When Palmer Ridge lost to Pueblo East, 28-21, in a Week 3 matchup at Don Breese Stadium, both teams came away thinking they might wind up facing each other in a rematch down the road.
That rematch takes place Saturday in the Class 3A state championship football game at Colorado State University-Pueblo’s ThunderBowl Stadium.
“The best teams are facing off on Dec. 1,” said East coach Andrew Watts after his team downed Erie, 35-17, in the semifinals Saturday. “After that first time we played Palmer Ridge we knew we’d see them again down the road in the playoffs. We were hoping it would be in December.”
Pueblo East (11-2) is the No. 2 seed in this year’s tournament, while Palmer Ridge (11-2) is the No. 4 seed.
Palmer Ridge is the defending state champion, having gone 14-0 in 2017 and defeating Erie in the title game.
Pueblo East won three consecutive state championships from 2014-16.
Palmer Ridge coach Tom Pulford was his usual stoic self after his Bears defeated No. 1 Palisade (11-2) Nov. 24 during a steady snowstorm on the Western Slope.
“It really hasn’t set in, but we are very thankful we get seven more days,” Pulford said after the Bears’ 42-7 victory behind three rushing touchdowns and 116 yards by junior tailback Raef Ruel.
“Coach Watts has his kids peaking at the right time. And I think we’re peaking at the right time. It should be a great game.”
The Bears have won 10 consecutive games since starting the season 1-2. They have steamrolled through the playoffs, outscoring their first three opponents 134-28.
Pueblo East has outscored its playoff opponents 112-38.
“Palmer Ridge has plenty of weapons. As do we,” Watts said. “It will be a chore defensively for both teams to shut each other’s offenses down.”
Pueblo East is a powerful team on the ground and through the air. Led by senior quarterback Luc Andrada, the Eagles average nearly 250 yard per game passing and 190 rushing.
Andrada is a dual threat, having thrown for 2,942 yards and 30 touchdowns, and rushing for 876 yards and 13 touchdowns.
Andrada’s main receiving targets are senior wide Kain Medrano (59 receptions for 1,057 yards, 18 touchdowns), junior Marvin London. Jr., (66, 999, 7) and junior Kaeden Bowman (30, 510, 3).
“Kain Medrano is a big difference maker on their offense and Andrada does a lot of good things,” Pulford said. “ We have to keep an eye on those guys.”
In the first meeting between the teams, Palmer Ridge senior quarterback Ty Evans was intercepted five times, with the 6-feet-4, 205-pound Medrano picking him off three times from his free safety position. Evans was intercepted just eight times in his other 12 games.
WATCH: The Class 3A title game is set.No. 4 @PRHS_Football vs. No. 2 @east_eagles11. On Sept. 7 East defeated PR 28-21. Hear what @EvansTy18 has to say about the rematch ⬇️ #copreps pic.twitter.com/Ah3lNSsFx3— Lindsey Smith (@LindseySquints) November 24, 2018
“We didn’t take care of the ball the first time we played East,” Pulford said. “We didn’t do a good job of making in-game adjustments.
“We’ve come a long way since that game and we’re doing a lot of good things now.”
Pulford added that he is trying to make this practice week as “normal as possible.”
“This is not a time to be putting in a lot of new schemes,” he said.
Palmer Ridge and Pueblo East have three common opponents this season — Discovery Canyon, Pueblo South and Lewis-Palmer. Palmer Ridge is 4-0 in those games (the Bears beat Pueblo South twice), while Pueblo East is 3-1 (the Eagles split with Discovery Canyon).
Palmer Ridge has not scored fewer than 35 points in game since losing to Pueblo East on Sept. 7.