DENVER — Perhaps no current player has been along for the ride with Skyline football longer than senior center and captain Ricky Childers.
Childers' father, Erick Childers, has been an assistant coach at Skyline in one capacity or another for a number of years. Before he even arrived at Skyline for high school, Ricky Childers was a ball boy for the Skyline football team from fourth grade through eighth grade.
Skyline football's road back to the state championship game has been a long and windy one that has spanned nearly two decades, and Childers has been there for every step of the final leg. The fact that the Falcons had found their way back to Saturday's Class 4A state title game really began to sink in when Childers, along with five of his teammates and several Skyline coaches, arrived at Broncos Stadium at Mile High on Tuesday for the Colorado High School Activities Association 4A/5A Championship Saturday press conference.
"It's hard to believe that we're actually here," the younger Childers said. "It's just crazy. I've been on the field once before for a lacrosse game but seeing it today and knowing that we'll be playing on it on Saturday, I was in disbelief. We've done a lot of hard work trying to do great things and now we're here. It's a great feeling."
The Falcons and the other 4A and 5A championship game teams — 4A's Loveland and the big school classification's Valor Christian and Cherry Creek — arrived early on Tuesday morning to tour the stadium museum and the locker rooms. They then were allowed to go out onto the field at Mile High, where they will get the opportunity to play one another for state titles on Saturday.
"Today, touring the stadium where we're going to play and walking through the tunnel, it was just surreal," Falcons senior wide receiver Jack Wathen said. "It's such a crazy feeling to see how big the stadium is and how big the bronco head in the seats is and how huge the scoreboard screen is, is really an awesome feeling."
Following the teams' tour, CHSAA and the Colorado Sports Hall of Fame hosted a professional panel-style press conference featuring Skyline head coach Mike Silva, Loveland head coach Wayne McGinn, Valor Christian head coach Ed McCaffrey and Cherry Creek head coach Dave Logan. It was a memorable experience for all those involved.
"It's been really good and I think the boys have really enjoyed it," Silva said. "Being able to get out here and rub elbows with these kinds of coaches and these kinds of players has been a great experience for us. We got to go through the locker rooms and out on the field and get an inside look at some of what the professional players go through on the weekly. That was a cool experience for the boys and it really got their juices going in a positive way."
Back in the state title game for the first time since 1999, Skyline will play Loveland in the 4A title game at 11 a.m. on Saturday. Tickets for the game can already be purchased online through TicketMaster (ticketmaster.com) or on game day at the stadium. It will also be broadcast online through the NFHS Network (NFHSNetwork.com) and on the radio (760 AM).