PUEBLO — Palmer Ridge and Pueblo East got a sneak peak of the setup for the Class 3A football championship this weekend.
The two teams visited Neta and Eddie DeRose ThunderBowl on the campus of Colorado State University-Pueblo on Wednesday morning for a tour of the facility and a press conference in advance of their matchup.
Officials are expecting upwards of 6,000 attendees during the game on Saturday, which is set for a 1 p.m. kickoff. Tickets are on sale now.
"Pueblo is an event town," said Jim Brooks, the voice of CSU-Pueblo, as he introduced the event. "Pueblo loves high school football, and they love big events. That's what this is."
It's an environment the players are preparing themselves for.
"It's going to be crazy," said Pueblo East star Kain Medrano, a senior who is committed to UCLA. "You've got to really focus in and focus on the task at hand, that being the football game. You can't be distracted by how many people are in the stands, or what they're saying in the stands. You've got to just go out and play football."
On Wednesday, the teams and coaches got a small taste of that experience when they walked through the stadium facilities, including the locker rooms, and the field itself.
"This is a big-time experience," said Palmer Ridge coach Tom Pulford. "This opportunity to come down, and for our players to see the stadium, walk through the locker room, that's a big deal."
The players were impressed by the venue itself, home for CSU-Pueblo's football team.
"CSU-P is a great field, and the ThunderBowl is — you hear about the ThunderBowl all around Colorado, and I think it's another great venue for my last high school football game," said Palmer Ridge quarterback Ty Evans, a CU commit.
They also enjoyed meeting the media during the press conference.
"It's amazing," Medrano said. "Coming through, and getting this type of environment going into a state championship is amazing. It gives us the feel for the stadium the feel for how everything is going to be with cameras and stuff. It gives us that feeling, and it's a pretty amazing feeling."
Added Evans: "It makes all those 6 a.m. workouts worth it. When you come down here and see where you're going to be playing for a state title, and you're getting interviewed by everybody, it makes every ounce of work worth it."
Ultimately, all involved know that Saturday brings a chance for a state championship. Palmer Ridge, the defending champion, is 1-0 in championship games. Pueblo East is 3-0.
"You guys have a chance to go live a dream," said CSU-Pueblo football coach John Wristen, who spoke to the players on Wednesday. "What a great opportunity."