A casual wave to the neighbor before sinking into the driver’s seat, the 2021 high school football season has too returned to some normalcy inside this pandemic.
Compared to last school year, that’s a big hooray. Hooyah! as our friends in the Navy would say.
To think this time 12 months ago, football programs across the state were dealt with more questions than answers as teams were split into two seasons and massive quarantines decided more games than last-minute drives.
But now, and again, the game played on the field is the headliner.
With three weeks remaining in the regular season for all classifications except 3A (which has four) before a return to a full-strength postseason bracket, four teams from the BoCoPreps.com region are ranked inside the top 10 in their classification, while another handful currently appears to be inside the playoff qualification parameters.
Leading the way, Class 4A No. 4 Erie remains undefeated through seven weeks, outscoring teams 329-96. Then there’s Mead, which was previously ranked second in 3A before falling to Roosevelt last week, and is now fourth. And Holy Family, ranked seventh in 3A after winning three of four, faces undefeated No. 5 Frederick Thursday.
With that, and more, let’s look at five intriguing storylines to monitor going forward.
Good for their respective teams — great for all the dedicated high school fantasy football players out there — Fairview freshman Bekkem Kritza leads the state in passing, while Longmont’s Keegan Patterson is second.
Kritza has thrown for 2,203 yards through the first seven games as a high schooler. At this rate, he’s on pace to have more than 10,000 career passing yards when all is said and done, not to mention any postseason additions.
But before looking at the Year 2024, the freshman’s current passing touch, which includes 15 touchdowns to just six interceptions, has the Knights (22nd in 5A RPI) on the fringe of the classification’s 24-team postseason bracket. (Playoff teams are decided upon RPI and league champions).
Last week, immediately following a ho-hum performance in a loss to Legacy, Kritza completed 30 of his 40 attempts for 306 yards and three TDs in a win over Rocky Mountain. It helped earn Fairview coach Tom McCartney his 200th career win as attributed by the school’s athletic Twitter.
Patterson, meanwhile, missed a start this year but has 2,137 yards through the air in just six games.
His 356.2 passing yards per game is actually more than 40 ticks higher than second-place Kritza.
The senior slinger, throwing 18 TDs to just seven interceptions this fall, has passed for 14 scores and ran for three during Longmont’s current three-game winning streak. In part because of it, the Trojans are in strong position to reach 4A’s 24-team postseason field, coming into the week ranked 16th in RPI.
Legacy’s star running back Braelon Tate leads the state with 1,095 yards on the ground. He averages 5.8 yards more per game than nationally-touted Gavin Sawchuk of Valor Christian, who is headed to Oklahoma and has an identical 7.2 mark per carry.
With him being a touchdown threat at every touch, the Lightning have gradually moved up the 5A RPI standings following a 1-3 start to the year and are now ranked 18th.
On their current three-game winning streak, Tate has rushed for 623 yards and has scored nine TDs. It included a school-record performance against Fairview two weeks ago, where he went for 301 yards and four scores.
If that wasn’t enough, Tate also leads the area with four interceptions.
What to make of the 3A North Central 2 League?
Based on what we’ve seen so far, picking a favorite between Mead, Holy Family and Frederick appear to be one of those “need more data” scenarios.
Mead throttled its first four opponents, scoring 25 TDs compared to its foe’s 15 combined points, before hitting a wall against No. 1 Roosevelt last week.
Holy Family has losses to the Roughriders and 2A No. 3 Resurrection Christian but also has quality wins over 3A No. 9 Pueblo South and Green Mountain.
And Frederick, led by a dozen Parker Ayres rushing scores, has beat each of its first five opponents by at least three touchdowns.
The Tigers will travel to Frederick Thursday before hosting Mead the following week. The Mavs and Frederick will meet in the regular-season finale Nov. 5.
And what to make of Broomfield?
The Eagles lost their first three games of the season but have responded with three wins in the last four weeks.
The Cole LaCrue-Josh Dunn connection has been 5G. Dunn is currently second in the state with 829 receiving yards to go along with nine TD receptions.
Defensively, Bode Hogan has been everywhere on the field, ranked fourth in the state in tackles at 89. Last week, he had a fourth-quarter pick to help seal a win over Silver Creek.
Broomfield hosts Brighton Friday, then travels to Erie next week.
Speaking of Erie …
No high school team is impenetrable. Erie is just making it look that way through seven weeks.
Here are some highlights (not including its win over Brighton, which reported no stats): Senior running back Caleb Theisen averaged 13.5 yards per carry and had 12 rushing scores behind a sturdy offensive line helped stabilized by Kansas State commit John Pastore and fellow league first-teamer Ryan McConnell.
Sophomore quarterback Blake Barnett threw for 10 scores and ran for 11.
Jackson Cowgill led the area with five sacks.
Through seven games, the Tigers have three games with more than 50 points and five above 45.
They face winless Greeley West Thursday.
Other RPI notables include Skyline at 19th in 4A RPI, while Silver Creek is 30th. Niwot is 17th in 3A.