CHSAA state football playoffs: Previewing this weekend’s semifinal matchups

Class 5A

No. 1 Valor (12-0) vs. No. 4 Grandview (10-2)

When/where: 1 p.m. Saturday at Valor Stadium

A win away from its second straight 5A championship game trip, Valor has lived up to its billing as the preseason title favorite so far this fall. The Eagles have yet to enter a fourth quarter trailing or tied, with Columbine giving them their toughest test to date in last week’s quarterfinal. A heavy dose of Oklahoma-bound RB Gavin Sawchuk (40 touches, 233 yards, one TD) extinguished the upset bid in a 17-7 win. Next up is a Grandview team fresh off a come-from-behind 20-16 win over Ralston Valley. Sophomore QB Liam Szarka appears to be peaking at the right time, with his two most productive games coming in back-to-back playoff wins: 314 yards/2 TDs vs. Mullen, and 229 yards/3 TDs vs. RV. The Valor defense (18 sacks, 10 interceptions, 8.9 points allowed/game) should offer plenty of resistance.

No. 2 Cherry Creek (10-2) vs. No. 3 Legend (11-1)

When/where: 1 p.m. Saturday at Stutler Bowl

The two-time defending 5A champion Bruins are back in the state semifinals, with Legend the only thing standing between them and a fourth straight trip to the 5A championship. The Titans are aiming for their first title game bid behind an impressive collection of offensive talent in QB Colton Warner (2,128 pass yards, 24 TDs), RB Bryce Vaz (1,875 total yards) and WR Jackson Brush (46 receptions, 779 yards). They will have to earn it against a Creek defense that’s allowed just one TD through two playoff wins and hasn’t given up more than 14 points in a game since Week 4. Junior OLB Blake Purchase (67 tackles, 11.0 sacks) is a menace, but far from the only playmaker on a unit that has 25 sacks and 13 takeaways this season.

Class 4A

No. 1 Montrose (12-0) vs. No. 5 Erie (12-0)

When/where: 1 p.m. Saturday at Erie High

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Montrose’s quest for its first state title since 1950 heads to Erie, where a Tigers team that’s won every game it’s played by double-digits awaits. Led by sophomore QB Blake Barnett (2,457 total yards, 40 total TDs), senior RB Caleb Theisen (1,324 rush yards) and Kansas State O-line commit John Pastore, the Tigers have outscored teams by an average of 31.3 points. Last week’s 28-18 win over Palmer Ridge was their closest yet, with the Bears pulling within three in the fourth quarter, but Barnett immediately responded with his 16th rushing TD to ice it. Montrose beat that same Palmer Ridge team 28-21 earlier this fall and romped in playoff wins over Denver South (56-19) and Fountain-Fort Carson (48-14).

No. 3 Pine Creek (10-2) vs. No. 7 Chatfield (9-3)

When/where: 1 p.m. Saturday at Jeffco Stadium

A week after stunning No. 2 Dakota Ridge, Chatfield hosts perennial 4A power Pine Creek for a shot at its first championship game trip since Dave Logan led the program to the 5A title in 2001. The Chargers have topped 300 yards rushing in a pair of playoff wins, with senior RB Jake Marschall (249 carries, 1,749 yards) accounting for 379 yards and six TDs during that run. But they might have to get creative against a Pine Creek defense that’s a week removed from holding Loveland to just one touchdown in a 10-7 win. The Eagles’ tandem of RB Zion Hill (160 carries, 1,158 yards) and QB Josiah Roy (2,345 total yards) can score in bunches, as well.

Class 3A

No. 1 Roosevelt (12-0) vs. No. 5 Mead (9-2)

When/where: 1 p.m. Saturday at Mead High

Roosevelt is one win away from a return trip to the 3A championship and a shot at redemption after last fall’s heartbreaking loss to Durango. The Roughriders have done it on the backs of their defense, a dominant unit led by CSU commit Cooper Walton — one of four Roosevelt players with 17 tackles for loss — that has given up an average of just 7.8 points/game. Mead got a taste of that earlier this fall, when Roosevelt held the Mavericks to their lowest point total of the season in a 37-7 loss on Oct. 8. Now, after a 14-13 win over Durango last week, senior QB Gavin Garrettson (1,822 total yards) and the Mavs get another chance to solve the Roughrider riddle.

No. 2 Lutheran (12-0) vs. No. 3 Fort Morgan (10-1)

When/where: 1 p.m. Saturday at Lutheran High

Lutheran may be the second-seeded team in the 3A playoffs, but it would be hard to argue with anyone who wants to crown the Lions the favorite of the classification’s final four. Lutheran has beaten every team it’s faced by 21 points or more, including two playoff wins with matching 49-7 scores. QB Clayton Jacobs has punished teams through the air (2,171 pass yards, 29 TDs) and on the ground (887 rush yards, 17 TDs), and the defense is as stingy as any in the state with 120 tackles for loss, 28 sacks and 30 takeaways. If Fort Morgan is to pull the upset, it will need big games from dual threat QB Briggs Wheatley (2,368 total yards) and its own formidable defense (15.7 points allowed/game).

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