By closing out the regular season on a six-game winning streak, highlighted by a comeback 24-20 victory against previously undefeated Coronado on Saturday, Discovery Canyon earned the No. 1 seed Sunday when the Colorado High School Activities Association released the 16-team bracket for the 3A tournament, which begins this weekend.
The Thunder (9-1) were among six Pikes Peak region squads to earn berths in the 3A and 4A playoffs. Postseason tournaments for classes 5A, 2A and 1A concluded first-round play Nov. 2.
All three of the area's 3A teams earned first-round home games. Discovery Canyon will play host to No. 16 Pueblo East (6-4), and South Central League runner-up Coronado (9-1), ranked sixth, will get a visit from 8-2 Rifle. The Classical Academy (8-2), which won the Southern League, earned a No. 7 seed and will host No. 10 Conifer (8-2).
"I thought maybe we'd get No. 2 again," said Thunder coach Shawn Mitchell, whose team went 9-1 during the 2012 regular season, got a No. 2 seed but lost at home to Pueblo Central in the first round. "We're excited, but it's another whole level of stress to take on the No. 1 seed. Of course, everyone wants to knock off the top seed."
In the 4A bracket, red-hot Pine Creek (8-2), which ended the regular season on a seven-game winning streak en route to reclaiming the Pikes Peak League title, is ranked third among the 16-team field, topped only by Montrose (9-1) and Monarch (8-1), the defending 4A state champions.
The third-ranked Eagles will host No. 14 Pueblo South (7-3) in the first round.
Falcon (9-1), whose only loss came at the hands of Pine Creek on Oct. 4, earned a No. 4 ranking and will have a home game against No. 13 Dakota Ridge (6-4). A Falcons victory could set up a second matchup with fifth-seeded Pueblo South (9-1) in the quarterfinals. Falcon dealt South its only loss, 17-7 on Sept. 5 at Dutch Clark Stadium in Pueblo.
At the season's halfway mark, Vista Ridge stood 2-3 and already had lost its first two league games. Then, the Wolves won four straight, nearly beat Falcon on Nov. 1 and accumulated enough wild-card points to earn an at-large berth in the field, getting a No. 15 seed.
This weekend, Vista Ridge (6-4) heads to Louisville to meet Monarch in a rematch of a bitter, 28-21 Wolves home loss last November in the second round of the playoffs.