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Scouting state football playoffs: Game-by-game preview of Colorado Springs-area teams this weekend

November 9, 2017 Updated: November 10, 2017 at 9:38 am
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photo - Fountain-Fort Carson quarterback CJ Jones (13) signals a first down against Ralston Valley Friday, Aug. 28, 2009, at Fountain-Fort Carson High School.  KEVIN KRECK, THE GAZETTE
Fountain-Fort Carson quarterback CJ Jones (13) signals a first down against Ralston Valley Friday, Aug. 28, 2009, at Fountain-Fort Carson High School. KEVIN KRECK, THE GAZETTE 

** Class 5A **

No. 15 Fountain-Fort Carson

Game data: No. 15 Fountain-Fort Carson vs. No. 2 Eaglecrest … Friday at 7 p.m. at Legacy Stadium. Visit GazettePreps.com for a live scoreboard and keep up with Fountain-Fort Carson and the other Pikes Peak region teams this weekend.

Scouting the Eagles: Eaglecrest enters the tournament having earned the No. 2 seed thanks to a perfect regular season in which the team scored no fewer than 17 points a game.

The senior-driven Eagles boast a balanced attack with 2,129 rushing yards and 1,758 passing with Jalen Mergerson at the helm. Mergerson has a .656 completion percentage and 14 touchdowns, and is second on the team with 768 yards rushing.

Kenny Wanting leads the ground game with 975 yards and 17 touchdowns. Theryne Sandoval-Jimenez is Mergerson’s top receiver with 716 yards.

Scouting the Trojans: Although Fountain-Fort Carson faces a tough Eaglecrest team in the first round, F-FC is used to top opponents thanks to the state’s second-hardest schedule, which one can speculate is a large reason the 4-6 Trojans earned a spot in the postseason.

Fountain-Fort Carson is led by running back turned QB Eric Donnell, who has 1,094 yards rushing and 808 passing with a .488 completion percentage. The next leading rusher is Gavin Green with 630 yards, while the remaining 10 running backs have not surpassed 100 yards on the season.

Jarren Sly anchors the Trojan defense with 96 tackles followed by Iosua Maika with 86. The Trojan defense also has 10 interceptions and forced nine fumbles.

** Class 4A **

No. 1 Pine Creek

Game data: No. 16 Golden vs. No. 1 Pine Creek … Friday at 7 p.m. at D-20 Stadium. Follow @LindseySquints on Twitter for updates from the game.

Scouting the Demons: Golden claimed the final qualifying spot in the 4A bracket with a 7-3 record and placed third in the 4A Plains league.

The Demons have a pass-heavy offense anchored by junior David O’Connell, who has 1,658 passing yards and boasts a .516 completion percentage. Joe Madsen is his top receiver with 779 yards and 10 touchdowns.

Scott Holman is Golden’s top threat on the ground with 426 yards rushing.

Scouting the Eagles: Pine Creek returns to the 4A playoffs as the reigning state champions and earned top billing thanks to a 9-1 regular season and a 4A Southern title.

The Eagles boast a more balanced threat, but the offense is skewed toward the state’s top sophomore back David Moore III who has 1,205 rushing yards and 17 touchdowns. But JC Coulter has proven to be a reliable source under center with 1,355 passing yards and a .642 completion percentage. His top receiver, Wyatt Wieland, has 572 receiving yards and 295 rushing.

The Pine Creek defense has 16 interceptions on the season, led by senior Xavier Hill with six. Max Lofy and Daniel Bone have four each.

No. 8 Rampart

Game data: No. 9 Monarch vs. No. 8 Rampart … Saturday at 1 p.m. at D-20 Stadium. Follow @LindseySquints on Twitter for updates from the game.

Scouting the Coyotes: Monarch managed a 14-7 win over Rampart in Week 3 thanks to a defensive stand in the final minute of regulation with an interception on the 5-yard line to halt the Rams’ comeback. The Coyote defense has 13 interceptions led by Jack Kapushion with four. Their run-heavy offense is anchored by senior Cole Polluconi who has racked up 1,122 yards on the ground and 16 touchdowns. Monarch has just 563 passing yards on the season, compared to 2,644 yards rushing, split by four backs with more than 200 yards each.

Scouting the Rams: Since that Week 3 loss Rampart has won six of its past seven games. Similar to Monarch, the Rams also boast a run-heavy offense with four running backs with more than 400 yards on the season, led by senior quarterback Keion Cross with 722 yards. Cross also has 135 passing yards while sophomore Kevin Witcher has 451 yards passing. Jared Behm is the team’s top receiver with 188 yards.

The Rams defense is led by Austin Brady with 72 tackles, followed by Ethan Spendlove with 54.

No. 14 Vista Ridge

Game data: No. 14 Vista Ridge vs. No. 3 Fruita Monument … Saturday at 1 p.m. at Stocker Stadium. Visit GazettePreps.com for a live scoreboard and keep up with Vista Ridge and the other Pikes Peak region teams this weekend.

Scouting the Wildcats: After getting knocked out of the 2016 state tournament in the second round, the Wildcats enter the playoffs this season riding a perfect regular season, earning them a top-three ranking in 4A.

Fruita Monument boasts one of the best running back duos in the state with Braeden Graham (1,590 rushing) and Treyton Queen (1,054).

Although the offense is clearly run heavy, Fruita Monument has 585 passing yards between three quarterbacks. Junior Zach Rush leads the trio with 557 yards and two interceptions.

The Wildcat defense is anchored by sophomore Max Belshe who has 97 tackles on the season, followed by Ryan Ficken with 85.

Scouting the Wolves: Vista Ridge is coming off a Week 10 loss looking at an uphill battle in the first round of the playoffs. However, the Wolves have continued to improve throughout the season as the offense has molded around running back turned QB Jaylen Thomas. Thomas has 647 passing yards and 10 touchdowns on the season, and also leads with team with 928 yards rushing.

But the Wolves’ talent under center doesn’t stop at Thomas. Through eight games junior Rowan Neal has 648 yards passing and 202 rushing.

Junior Carter Bussone anchors the defense with 115 total tackles, including 13 for a loss. The team’s next leading tackler, Brian Jones, has 60.

** Class 3A **

No. 2 Palmer Ridge

Game data: No. 15 Berthoud vs. No. 2 Palmer Ridge … Friday at 7 p.m. at Don Breese Stadium. Follow @HughJohnson707 on twitter for updates from the game.

Scouting the Spartans: Berthoud enters the tournament after a 6-4 season, including just one win in the tough 3A Tri-Valley league. The Spartans' success comes from a well-rounded pass offense with Brock Voth at the helm with 2,133 passing yards. He has four receivers with more than 400 yards on the season.

Voth also leads the team with 455 yards rushing and seven touchdowns.

Anthony Trojahn is the Spartans’ leading tackler with 108 on the season, while Ty Beaman has nine sacks.

Scouting the Bears: Palmer Ridge boasts a similar pass-heavy offense off the back of SEC commit Ty Evans, who has 2,597 passing yards and 34 touchdowns. Deuce Roberson is Evans’ top target with 977 receiving yards, while Cory Mclellan has 10 touchdowns and 591 yards on the season. Roberson and Mclellan also lead the team in interceptions with four and three, respectively. The defense has 18 total interceptions and forced seven fumbles

Sophomore Raef Ruel leads the team’s ground attack with 684 rushing yards and 15 touchdowns.

The Bears are fresh off a historic 10-0 season to earn the No. 2 seed.

No. 4 Canon City

Game data: No. 13 Durango vs. No. 4 Canon City … Friday at 7 p.m. at Canon City High School. Visit GazettePreps.com for a live scoreboard and keep up with Canon City and the other Pikes Peak region teams this weekend.

Scouting the Demons: Despite a tough regular-season slate the Demons are soaring into the postseason on a four-game winning streak and come in at 7-3.

Durango boast a quarterback tandem of Jordan Woolverton and Max Hyson, who have combined for 1,215 passing yards and 10 touchdowns. Woolverton has a .724 completion percentage heading to the playoffs through six games.

Dawson Marcum leads Durango with 640 rushing yards. Gavin Mestas is the team’s top receiver with 353 yards.

Scouting the Tigers: Canon City enters the state tournament after a stellar second half, rebounding from its only loss in Week 5. The Tigers outscored opponents 192-64 in their final five games.

Canon City has a balanced offense anchored by quarterback Zac Hanenberg who has more than 1,500 passing yards and a .583 completion percentage. When the ball is not in Hanenberg’s hands, the Tigers have a solid ground threat in Kaden Porter who has racked up 1,224 rushing yards and 17 touchdowns.

Connor Mccain is Hanenberg’s top target with 609 receiving yards and three other receivers have more than 200 yards on the season.

No. 11 Discovery Canyon

Game data: No. 11 Discovery Canyon vs. No. 6 Palisade … Friday at 7 p.m. at Stocker Stadium. Visit GazettePreps.com for a live scoreboard and keep up with Discovery Canyon and the other Pikes Peak region teams this weekend.

Scouting the Bulldogs: Palisade settled at No. 6 after winning the 3A Western Slope league and is riding a six-game winning streak into the postseason.

The Bulldogs boast a powerful run-heavy offense led by a 1,000-yard rusher, and two more who are close to breaking 1,000 on the season. Terrance Williams (1,060 yards), Cameron Tucker (869 yards) and Austin Bernal (867 yards) lead the Bulldogs, who put up more than 3,350 yards rushing in the regular season.

Although used minimally under center, Tucker, a sophomore, has 675 passing yards and a .675 completion percentage.

Scouting the Thunder: After falling in the state title game last year, Discovery Canyon hit a slump in 2017 after graduating 23 seniors. The Thunder enter the tournament at 6-4 and won four of their last five in the regular season.

Discovery Canyon has a balanced offense with seven running backs with more than 100 yards rushing, led by junior Zachary Anderson with 536 yards. Anderson is also the team’s starting quarterback with 481 passing yards and seven touchdowns. His top receiver, Caleb Grotelueschen, has 223 receiving yards and is second on the team in rushing with 456 and five touchdowns.  

Mitchell Draper is the team’s top tackler with 109 tackles, followed by Grotelueschen with 90. The Thunder defense has just two interceptions on the season, but has forced eight fumbles and recovered 10. 

No. 16 Harrison

Game data: No. 16 Harrison vs. No. 1 Mead … Saturday at 1 p.m. at Mead High School. Visit GazettePreps.com for a live scoreboard and keep up with Harrison and the other Pikes Peak region teams this weekend.

Scouting the Mavericks: Mead enters the 2017 state tournament as the No. 1 seed, and it doesn’t take long to figure out why. The Mavericks, the No. 11 seed last year, fell in the semifinal round to eventual state champions Pueblo East. Mead has not lost a game since, and has not scored fewer than 33 points in any game in the regular season.  

The Mavericks have two 1,000-yard rushers leading the way, with seniors Nathan Mackey and Tyler Keys putting up 1,298 and 1,216 yards, respectively. In addition, three more running backs have more than 200 yards rushing.

Keys also has 453 passing yards and 28 total touchdowns.

The defense is no slouch either, led by Evan Hansen with 117 tackles. Mead also has 14 interceptions and has forced 10 fumbles.

Scouting the Panthers: After starting the season 8-0, Harrison dropped its final two games of the regular season, and in addition to a weak strength of schedule rating, fell to the final 3A qualifying spot, and faces an uphill battle.

Junior Orlando Westbrook leads the Panthers with 1,492 passing yards, an impressive .621 completion percentage and just two interceptions. His top receiver David Barrow has 854 yards and 11 touchdowns.

Westbrook is also second on the team in rushing with 471 yards, but is quite a ways behind Aumiere Shedrick who boasts 1,264 yards and 15 touchdowns.

The Panthers have 11 interceptions and the defense is led by Victor Ikpoh with 92 tackles.

** Class 2A **

No. 5 The Classical Academy

Game data: No. 5 TCA vs. No. 4 La Juna … 2A quarterfinals … Saturday at 1 p.m. at La Junta High School. Visit GazettePreps.com for a live scoreboard and keep up with The Classical Academy and the other Pikes Peak region teams this weekend.

Scouting the Tigers: La Junta blanked Pagosa Springs in the first round of the 2A tournament last week 34-0 and enters the quarterfinals on a six-game winning streak.

The Tigers beat TCA 21-11 in Week 5 of the regular season.

They’re led by junior Jon Nuschy with 1,047 rushing yards and 17 touchdowns. He also has 539 passing yards, 284 of which went to Matthew Espinoza as the team’s only receiver with more than 100 yards.

Scouting the Titans: TCA enters the quarterfinals with revenge in mind as the Titans' only loss on the season has come from the Tigers. TCA claimed a hard-fought win over Aspen in the first round thanks to a stellar performance from Brayden Luft, who ran for 193 yards.

Luft is the team’s top rusher with 1,101 yards and 11 touchdowns, while Cade Bethany boasts an impressive .609 completion percentage and 1,427 passing yards. Bethany is also second on the team in rushing with 476 yards. His top receiver is Ethan Boyles with 426 yards.

Brady Miller leads the defense with 69 tackles and six sacks. The Titan defense also has 14 interceptions.

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