The Class 5A football playoffs have arrived after 10 grueling weeks of regular season play, and Fairview and Legacy were each granted at least one more game as part of a 24-team field. Here is a quick glance at the first-round matchups for each of those Front Range League qualifiers, both to be played on Friday night.
Class 5A playoffs
No. 24 Denver East (8-2) at No. 9 Fairview (9-1)
Details: Friday, 7 p.m., Christian Recht Field
What to know: Tom McCartney’s Fairview Knights will be making their 11th straight playoffs when they host the Angels on Friday night, and it’s been a pretty mixed bag of results the past eight years in the opening round as FHS has gone 4-4 including last year’s thumping of Arvada West that led them to face Pomona. Friday’s game comes on the heels of the Knights losing star quarterback Aidan Atkinson to injury, but Liam O’Brien plugged in and plucked away at a Rocky Mountain defense to the tune of 201 yards and two touchdowns, anyway. The confidence in him, as has been with several sophomores in past years, is high. East has lost games to Smoky Hill and Columbine, both 10-0 as playoffs begin, and these Angels will be out to buck the trend of early playoff exits (0-4 in postseason since 2009 according to ColoradoPreps.com‘s historical database). Both teams have been way more effective in the pass attack than on the ground this season, but McCartney is a coach who will throw some wrinkles into the scheme at any time. The winner of this game moves on to play No. 8 ThunderRidge in round two.
Who to watch: Jacob Fenton is a senior that has been a consummate student-athlete this season, and the running back emerged the past two weeks with both a 100-yard rushing game and a 100-yard receiving game. He may be the check-down performer that O’Brien needs when he’s in a bind.
No. 21 Legacy (4-6) at No. 12 Mullen (4-6)
Details: Friday, 7 p.m., Mullen’s de La Salle Stadium
What to know: Corey Heinz’s tenure with Legacy started out rocky with six straight losses, but the tough schedule the Lightning endured made them a better team for such instances as this past Friday, when they rallied from down 28-14 to edge Horizon in a thriller, 42-40, for a fourth straight win. Still, it was interesting to see LHS jump all the way up to a No. 21 seed (they finished the season with a No. 27 RPI) and a date with No. 12 Mullen. The Mustangs vaulted up to home-game status by virtue of having the second-toughest schedule in the state (all six losses are to teams with higher playoff seeds) and will still have a high level of athleticism Legacy just didn’t seen much of in the Front Range League schedule. The teams had a virtual rivalry a little more than a decade ago, meeting three times in the playoffs between 2005 and 2009, but they have not faced each other since.
Who to watch: It’s easy to say junior Dakota Key here, but senior Jack Smith’s five touchdown receptions over the past three games suggests he’s found a way to get past or at least out-work defenders quite a lot lately. It has helped that senior QB Nicholas McCarthy has been red-hot in October, as well.
Follow us on Twitter: twitter.com/BoCoPreps