State champions will be crowned in Class 5A, 4A and 3A on Saturday in Denver and Pueblo. Here’s a scouting report of the teams competing for titles:
No. 1 Cherry Creek (11-2) vs. No. 2 Valor Christian (11-2)
When/where: 2:30 p.m. Saturday at Empower Field at Mile High
Creek players to watch: Blake Purchase, sr., OLB (Oregon commit, 57 tackles, 18.0 sacks); Chase Brackney, sr., DE (Iowa, 63 tackles, 6.0 sacks); Logan Brantley, sr., LB (Kansas, 6 INTs); Ismael Cisse, sr., WR (46 receptions, 886 yards, 13 TDs); Hank Zilinskas, sr., OL (Colorado); Carlson Tann, sr., RB (1,224 rush yards, 14 TDs).
Valor players to watch: Gabe Sawchuk, jr., RB/DB (736 rush yards, 7 TDs); Asher Weiner, jr., QB (1,689 total yards, 16 TDs passing/rushing); Tanner Morley, sr., OT, (Colorado St.); Roman Bradley, sr., LB/FB (148 tackles, 12.0 TFLs, 6 rushing TDs); Trey Stott, sr., WR/DB (572 total yards, 12 TDs); Jake Krekeler, jr., WR/S (898 total yards, 9 TDs).
For the third year in a row, and the fourth time in five years, Creek and Valor meet to decide the 5A champion. Head coach Dave Logan’s Bruins won the past two meetings by identical 21-0 scores as part of a run of three consecutive 5A championships. Now comes a shot at history. Well, more history. The Bruins can become the first program to win four consecutive 5A titles (Creek has won three straight twice, Mullen once). And Logan can become the first Colorado prep football coach to win 11 state titles one year after tying Limon coaching legend Lloyd Gaskill at 10.
On the other side, first-year Valor coach Bret McGatlin is looking to pull off a rare feat of his own by winning titles at 4A and 5A in back-to-back seasons. Brent Vieselmeyer did it in 2011 and ’12, but that was at the same school (Valor). McGatlin won the 4A title in the final year of a 16-season run at Chatfield last year. Now he has the Eagles thriving with the same multi-faceted, misdirection offense that helped carry the Chargers to state glory last season. The challenge now: Getting it to hum against a Cherry Creek defense loaded with talent at all three levels, and highly productive junior linebackers Angelo Petrides (127) and Jake Howell (113) at the center of it.
Logan often saves a wrinkle for the end of the season. Two years ago, it was future Iowa State defensive back Myles Purchase suddenly taking carries out of the backfield. Last year, it was Ohio State offensive line pledge George Fitzpatrick lining up on the defensive line in the title game. Could he have another trick up his sleeve Saturday?
No. 2 Broomfield (13-0) vs. No. 4 Loveland (12-1)
When/where: 11 a.m. Saturday at Empower Field at Mile High
Broomfield players to watch*: Cole LaCrue, sr., QB (Wisconsin, 3,227 total yards, 44 TDs passing/rushing); Luke Francis, sr., RB (1,004 rush yards, 12 TDs); Anthony Cobb, jr., WR (37 receptions, 714 yards, 10 TDs); Brent Harris, jr., WR/DB (716 total yards, 10 TDs, 5 INTs); Garrett Keeler, sr., OLB (97 tackles, 17.5 TFLs); Mikhail Benner, so., DB (10 INTs).
Loveland players to watch: Garrett Harstad, sr., QB (2,463 total yards, 34 TDs passing/rushing), Drew Foley, sr., RB/OLB (962 total yards, 14 TDs), Caden Stansbury, jr., DE (85 tackles, 18.0 TFLs); Ty Young, sr., OLB/TE (102 tackles, 13.0 TFLs); Dylan Lindgren, sr., MLB (87 tackles, 10.5 TFLs); Cody Lease, sr., S/WR (7 career INTs).
Loveland’s streak of even-year voodoo has it one win away from the program’s third 4A title in five seasons (and ninth overall). The previous two championship teams (2018 and ’20) did it in much the same way the current iteration has — with a salty defense and a physical, pound-the-rock offense. Yet each of Loveland’s three recent title-game teams has been led by a different coach: Wayne McGinn in ’18, Jeff Mauck in ’20 and now Allan Jeffries in his second season.
Meanwhile, coach Blaire Hubbard’s Broomfield Eagles are attempting to win the program’s first state title since 1984. The Eagles have been to the title game twice (2016 and ’19) under Hubbard, who won three championships during a 14-year tenure at Faith Christian, but lost to Pine Creek both times. Now the Eagles have an FBS-caliber starting quarterback in Cole LaCrue, and a playmaking defense that’s allowed just 10.1 points/game this season with four shutouts, 38 takeaways and 46 tackles for loss.
Loveland’s defense has been even stingier, allowing just 8.8 points/game, with last week’s 10-7 win over top-ranked Palmer Ridge its latest tour de force. Take away the Red Wolves’ season-opening loss to 5A Fossil Ridge (36-35), and they’ve allowed roughly a touchdown a game (6.5) to 4A opponents. But will they be able to put the clamps down on LaCrue, who threw on a cape in last week’s 36-32 come-from-behind win over Erie with four rushing TDs in the final two quarters?
No. 1 Roosevelt (13-0) vs. No. 3 Lutheran (11-2)
When/where: 1 p.m. Saturday at CSU Pueblo ThunderBowl
Roosevelt players to watch: Xavier Ramirez, jr., RB (1,977 rush yards, 28 TDs); Ryan Doucette, sr., RB/DB (1,058 rush yards, 5 INTs); Tucker Peterson, sr., WR/OLB (41 receptions, 831 yards, 13 TDs); Elizar Valencia, sr., DE (13.5 sacks, 29.0 TFLs); Ryne Knutson, sr., MLB (80 tackles, 18.0 TFLs); Bronco Hartson, jr., QB (1,942 total yards, 26 TDs, passing/rushing).
Lutheran players to watch*: Ryken Daugaard, jr., QB (2,475 yards, 26 TDs passing); Ryan Kenny, sr., RB/MLB (1,460 rush yards, 24 TDs; 16 TFLs); Joe Ciccio, jr., WR/DB (68 receptions, 1,199 yards, 15 TDs); Joshua Ayers, sr., MLB (83 tackles, 26.0 TFLs); Landen Mroczek, jr., DL/OL (21.0 TFLs); Trey Ciccio, sr., WR/DB (10 TFLs, 3 INTs).
For the Roosevelt Rough Riders, this Saturday offers a chance at redemption. Two years ago, the Rough Riders lost a heartbreaker to Durango in the 3A title game. The next fall, Lane Wasinger’s squad ran roughshod over everyone en route to the 3A bracket’s top seed only to fall to Mead in a semifinal upset. Now, at the end of a three-year period that’s seen Roosevelt compile a 31-2 record, a strong class of seniors gets one last shot to deliver the program’s first state title.
Lutheran finds itself in uncharted waters as state title game participants for the first time in the private school’s brief football history. Head coach Stephen Robbins has built the Lions into a 3A powerhouse over his seven seasons in Parker. And the team he brings to the ThunderBowl may be his most complete yet. They have a quarterback who’s thrown for over 2,000 yards, a running back who’s run for over 1,000 yards and a receiver who’s hauled in more than 1,000 yards in receptions. Throw in a defense that’s compiled more than 140 tackles for loss and three shutouts, and it’s hard to pinpoint any weaknesses in the Lions.
Neither team has had to sweat much this fall. Only 5A Highlands Ranch, which lost to Roosevelt 25-22, has been able to come within two touchdowns of the Rough Riders. Lutheran has run through a similarly long list of double-digit blowouts against 3A foes, with its two losses coming to 4A quarterfinalist Montrose and its Lutheran counterpart out of Missouri in Week 1. That should change Saturday.
* Defensive stats missing from some games on Maxpreps.com.
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