After a brilliant season, flooded with marquee wins over some of the top teams around the state, Cheyenne Mountain highlights one of three first-round matchups that feature a favored Pikes Peak Athletic Conference team against a lower-seed Colorado Springs Metro League team.
According to two league representatives with direct knowledge of the playoff-seeding process, the primary reason for the showdown is to cut travel expenses for schools.
Starting Wednesday, Cheyenne Mountain, the unprecedented unanimous No. 1 pick in 4A, hosts No. 32 Woodland Park, three-seed Sand Creek welcomes No. 30 Coronado for the second time this year, and eight-seed Air Academy plays No. 25 Mesa Ridge at the K-Dome.
CSML coaches like Andrew Pappadakis know the odds aren't in their favor.
"We know most people won't give us a shot," the Panthers coach said. "Cheyenne Mountain is very good, but we aren't going in thinking we're going to lose."
It'll be tough not to. A year after taking the 4A crown, the Indians are the clear favorite to win again this season.
Cheyenne Mountain coach Tomas Martinez said he's excited to see the PPAC and CSML face one another to start the postseason.
"Those guys (in CSML) used to be in our league so I think it's (PPAC's) chance to kind of be like big brother picking on little brother," Martinez said. "You don't want to knock out a Colorado Springs team, but they should be fun games."
With 12 experienced seniors a group that could start for any school in the state, the Indians cruised through one of the toughest schedules in girls' soccer. In it, they tied 5A top-seed Fossil Ridge early in the season and beat Pine Creek, which was given a 5A three seed Sunday.
Their No. 1 rank would be very hard to argue, Colorado High School Coaches Association poll director Gregg Braha said.
"Honestly, Cheyenne Mountain is the clear favorite to win 4A and would most likely be the favorite to win if they were in 5A too," Braha said. "They are really that good."
Scorpions coach Craig Decker was able to celebrate as well Sunday, welcoming the three seed.
He knows it didn't come without a fight. After a tight race for second place in the PPAC, Sand Creek edged Air Academy, Palmer Ridge and Lewis-Palmer for second in the conference on a tiebreaker bonus-points system.
The points system had Decker's squad edging the Kadets by one goal in league play to claim the No. 2 spot.
"Not only is every game important but every goal is so important," said Decker, whose team beat Coronado 5-1 at the start of the year. "It proved to be a big deal when we beat Air Academy 5-2 earlier this season. If they came back and got a late goal, we'd be the three seed in our conference and they would be a higher playoff seed. It's pretty crazy."
Sand Creek's matchup against Coronado is the only repeat in any of the 4A first-round games.
The eighth-seed Kadets finished their season strong and face the CSML champion Grizzlies, while Lewis-Palmer (No. 10) and Palmer Ridge (No. 11) will have home-field advantage in their first-round games.
Discovery Canyon is the only PPAC team not hosting round 1.
"The seeding shows a lot of respect for area teams. And I think it's very accurate," Braha said. "The competition down here is so good, and I think the rest of the state recognizes that."