No. 1 ThunderRidge (9-1) vs. No. 17 Cherry Creek (6-4) @ Stutler Bowl, 7 p.m. Nov. 9
Game plan: Cherry Creek opened the 5A playoffs on the road and looked impressive in a 49-21 win over No. 16 Brighton. Tahj Willingham gained 200 yards and scored four touchdowns, while backfield mate Daryl McNeil gained 189 yards and scored three touchdowns. They’ll host the top-seeded Grizzlies this week, and the defense will have its hands full. ThunderRidge averages over 300 yards rushing per game - 302.9 to be exact - and score nearly 40 points (39.8) a game.
ThunderRidge quarterback Brody Westmoreland has thrown for 1,452 yards with 13 touchdowns and eight interceptions. Running back Steve Ray has gained 1,349 yards on 232 carries (5.8 yards per carry) and scored 18 touchdowns. Jake Hand has nearly 900 yards on the season (856) and has scored 10 touchdowns. He’s also caught 21 passes for 439 yards with three more touchdowns. Mark Hopper (23-506-5) and Jesse Kreiger (20-284-4) are two other big receiving targets for Westmoreland. Sam Pauling leads the defense with 81 tackles (41 solo).
Bottom line: The Bruins can score points to hang with the Grizzlies but they can’t trade touchdowns with the explosive ThunderRidge offense. Cherry Creek’s defense will need to force a couple of turnovers to give its team a chance at pulling the upset.
No. 5 Arapahoe (9-1) vs. No. 21 Horizon (7-3) @ North Stadium, 7 p.m. Nov. 9
Game plan: According to Arapahoe coach Mike Campbell, Horizon runs a similar offensive system as the Warriors. Horizon quarterback Auston Stackhouse has completed 85-of-172 passes for 1,556 yards with 21 touchdowns and just seven interceptions on the season.
In the backfield, Dante Chand leads the way with 692 yards on 119 carries and six touchdowns. Bryce Killmon is another player out of the backfield to keep an eye on; he’s gained 441 yards on 72 carries and scored a pair of touchdowns. Dustin Rivas is the team’s top receiver with 33 catches for 752 yards and 10 touchdowns.
No. 1 Kent Denver (10-0) @ No. 9 Brush (8-2), 1 p.m. Nov. 10
Game plan: After largely cruising through the regular season, top-seeded Kent Denver found itself tied at 21-21 with No. 16 Strasburg last week to open the 2A playoffs. While the Sun Devils did ultimately win by two scores, they now face a tough road challenge.
Brush, winners of six straight, score just over 40 points per game (40.7) and gain nearly 300 yards (298.5) on the ground. When they do pass, quarterback Mitch Tormohlen is efficient; he’s thrown just one interception on the season against 16 touchdown passes. He’s completed 57 of his 121 attempts for 1,061 yards.
On the ground, Kyle Rosenbrock leads the charge with 1,496 yards on just 169 carries (8.9 yards per carry) and has scored 21 touchdowns. Michael Gutierrez (47-359-3), Jake Morrow (54-360-5), Tormohlen (51-266-4) and Eddie Erives (46-205-2) are players to keep an eye on.
Defensively for Brush, Morrow has a team-most 61 tackles (47 solo), while Randy Baker has 44 total tackles.
Bottom line: Kent Denver nearly gave up as many points last week as they had the entire regular season. They’ll have to shore up things defensively against a tough Brush squad that will have its home supporters behind them on what figures to be a cold afternoon.