State football previews

Daniel P. Johnson
Posted

Class 5A Quarterfinal

No. 5 Arapahoe (10-1) vs. No. 4 Valor Christian (9-2), 7 p.m. Nov. 16 at Valor Christian Stadium

Game plan: Arapahoe will look to keep a nice balance on offense with quarterback Taven Sparks (98-of-167 for 1,387 yards with 12 touchdowns and four interceptions) throwing the ball to tight end Ethan Brunhofer (36-571-7) and wide receiver Michael Babb (29-504-3), and running back Jose Cancanon (204 carries, 1,281 yards and 15 touchdowns) doing the work on the ground. The same holds true for the Valor Christian offense, which has scored 40-plus points in every game of its current nine-game winning streak. Quarterback Luke Del Rio continues to dominate opposing defenses; he’s thrown just three interceptions on the year, compared with 21 touchdowns. Running backs Daryl Hawkins and Christian McCaffrey will likely split carries as they did a week ago against Regis Jesuit.

Bottom line: The offensive stars get all the attention, but pay close attention to the defense. That’s where this game will be one. Which defense can stop the opposing offense and maybe force a couple of turnovers? The team that imposes its will defensively will win the game and move on to the semifinals.

No. 1 ThunderRidge (10-1) vs. No. 9 Grandview (8-3), 7 p.m., Nov. 16 at Shea Stadium

Game plan: The Grizzlies defense, which has allowed 90 points in two playoff victories, will have to play much better to contain elusive quarterback Reece Weber and the Grandview offense. Weber has rushed for 673 yards and averaged 5.85 yards per carry. He’s passed for 1,645 yards and can count on Cassius Davis and Isaiah Jackson for ground support. Tanner Gentry has caught 47 passes for 980 yards, an average of 20.85 yards per reception.

Bottom line: ThunderRidge’s offense, led by Brody Westmoreland, Steve Ray, Jake Hand, Mark Hopper and Jesse Krieger, can put points on the score board as evidenced by 308 points in the past six games. But this game will probably come down to which defense can rise to the occasion. Grandview will have a revenge motive since ThunderRidge beat the Wolves 34-20 earlier this season on Sept. 13.

Class 2A Semifinal

No. 4 Florence (10-1) vs. No. 1 Kent Denver (11-0), 1 p.m. Nov. 17 at Justin DeSorrento Memorial Field

Game plan: The Sun Devils smoked the 2011 state champions (Florence beat Kent Denver in the 2A semifinals last year) 41-6 back in Week 2.

The playoffs have been a grind for Kent Denver, which defeated Strasburg 49-35 in the opening round and Brush 35-27 in the quarterfinals. The Huskies haven’t lost since the Week 2 defeat, and have allowed just seven points in their first two playoff games.

Like most teams in 2A, Florence can run the ball with a multitude of backs. Johnnie Krien leads the team with 1,343 yards on 178 carries (7.6 yards per carry) and 20 touchdowns.

Scott Sandoval (104-905-13) and quarterback Zach Hoxie (133-860-13 rushing; 40-90-679-2-4 passing) are also capable of making a big play.

Bottom line: Kent Denver can score plenty of points. They’ll need the defense to get back to playing the way they did during the regular season, where they allowed just 56 points in nine games.