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Football: Three local teams head to spring playoffs

Boulder, Centaurus and Justice open postseason this weekend

Centaurus junior recover Bryan Serrano (28) breaks free from Thomas Jefferson defenders on Thursday, April 1, 2021, in Lafayette, Colo. (Timothy Hurst/Staff Photographer)
Centaurus junior recover Bryan Serrano (28) breaks free from Thomas Jefferson defenders on Thursday, April 1, 2021, in Lafayette, Colo. (Timothy Hurst/Staff Photographer)
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In a year like no other, Colorado high school athletics had to be altered to fit the needs of the COVID-19 pandemic. For football, that meant the usual fall season was split into two, with some teams deferring to spring.

Boulder, Centaurus and Justice all chose to play in the spring season to wait for COVID’s fall surge to drop to a more comfortable level. That decision paid off, as each team now gets the chance to compete in the state playoffs in their respective classifications.

Those competitions begin Friday night.

Fort Collins at Boulder, Friday, 6 p.m.

Boulder finished its shortened 2021 schedule with a perfect 4-0 record, a mark that was good enough to earn the Panthers a No. 4 seed in the Class 5A state playoffs. They’ll begin their postseason campaign with a home game against No. 5 Fort Collins, a team they were supposed to play just two weeks ago before FCHS had to quarantine.

The Lambkins (4-1) were undefeated through their first four contests, then fell hard against Far Northeast, 52-24. However, three of their four wins also came in blowouts, against Denver East (41-0), Adams City (52-6) and Northglenn (52-14). Boulder fashioned similar wins against Adams City (41-0) and Northglenn (31-0).

Fort Collins’ balanced offense has been led by junior quarterback Andrew Seest (858 passing yards, 59 completions) and junior Max Jones (54 carries for 400 yards). While 11 players have receptions, four of them — Dorion McGarity (263 yards), Nicky Maguire (165), Louden Harger (150) and Blake Smotherman (148) — have the grand majority of the yards. McGarity has scored six touchdowns for a team that has averaged 36.6 points per game.

Boulder’s offense has also proven versatile. Senior quarterback Alvin Rodriguez (671 yards, 48 completions) and the pass attack has been complemented by Declan Culberson (304 rushing yards) and Parker Patchett (110) in the run attack. Boulder’s outside weapons include Drake Arthur (245 receiving yards), Luke Werner (159) and Ty Chandler (152). The Panthers have scored 14 touchdowns, five of which belong to Culberson.

While no playoff contest will be easy, especially with just eight teams vying for the 5A crown, Boulder’s greatest path to success may focus on shutting down the Lambkins’ passing game.

Centaurus at Harrison, Saturday, 1 p.m.

Centaurus football (3-3) squeaked into Class 4A’s eight-team playoff bracket with a No. 7 seed and will travel to No. 2 Harrison on Saturday.

Only two of the Warriors’ games ended with lopsided scores: a 61-0 win over Lincoln and a 48-8 loss to George Washington. Harrison, alternatively, won all six games.

The Warriors excel in all areas of offense, thanks in large part to junior quarterback Coleman Teasdale (643 yards on 66 completions) and a team-collective 872 rushing yards. Teasdale (392 rushing yards), Mike Malone (189) and John Radney (142) carried the majority of the running game as Angus Reichert (248 receiving yards) and Nathen Rodriguez (172) found themselves on the receiving end of Teasdale’s handiwork.

The Panthers have been even more prolific as senior quarterback Jaseim Mitchell (592 passing yards, 27 completions) has connected the most with Kahli Dotison (251 receiving yards), Kahar Briggs (170) and Jordan Southerland (118). They rely mostly on their rushing game, however, as Davonn Stevens (374 rushing yards), Dotison (362) and Briggs (308) have contributed the most to their 1251 total rushing yardage.

Centaurus may find its simplest game plan in halting Harrison’s running game as much as possible to cripple the Panthers’ scoring drive.

Justice at Platte Valley, Saturday, 2 p.m.

The Justice Phoenix (2-3) earned a No. 5 seed in the 8-man football playoffs after completing their season with many blowout losses and one earned win. Their other victory came at the expense of a John Mall forfeit.

They’ll travel to No. 4 Plateau Valley on Saturday with the hopes of postseason glory, but that won’t be an easy task.

The Cowboys focus a small part of their offense on the pass as junior quarterback Tallen Long (613 yards, 37 completions) has primarily favored Ceal Etcheverry (202 receiving yards) and Dalton Crites (165). They dominate through the run game with a team total of 1357 yards, which chiefly belong to Colton Witzel (558 rushing yards), Long (443) and Crites (259). Stopping the run will be key for Justice.

The Phoenix, by contrast, have a versatile offense that has earned only a fraction of the yardage. Senior QB Angel Garcia (266 yards, 15 completions) favors Titis Gebhardt (171 receiving yards) and Anthony Valdez (90) the most. Gebhardt also dominated with 174 of Justice’s 222 rushing yards.

The Phoenix defense will have to step up big time to try to wrangle the Cowboys.