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Palmer Ridge junior Derek Hester runs the ball against Vista Ridge on Nov. 19.

No. 5 Pine Creek (10-2) at No. 1 Cherry Creek (10-2) — 1 p.m. Saturday at Stutler Bowl

Any 5A team looking to win a state title assumed Cherry Creek would stand in the way, at some point. Pine Creek gets its shot Saturday to upend the state's top-ranked club.

The Eagles, still recovering from an illness going through the team, are coming off a 24-3 win over Grandview — the only in-state program to beat Cherry Creek this season.

The Bruins, meanwhile, are fresh off a 42-7 win over ThunderRidge to bring their two-game, postseason scoring margin to 84-13.

Bruins' senior Carlson Tann and junior Jordan Herron each rushed for 900-plus yards, and aid a passing game led by senior wideout, Ismael Cisse.

Pine Creek will bring its typical defensive effort, and look to score on the efforts of its own collection of running backs. Junior Mason Miller and sophomore Jonathan Coar have combined for 2,204 yards and 26 touchdowns on the ground.

The winner will play either No. 2 Valor Christian or No. 3 Ralston Valley in the final.

No. 4 Loveland (11-1) at No. 1 Palmer Ridge (12-0) — 1 p.m. Saturday at Don Breese Stadium 

Loveland is no stranger to postseason football, nor is the program new to playing some of the area's best.

Last year, the Red Wolves were eliminated by Pine Creek, just a year after topping Palmer Ridge in the 2020 4A title game. Now the Bears are seeking revenge.

Saturday marks the first meeting between the two programs since the title bout, and it will be a strength-on-strength affair of top running games.

The Bears are led by seniors "Gator" Robinson and Orlando Aranda, with junior quarterback Derek Hester chipping in plenty. The three have combined for 35 rushing touchdowns this season and nearly all of the team's yards.

Loveland will rely on its own blend, led by senior Garrett Harstad. He amassed 1,625 yards this year and 23 rushing touchdowns. The quarterback is aided by three other rushers who saw 67-or-more carries.

The winner will play either No. 2 Broomfield or No. 11 Erie in the final.

Contact the writer: luke.zahlmann@gazette.com

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