Valor Christian and Cherry Creek have two of the best high school football programs in Colorado, so it’s not surprising that the teams will be playing for the Class 5A state championship. The title game will be played at 6 p.m. Dec. 5 at the CSU Pueblo ThunderBowl Stadium.
Cherry Creek (8-0) is the top-seeded team and the defending state champion. Valor (7-0) is the second-seeded team in this season’s shortened playoff bracket and holds a 6-2 edge in the series against the Bruins.
The Dec. 5 game will be the third time in six seasons that the teams have played in the state title contest. Each team has one win in their two previous championship encounters.
Cherry Creek will be making its third striaght appearance in the state title game and will be seeking its 11thstate title. Creek has a 32-11 playoff record and overall is 152-53 in games played since 2004.
Valor, which has won the past six games played against Creek, has captured eight state titles, including five in Class 5A. The Eagles have a 43-3 playoff ledger and has compiled a 143-24 overall record since 2007.
— Jim Benton
First-year Valor Christian coach Donnie Yantis knew all about the expecations when he took over the Eagles’ football program.
Yantis’ team now has a chance to meet those expectations after the second-seeded Eagles rolled to a 45-0 win over No. 3 Legend in the Class 5A state football semifinals Nov. 28 at Valor.
Valor has won eight state championships, five in Class 5A, two in 4A and one in 3A. It will be the sixth time in the past seven seasons that Valor will be in the state championship game.
“Yes this is what I expected,” said Yantis, who came to Valor after being an assistant at Arizona State for two seasons and a former head coach at Arizona Christian University. “One of the reasons I came here and accepted the job was the school is about excellence. The expectations are to win a championship and we have an opportunity to try and do that. I’m so thankful God placed me here and gave these kids an opporutnity to play. I am thankful for the govornor and CHSAA for allowing this season to happen,”
Valor (7-0) will play top-seeded and defending state champion Cherry Creek (8-0) in the state finals, which will be held at 6 p.m. Dec. 5 at CSU-Pueblo. Creek defeated No. 4 seed Pomona, 35-7, in the other semifinal game on Nov. 28 and will make its third straight appearace in the state championship encounter.
No fans will be allowed to attend the championship game. The Colorado Department of Public Health and Enviroment tightened its guidelines for the CSU Pueblo ThunderDome Stadium because of the growing spread of COVID-19.
Valor and Cherry Creek, which will be seeking its 11thstate football title, have met in two other championship games. Valor defeated Creek, 24-14, in 2018 and the Bruins edged the Eagles, 25-24, to take the 2014 title.
‘I think it is great for the state of Colorado, getting the two best teams in Colorado together,” said Yantis. “Dave (Creek coach Dave Logan) has a great staff, great team and program over there. We look forward to preparing for them. I tell our kids it doesn’t matter who we play. It is a matter of doing what we do and doing it very well.”
Valor did everything very well against Legend (7-1), which sustained its first loss of the season.
All the scoring was done in the first half as Valor got the mercy rule clock running just before halftime with its 45-0 lead, which followed a 31-point second quarter outburst on a warm, sunny afternoon.
“It was an awesome start,” said senior quarterback Sean McNair, who directs the Eagles’ fast-paced offense. “All three phases of the game really picked it up. We had defense, offense and special teams and we just came out hot. We prepared all week, came out and we just did what we practiced. We prepare really hard, we always work hard, we watch flim and get ready. We just keep working every week."
McNair didn’t play in the second half, thanks to the big lead as Valor used a lot of second-team players. He completed 10 of 18 passes in the first two quarters for 167 yards and a touchdown. Junior Gavin Sawchuk, the state’s leading 5A rusher who didn’t play in the first-round game or in the second half, had 74 yards and a touchown. Sawchuk’s younger brother, Gabe, was the featured back in the second half and finished with 93 yards and a TD.
Jordan Norwood rushed for a TD, Jackson Zimmermann caught the scoring pass from McNair, Luke Meyer ran 18 yards to paydirt with a fumble recovery and Mitchell Bigelow scored on a blocked punt.
Legend wound up with only three first downs in the game and had just five yards rushing with 38 yards passing.
Still, Titans coach Monte Thelen was looking ahead after the game.
“All the credit needs to go to Valor,” said Thelen . “They proved that they belong in the state championship game, but things are really positive at Legend. Five years ago, our RPI was in the 30s, now we’re three. That doesn’t happen overnight. It’s happened with a lot of elbow grease by a lot of young men and we are proud of them. We going to keep working to try and make Legend football everything we want it to be.
“There’s room for improvement right now but we’ll keep working. You’ve got to take the good with the bad. We’ve had a whole bunch of good and today was a little bit of a bad taste.”
Legend’s Bryce Vaz, a Valor transfer who replaced injured starter Connor Eise and had 310 rushing yards in the Nov. 21 first-round game against Fairview, carried the ball only once for four yards. Eise had 10 yards on seven carries.
Jaxon Muma was the leader for the Legend defense with 17 total tackles, including 14 solo stops.
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