Several teams from the Pikes Peak region will travel north this weekend in hopes of a state title.
Eight local volleyball teams will contend for a crown at Denver Coliseum, while a few miles away, Air Academy’s boys’ soccer will play in its third consecutive championship game.
A bit farther north in Fort Collins, Air Force will play Colorado State for state supremacy of a different kind.
Having already defeated Colorado in Boulder two weeks after the Buffaloes beat the Rams, the Falcons can sweep their way through the first round robin played between the Centennial State’s three major college football programs played since 1958.
Air Force went 2-0 against those teams 51 years ago and has a chance to do the same with a win Saturday.
“We’re excited, it’s definitely a big thing,” Falcons (7-2, 4-1 Mountain West) right tackle Scott Hattok said. “We haven’t played Colorado in years. So we haven’t had this opportunity.
“The state championship’s kind of looming, but at the same time, we’re just focusing on doing our job every single play.”
Added safety Grant Thiel, “It’s a pretty unique opportunity, but, more importantly, it just gets us one more step in the Mountain West.”
With Colorado on the schedule for the first time since 1974, the Falcons entered this season with essentially three titles up for grabs.
Their loss at Navy took them out of the race for the Commander-in-Chief’s, though a victory over Army softened the blow.
A loss at Boise State hasn’t eliminated the Falcons in the conference, but it leaves them needing help even after four-straight league wins.
But this one — calling it the Governer’s Cup was Air Force coach Troy Calhoun’s suggestion this summer — can be won on the field, and on the opponent’s field, no less, after already going on the road to beat Colorado.
Falcons players emerged from the victory over the Buffaloes declaring themselves “Kings of Colorado,” but the talk before this game — that the Falcons enter as 10½-point favorites as they seek a fourth straight victory in the series — has taken on a tone decidedly more quiet.
“We’re not a talk group,” Calhoun said. “We’re just not. We grind each day. We have one goal in our program, that is to see how many of our seniors can graduate.”
Calhoun did talk, as he often does, about the commitment Colorado State has made to its limited number of athletics, noting the new football stadium and even the Rams’ women’s basketball team chartering flights.
Colorado State (4-5, 3-2) coach Mike Bobo anticipated that Calhoun’s rant about the Rams’ advantages, but said Air Force has no shortage of talent.
“They’ve got players,” said Bobo, whose team has won three straight after a 1-5 start. “Coach Calhoun will get on there and talk about what they don’t have facility-wise and player-wise, but they sign like 800 guys a year, and the guys that make it through and play for their team are physically and mentally tough. I guess that’s what you want is guys like that fighting for your country.”
A Colorado Springs product has figured prominently in the Rams’ preparation. Palmer graduate Anthony Grassi has played the triple-option quarterback for the scout team.
“It’s a big role, helming the scout team. I just want to get us ready,” said Grassi, a walk-on receiver in his redshirt sophomore year told Colorado State’s official website. “This is a must win, and I think it’s a pivotal game I can help the team with, and that’s my only goal — to help the team the best I can, even if I don’t play Saturday.”
Another member of the scout team is Aiden Cullen, a teammate of Calhoun’s son, Tyler, with Palmer Ridge.
Yes, it’s a small world. Or in this case, state. And while many state crowns will be awarded this weekend, Air Force is the only Division I college football team in position to claim that title.