ hands this past weekend. For Jay Madden’s unbeaten Panthers, Jack PospisilJackPospisil5'9" | WRPomona | 2021StateCO (Central Missouri) has been as electric as ever after moving from wide receiver to quarterback this season. The senior speed merchant has rushed for 593 yards and 10 touchdowns while also returning a kickoff for a touchdown against Mullen two weeks ago. Running back Chase Muller (2022) has also had a good year, putting up 366 yards and four scores behind a line that features Anthony DevriesAnthonyDevries6'0" | OLPomona | 2021StateCO (2021). Juju Howard and Marcus Geypens are the leading tacklers on the Panthers defense. Over on the Eaglecrest offense, quarterback Khalil Howard is averaging 188.8 passing yards a week behind a junior-heavy offensive line led by Braden MillerBradenMiller6'6" | OLEaglecrest | 2022StateCO (2022) and Kaden WeatherbyKadenWeatherby6'6" | OLEaglecrest | 2022StateCO (2022). Many of Howard’s passes have found the hands of either 6-foot-5 receiver Ty RobinsonTyRobinson6'3" | WREaglecrest | 2021StateCO (Colorado) or two-way standouts Seyi OladipoSeyiOladipo5'11" | DBEaglecrest | 2021StateCO (Boise State) and Langston WilliamsLangstonWilliams5'10" | DBEaglecrest | 2021StateCO (Colorado State). JP Luketu (2021) leads the Raptors with 547 yards and 11 rushing touchdowns, and Adrian CordovaAdrianCordova6'0" | LBEaglecrest | 2021StateCO (2021) has been excellent for the Raptors' defensive unit. No. 2 Valor Christian vs. No. 7 Cherokee Trail There are some big-time recruits playing in this one on both sides of each line. That list includes Cherokee Trail’s Sam HartSamHart6'5" | TECherokee Trail | 2021StateCO (Ohio State), Mason MaddoxMasonMaddox6'3" | OLCherokee Trail | 2021StateCO (2021) and Travis GrayTravisGray6'6" | OLCherokee Trail | 2022StateCO (2022), as well as Valor’s Nick LyonNickLyon6'5" | OLValor Christian | 2021StateCO, Jake MaikkulaJakeMaikkula6'6" | OLValor Christian | 2022StateCO and Kaiden ParrishKaidenParrish6'3" | OLValor Christian | 2022StateCO, to name a few. Valor Christian’s group up front will look to keep opening up holes for top 2022 recruit Gavin SawchukGavinSawchuk5'11" | RBValor Christian | 2022StateCO, who already has 993 yards on 92 carries (10.7-yard average) and 16 touchdowns in just five games. Cherokee Trail’s will try to buy time for senior quarterback Jayden Lavigne (1,287 passing yards) to get the ball to playmakers like junior Nathan GayeNathanGaye5'10" | RBCherokee Trail | 2022StateCO (635 rushing yards), junior Jack PierceJackPierce5'8" | WRCherokee Trail | 2022StateCO (495 receiving yards), and of course, Hart. Defensively, Hunter Wilson (2021) leads Cherokee Trail with 8.8 tackles per game and Maddox has four sacks on the season. Valor Christian's senior linebacker Elijah HamiltonElijahHamilton6'0" | LBValor Christian | 2021StateCO leads the Eagles with 39 total tackles in five games and the Valor defense has five total interceptions. No. 3 Legend vs. No. 6 Fairview Both of these teams scored a ton of points and not given up much at all on their way to going 6-0 during the regular season. So, this game is likely to be the most unpredictable of them all. What we can say for sure is that Fairview will throw, Legend will run and both defenses will be ball-hawking the whole game with designs on keeping up the turnover-forcing pace they have been on all fall. For a Fairview defense that has allowed an average of just 14.2 points, senior Jay BarryJayBarry6'1" | WRDenver East | 2021StateCO, who transferred in after playing for Denver East last season, leads the team with five of the Knights’ 13 total interceptions. For Legend, senior Jaxon MumaJaxonMuma6'1" | DBLegend | 2021StateCO has a team-high nine picks on a defense that conceded an average of only 6.8 points a game during the regular season. Watch for other defensive players like Fairview’s Brayden WoodBraydenWood6'3" | DLFairview | 2021StateCO (Kansas State), Liam HuberLiamHuber5'11" | DBFairview | 2021StateCO (2021) and Aidan ChristiansenAidanChristiansen5'7" | WRFairview | 2021StateCO (2021), or Legend’s J.T. AxelrodJ.T.Axelrod6'0" | LBLegend | 2021StateCO (2021), most of whom play both ways, to try and change the game with a big play. The next in a long line of talented quarterbacks at Fairview, senior Liam O’BrienLiamO’Brien6'0" | QBFairview | 2021StateCO (2021) has already thrown for 1,860 yards and 18 touchdowns to the likes of Grant PageGrantPage6'2" | WRFairview | 2022StateCO (2022), Barry, Huber, Christiansen and Josh Rouland (2021). Legend’s Kalen ShoemakerKalenShoemaker5'10" | QBLegend | 2021StateCO (2021) has thrown for 890 yards and 14 scores, Connor Eise (2021) has rushed for 798 yards and eight scores, and Blake DoudBlakeDoud6'4" | WRLegend | 2021StateCO (2021) has caught 20 passes for 315 yards and six touchdowns.