Football: Fairview, Legacy emerge as area 5A playoff teams

Jeremy Papasso / Staff Photographer
Fairview junior Henry Blackburn and the rest of the Knights stride into Friday’s home Class 5A playoff game against Denver East averaging 49 points per game. The Knights host the Angels at 7 p.m. at Recht Field.

There are always some surprises when the Colorado high school playoff brackets are revealed, and the 2018 version of the Class 5A bracket is certainly no exception.

However, the Fairview Knights long had assured themselves a spot while running up a 9-1 record and a Front Range League championship meant seeding was the only thing in question for Sunday’s bracket reveal by the Colorado High School Activities Association.

To head coach Tom McCartney, the Knights ended up right about where he figured they’d be — a No. 9 seed in the 24-team bracket with the guarantee of a first-round home game.

The Front Range League didn’t perform quite as well as some other leagues when it came to the preseason games, but that didn’t hinder the league’s playoff presence as the FRL’s Legacy and Poudre will also get an 11th game and perhaps more.

Fairview will host Denver East on Friday night at Recht Field, while Legacy, a No. 21 seed, will visit Mullen on Friday.

“For where we’re at and our place, our seeding, everything does make sense because we are league champs and I was hoping that would carry some weight,” McCartney said on Monday, his team finishing with a No. 11 ratings percentage index. “Ten to 24, it went how I thought it might go, or at least it seemed pretty close.

“We’re just excited to get a home game in playoff football.”

The Knights finished out the regular season with a convincing win against Rocky Mountain this past Friday, a game in which junior quarterback Aidan Atkinson suffered a season-ending thumb injury at the half.

In his stead, sophomore backup Liam O’Brien kept the offense in an undisputed flow, going 10-for-13 for 201 yards and two touchdowns — a performance that spoke to his work with the varsity in practice all season as second-string.

McCartney said there were not many philosophical chances to the game plan against the Lobos, and that the Knights were ready to move forward with the same level of intricacy that guided them to a 49-point-per-game output.

“When you face adversity like that, you just have to circle up and wrap yourself around Liam and that’s what they did,” McCartney said. “They reached out to Aidan, let them know how much they loved him, but they definitely circled up around Liam O’Brien, and he had a hell of a second half and had a hell of a practice today.

“We have great respect for Denver East. They’re 8-2, they’ve done a lot of winning and their only two losses are to 10-win teams (Columbine and Smoky Hill). There’s exceptional team speed there, and they love to throw the ball as well.”

Legacy, under first year coach Corey Heinz, won all four games in October including Friday’s 42-40 thriller over Horizon that tipped the playoff scales in their favor. They started out 0-6, but Dakota Key’s aggressive running — which has set or threatened several team records — had them hot the past four weeks.

Hot enough to where a No. 28 RPI parlayed into a No. 21 seed.

Valor Christian, Columbine, Cherry Creek and Eaglecrest received the first four seeds and will have first-round byes. Grandview, Ralston Valley, Pomona and ThunderRidge earned the next four seeds and first-round byes, as well.

Adam Dunivan: or