No. 4 Pomona (7-0) vs. No. 1 Cherry Creek (7-0)
When/where: 1 p.m. Saturday at Stutler Bowl
Last meeting: Cherry Creek 14, at Pomona 7, on Nov. 30, 2019
Players to watch: Pomona — Jack Pospisil, Sr., QB, 1,011 total yards (655 rushing), 14 TDs (12 rushing); Chase Muller Jr., RB, 58 carries-416 yards (4 TDs); Juju Howard, Sr., LB, 44 tackles (4.0 for loss), 1.0 sack. Creek — Julian Hammond III, Sr., QB, 91-of-135 for 1,210 passing yards (17 TDs); James Walker II, Sr., RB, 88-864 (11); Chase Penry, Sr., WR, 37 receptions-541 yards (7 TDs).
For the second year in a row, the Bruins and Panthers meet in the 5A semifinals. A year ago, that ended with a 14-7 Cherry Creek win, the program’s fourth in a row over Pomona, and part of a 21-game win streak dating back to the start of the 2019 season. Many of the key figures from that victory are still on the Bruins’ roster, including Hammond, Penry, tight end Gunnar Helm (25-322, 6 TDs) and all-everything star Myles Purchase (5 INTs, 2 INT returns for TDs, 2 punt return TDs). Pomona’s return has been aided by Pospisil’s malleability at QB and a rebuilt defense that’s allowed just 11.3 points per game. The latter will need to be at its best against an explosive Bruins attack.
No. 3 Legend (7-0) vs. No. 2 Valor Christian (6-0)
When/where: 1 p.m. Saturday at Valor Stadium
Last meeting: Valor Christian 44, vs. Legend 7, on Oct. 6, 2017
Players to watch: Legend — Kalen Shoemaker, Sr. QB, 72-of-107, 1,044 (14); Bryce Vaz, Jr., RB, 37-351 (7); Luke Sandy, Jr., DT/OT, 51 tackles (8.0 for loss), 1.0 sacks; Jaxon Muma, Sr., S, 7 INTs. Valor — Gavin Sawchuk, Jr., RB, 93-993 (16); Elijah Hamilton, Sr., LB, 47 tackles (6.0 for loss), 1 INT; Sean McNair, Sr., QB, 47-of-70, 623 (5).
The Titans find themselves in uncharted territory in the 5A semifinals, facing one of the state’s pre-eminent powers. The big question going into Saturday: will Sawchuk, Valor’s five-star running back, be available? He didn’t suit up last week, but it made no difference as Zachary Wiley ran for 114 yards and 4 TDs in a 49-14 win over Cherokee Trail. Legend had a surprise star of its own in a 56-35 quarterfinal win over Fairview, with Vaz torching the Knights for 310 yards and six TDs in place of senior Connor Eise (798 rushing yards, 8 TDs). The running lanes aren’t likely to be as wide against Valor, which has allowed 42 points all season. The Titans defense (10.9 ppg) is salty in its own right.
No. 4 Loveland (7-0) vs. No. 1 Dakota Ridge (7-0)
When/where: 1 p.m. Saturday at Englewood High School
Last meeting: N/A
Players to watch: Loveland — Zack Rakowsky, Sr., RB, 153-1,043 (15); Garrett Harstad, So., QB, 819 total yards, 13 TDs (9 rushing); Ian Loomis, Jr., MLB, 79 tackles (8.0 for loss), 3 INTs, 1.0 sacks. DR — Ben Gultig, Sr., QB, 65-of-93, 1,130 (17); Charlie Offerdahl, Sr., RB/DB, 823 all-purpose yards, 14 TDs (12 rushing), 5 INTs; Spencer Hardy, Sr., DL, 25 tackles (7.0 for loss), 9.0 sacks.
Dakota Ridge is still waiting to come across a defense capable of stopping it. A week ago, the Eagles scored on all 12 of their offensive possessions in a 76-34 rout of Montrose. For the season, they are averaging 54.9 points per game, with dual threat QB Gultig (second on team with 451 rushing yards) the operator of a multi-pronged attack capable of hurting teams in a variety of ways. Now comes a Loveland defense that just held Broomfield to one touchdown in a 28-7 quarterfinal win and limited Skyline to its lowest scoring output of the season (26 points). The formula is simple for the Indians: Hold on to the ball with Rakowsky and the run game, and keep the Eagles offense off the field.
No. 6 Fountain-Fort Carson (6-1) vs. No. 2 Palmer Ridge (5-0)
When/where: 1 p.m. Saturday at Guy R. Barickman Stadium
Last meeting: N/A
Players to watch: FFC — Q Jones, Sr., RB, 165-1,727 (19); Tavian Tuli, So. QB, 685 total yards, 10 TDs (2 rushing); Tai Faavae, So., MLB, 47 tackles (3.0 for loss), 3.0 sacks, 2 INTs. PR — Luke McAllister, Sr., QB, 73-of-101, 1,437 (21); Marcellus Reed, Sr., WR, 16-520 (7); Cameron Jones, Sr., DE, 20 tackles (6.0 for loss), 4.0 sacks.
Two combustible offenses that get the job done in completely different ways meet in a battle of Pikes Peak region powers. For Fountain-Fort Carson, it’s all about pounding the ball with the state’s leading rusher in Jones. For Palmer Ridge, it’s airing it out with CSU commit McAllister and his many FBS-level weapons, including senior Kaden Dudley and junior Anthony Costanzo. The Trojans survived a 41-38 barn-burner against Ponderosa a week ago. Can they do the same against a Palmer Ridge defense that’s allowed double-digit points in just one of five contested games?
No. 4 Pueblo South (5-0) vs. No. 1 Roosevelt (6-0)
When/where: 1 p.m. Saturday at Roosevelt High School
Last meeting: N/A
Players to watch: South — George Longoria, Sr. RB, 129-816 (12); Jace Bellah, Jr., QB, 792 total yards, 7 TDs (3 rushing); Luke Guarienti, Sr., WR, 15-307 (3). Roosevelt — Brig Hartson, Sr., QB, 1,177 total yards, 15 TDs (2 rushing); Clayton Robinson, Jr. OLB, 44 tackles (14.0 for loss), 5.5 sacks; Cooper Walton, Jr., OLB, 55 tackles (13.0 for loss), 2.5 sacks, 1 INT.
Pueblo South has only played four contested games this season — Mead forfeited last week’s quarterfinal due to COVID-19 — but when the Colts have seen the field, they’ve been hard to stop. All-star running back Longoria has gone for 160-plus yards each game, and dual-threat QB Bellah has kept defenses honest through the air. In Roosevelt, however, the Colts face a defense that has surrendered just 16 points in its last four games — all of which came in a 17-16 quarterfinal win over Fort Morgan last weekend.
No. 3 Durango (6-0) vs. No. 2 Holy Family (7-0)
When/where: noon Saturday at Mike G. Gabriel Stadium
Last meeting: N/A
Players to watch: Durango — Jordan Woolverton, Sr., QB, 1,037 total yards, 15 TDs (6 rushing); Ben Finneseth, Sr., WR, 561 total yards (324 rushing), 9 TDs (6 rushing); Kyler Reimers, Sr., DE, 47 tackles, 4.0 sacks. HF — Michael White, Sr., QB, 59-of-106, 1,145 (16); Trevin Johnson, Sr., RB, 99-869 (12); Justin Trostel, Sr., LB, 30 tackles (6.0 for loss), 3.0 sacks, 3 INTs.
Two programs unaccustomed to the state semifinals — neither has reached this level in more than a decade — face off for a chance to play for the 3A title next week in Pueblo. Both teams have had a relatively easy time of things so far this season, with Durango’s 17-8 win over Evergreen earlier this fall the only single-digit victory among the two. Holy Family just beat that same Evergreen team (sans QB Griffin Lauritano) 41-6 in the quarterfinals, while Durango made quick work of Lutheran, 47-6.