No. 5 Monarch (10-1) at No. 4 Vista Ridge (10-1), 7 p.m. Friday
Ground-oriented teams have had no luck against Vista Ridge this season (just ask Pine Creek), which does not bode well for Monarch, which has rushed for 95 percent of its offense this season (according to statistics on MaxPreps that do not include every game). That attack has been led by junior Ethan Marks, who has a pair of 240-plus yard games to his credit. While it’s easy to pick out what Monarch does well, it’s not so easy to pinpoint the strength of Vista Ridge — and that’s why the Wolves ought to roll through to the semifinals. Coach Les Johnson’s team has thrown for 1,778 yards and 16 touchdowns and has run for 2,004 yards and 28 touchdowns. The defense has allowed an average of eight points. Running back Brandon Cartagena scored five touchdowns in last week’s playoff victory over Canon City. Someone else might put up a similar line this week. That’s the thing about Vista Ridge, you never know how they’re going to attack you; just that the attack will be tough to stop.
No. 2 Ponderosa (11-0) at No. 10 Mesa Ridge (8-3), 7 p.m. Friday
Sure, this looks lopsided on paper, but so did Ponderosa’s game at Falcon, in which the unbeaten Mustangs escaped with a 3-0 victory. What makes Mesa Ridge extra scary in this one is that the Grizzlies have nothing to lose. They’ve already notched the first football postseason victory in school history, and now they are heavy underdogs. If they play loose and allow quarterback Cody Groff (25 touchdown passes) to take some shots against a defense that will understandably be geared to stop the run (Mesa Ridge has rushed for 2,478 yards and 33 touchdowns), then you never know how things might go. And for as good as Ponderosa has been, there have been some close calls. In addition to the Falcon game, the Mustangs topped Pueblo South 27-21 (Mesa Ridge beat Pueblo South 45-0) and narrowly moved past Pine Creek 13-10. Of course, they’ve also clobbered a few teams, including first-round opponent Green Mountain 35-7. This one should be spirited and bring out the best in the Mesa Ridge crowd, which has never seen a playoff game on its own field.
No. 4 Florence (10-1) at No. 1 Kent Denver (11-0), 1 p.m. Saturday
Well, here they are again. The 2A powers will meet for the fifth time in a span of 26 months, with a spot in the finals on the line. Florence has won three of those first four, but the one loss came this year and in lopsided fashion as the Sun Devils cruised 41-6 at home on Sept. 7. That was way back in Week 2, and no one has come particularly close to Florence since then. Add into the mix that the Huskies will be playing spirited football with hopes of extending outgoing coach Mark Buderus’ time by one more week, and this has the makings of a small-school classic.