#1 Columbine vs. #9 Highlands Ranch
I love this game on paper! The two best backs in the state, Joe Hansley and Cameron McDondle square off as their teams fight to move to the semis. Mcdondle and Hansley will get theirs. They have all season, so much of this could fall on other playmakers as well as the defensive side of the ball. For Columbine Cameron’s younger but no less talented sibling Bernard has put together a strong season highlighted by 13 yards a carry and 12 scores. It will be tough for a Highlands Ranch team that has, at times given up yards. In a week one loss to Grand Junction the Falcons surrendered nearly 500 rush yards and during a midseason loss to Chaparral, Highlands Ranch game up 150 yards to junior runner Zach Guy. Columbine will not be tricky and will pound the ball, the question is whether the Falcon front seven can handle the onslaught.
This game could be a scorefest if Highlands Ranch spreads it out QB Steve Donatell has been very efficient this year and has three very good receivers in Hansley, Adam Gauthier and 6-5 Connor McFadden. Columbine has the potential to give up pass plays to this talented group.
When in doubt, I always take the run game and the Rebels have two of the state’s best runners. Further, the Falcons top offensive playmakers double as defenders and may wear down late in the game. Highlands Ranch will need to get up early if they want a shot at this one, but it is hard for me to go against Columbine. Look for the Rebels to take this one 28-14.
#5 Grandview vs. #4 Ralston Valley
Both of these squads can play defense as evidenced by the 16 points per game surrendered by Grandview and the 10 points a game surrendered by Ralston Valley. The key to this one could be the recent offensive balance of the Wolves. Last week, while putting up 51 points on Cherry Creek ,QB Jordan Schlehuber was very strong throwing two touchdown passes while running back Isaiah Jackson rushed for 159 yards. Ralston Valley’s multi-headed run game paced by power back Riley Hauptman will attempt to limit Grandview possessions. This one could be close but look for the Wolves to make enough plays to win 21-10.
#2Grand Junction vs. #10 Lakewood
This game has no lack of playmakers with Sean Rubalcaba and Jerreon Dennis matching up against Lakewood’s John Greer and Dylan Nelson. Defense will make the difference here and Grand Junction looks more apt to stop the Tigers. Expect some points as Grand Junction takes this one 42-17.
#3 Pomona vs. #6 Mullen
It is tough for me to pick against a three time champ, but Pomona will win this one. The Panthers are playing great football having outscored opponents 128-14 the last three games. Offensive balance and tough D are key to the Panthers. Mullen is Mullen and they do not lack skill players and experience. This one will be close but the Panthers should prevail in what could be 5As game of the week 24-21.