Palmer Ridge and Pine Creek stamped their tickets to their respective state championship games with convincing victories Nov. 30
Pine Creek (12-1), the No. 1 seed in 4A, defeated No. 5 Pueblo West, 34-0 at District 20 Stadium. The Eagles will play No. 2 Broomfield (13-0) at 11 a.m. Saturday at Empower Field at Mile High in Denver.
Pine Creek is playing in the finals for the sixth time in nine seasons. The Eagles last won a state title in 2016 when they beat Broomfield, 36-14.
Palmer Ridge, the No. 4 seed in 3A, defeated No. 8 Green Mountain, 42-21, at Jefferson County Stadium in Lakewood. The Bears (11-2) will play No. 2 Pueblo South (12-1) at 1 p.m. Saturday at the Neta and Eddie DeRosa ThunderBowl at Colorado State University-Pueblo.
Palmer Ridge handed South its lone loss on Sept. 27, 24-19, at the ThunderBowl.
Palmer Ridge has won the last two 3A state championships. Interestingly, Pine Creek and Palmer Ridge played each other earlier this fall. The Eagles won 49-28.
“We’re blessed as coaches that we get five more days to practice with this group,” said Palmer Ridge coach Tom Pulford, who is in his eighth season as head coach and 12th with the program since its inception in 2008. “We had some distractions earlier this season, but we worked through that adversity.”
Palmer Ridge advanced to the finals on the strength of senior running back Raef Ruel’s four touchdowns and 279 yards rushing on 39 carries. For the season, Ruel has 1,715 yards and 31 touchdowns. In three-plus years on varsity, Ruel has gained 4,322 yards and scored 75 touchdowns.
“Raef has been a big part of our success,” said Pulford, whose teams have a combined record of 37-4 over the last three seasons. “Today the conditions weren’t optimal to what we like to do in spreading the ball around, so we had we leaned on our running game and everyone responded well.”
The Bears’ Deuce Roberson caught four passes for 108 yards and in so doing broke the all-time receiving yards record for the state of Colorado. In four seasons as a starting slot back, Roberson has 4,002 yards.
Roberson has scored 53 combined touchdowns as a receiver, runner, defensive back and on special teams.
Palmer Ridge will play a South team that defeated Pine Creek in the 2017 4A state championship game.
South and Palmer Ridge also met twice last fall with the Bears coming out on top 45-14 during the regular season and 41-7 in the first round of the playoffs.
“It’s always hard to beat a team twice in the same season,” Pulford said.
Pine Creek advanced to the state title game behind the strength of senior running back David Moore III. Moore was his usual sensational self against Pueblo West, rushing for a pair of touchdowns (34 for the season) and 269 yards (2,490 on the year) on 31 carries. In four years as a starter, Moore has rushed for a mind-boggling 7,515 yards and 92 touchdowns.
Moore said Broomfield will be a formidable foe in the title game.
“I know Broomfield wants their rematch and I’m just looking to put on a show,” Moore said.
Pine Creek coach Todd Miller is in his 15th season with the Eagles (18th overall with the program) and has a lifetime head coaching record of 159-29. His teams have been to the playoffs 14 times since he took over for Mike Roof in 2005.
Miller said he is elated to return to the familiar confines of Mile High.
“It’s not a bad home,” Miller said with a huge grin. “I don’t pay taxes there.”
Miller will be matched up against Broomfield coach Blair Hubbard, who has a lifetime record of 203-46.