Scouting the Colorado high school football semifinals in Class 5A, 4A and 3A

Class 5A

No. 5 Pine Creek (10-2) at No. 1 Cherry Creek (10-2), 1 p.m.: Once a big fish in the smaller 4A pond, Pine Creek has proven it can play with the state’s best in its first year at the 5A level. The Eagles just held Grandview, the same team that upset Cherry Creek three weeks ago, to a season-low three points last week, with the three-headed rushing attack of Luke Zimmerman, Mason Miller and Jonathan Coar combining for 238 yards on the ground. Now comes the ultimate proving ground: A date with the three-time defending 5A champion Bruins. After last week’s 42-7 thumping of ThunderRidge in the quarterfinals, Cherry Creek has won 13 consecutive playoff games dating back to 2019 — with the last nine coming by an average margin of 28.1 points.

No. 3 Ralston Valley (10-2) at No. 2 Valor Christian (10-2), 1 p.m.: There’s little doubt Ralston Valley is champing at the bit to get another shot at Valor. Rewind back to Week 5 of the regular season, and the Mustangs held a 23-7 lead over the Eagles minutes into the fourth quarter — only to see Valor rally for a stunning 27-23 victory. Valor hasn’t looked back since, ripping off seven consecutive double-digit wins en route to its third consecutive 5A semifinals trip. The Mustangs haven’t lost since, either, with first-year head coach Jared Yannacito’s defense allowing just 14 total points in playoff wins over Chatfield and Columbine. Now comes the hard part: Figuring out how to stop Valor head coach Bret McGatlin’s multi-dimensional attack that’s scored 136 points over its last three games.

Class 4A

No. 4 Loveland (11-1) at No. 1 Palmer Ridge (12-0), 1 p.m.: For the second time in three years, Loveland and Palmer Ridge meet in the playoffs. The first meeting — a 42-6 rout in the 2020 4A title game — saw Loveland roll up 371 yards without attempting a pass. While it’s hard to imagine Loveland repeating that feat Saturday, there’s little doubt they will lean heavily on a ground game led by seniors Garrett Harstad (180 carries, 1,625 yards) and Drew Foley (130-863). The Bears’ offense has size up front, led by Yale commit Jackson St. Aubyn, and weapons in the backfield in RB Nathaniel Robinson (1,032 yards rushing in eight games) and dual-threat QB Derek Hester (2,520 total yards). Still, moving the ball against a Loveland defense that’s accumulated 78 tackles for loss and allowed just 8.9 points/game is no small task.

No. 11 Erie (9-4) at No. 2 Broomfield (12-0), 1 p.m.: Erie’s Blake Barnett and Broomfield’s Cole LaCrue meet for the second time this year in a rematch of future FBS quarterbacks. LaCrue’s Eagles got the better of the Tigers in the first meeting, with the Wisconsin commit running for four TDs while amassing 225 total yards in a 35-14 win. Erie has lost just once since — 35-14 at Loveland — while topping 40 points in all but one of its last eight wins. Not only has the Broomfield defense not allowed an opponent to reach 30 points, the Eagles posted shutouts in their first two playoff wins with senior DE Garrett Keeler registering 3.5 of his team-high 17.5 tackles for loss. A similar performance would put Broomfield in the 4A title game for the second time in four years. Erie is looking to make a return trip to Empower Field but will have to knock off a higher-seeded team for the third week in a row to do it.

Class 3A

No. 5 Green Mountain (12-0) at No. 1 Roosevelt (12-0), 1 p.m.: If styles make fights, this could make for one heck of a slugfest. The Rams bring the stingiest defense in the state to Johnstown — one that’s held 10 of 12 opponents to a touchdown or less while posting six shutouts. Waiting for them will be a Roosevelt squad that’s averaging 41.5 points and 427.5 yards a game with a pair of 1,000-yard rushers in Xavier Ramirez and Ryan Doucette and a big-play receiver in Tucker Peterson (39 receptions, 801 yards). Roosevelt is in the 3A semifinals for the third consecutive season and looking to return to the title game for the second time in three years. Green Mountain hasn’t reached the championship round since winning the 4A crown in 1999.

No. 3 Lutheran (10-2) at No. 2 Durango (11-1), 1 p.m.: The Lutheran Lions find themselves one win away from the 3A championship game for the second year in a row. Standing in the way is a Durango program that’s going for its second state title in three seasons. Outside of a 7-0 squeaker against Palisade in Week 10, the Demons have rolled through every Colorado opponent they’ve faced, averaging 46.3 points over eight contested games. Durango seniors Jeric Baruch (151 carries, 1,048 yards) and Zach Haber (125-931) have had big seasons running behind Oklahoma commit Joshua Bates, but they now must face a Lions defense led by senior MLB Joshua Ayers and junior DL Landen Mroczek.

* All games played Saturday

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