Pine Creek and Palmer Ridge stamped their tickets to their respective state championship games with convincing victories Nov. 30.
Palmer Ridge, the No. 4 seed in Class 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 1 p.m. 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.
Pine Creek (12-1), the No. 1 seed in 4A, defeated No. 5 Pueblo West, 34-0. 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.
“This is awesome,” said Pine Creek star senior running back David Moore III, who has a scholarship offer from the University of Northern Colorado. “I know Broomfield wants their rematch and I’m just looking to put on a show.”
Against Pueblo West, Moore rushed 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.
“This team is not all about me,” said Moore, who did not play in last year’s quarterfinals game loss because of a broken elbow. “We can throw the ball. We’re just so talented.”
This is the Eagles’ third state championship game appearance in Moore’s four seasons. Pine Creek senior quarterback Gavin Herberg will also be playing in his third state title game.
“We have to go out there against Broomfield, see what we can do,” said Herberg, who ran for a touchdown and threw for one against Pueblo West. “We have great depth on this team. We have 36, 37 seniors. We have receivers. Running backs. Depth everywhere.
“This is the last game of our high school career. We have to stay focused and make sure we come out on top.”
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 and won three state titles since he took over for Mike Roof in 2005.
Miller said he is elated to be playing again at 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.
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.
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 Palmer Ridge coach Tom 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.