DENVER — Loveland and Skyline advanced to the Class 4A football state championship game in a way that has never been seen before from a big school perspective.
It wasn't just that they advanced to the game by an average of a 37-point margin of victory. It was more that both teams shutout their opponents in the semifinals.
Heading into Saturday's game, something is going to have to give. Both teams can get goose-egged. And it's unlikely that both teams will score more than 32 per side. So about 48 hours ahead of time, the question continues to linger. What's going to give in Saturday's showdown?
“We’ll find out, I guess," Loveland coach Wayne McGinn said. "For us, if we keep doing it the way we’re doing it and our defense stops them and our offense scores. Both teams have a great offense and great defense. That’s why we’re here.”
McGinn is certainly right about one thing. Both offenses are good and have standout players driving both of those engines.
The Indians (13-0 overall) like to do their work on the ground and turn to standout running back Zach Weinmaster to shoulder the load. Weinmaster is sixth overall in the state with 1,892 rushing yards. But that tone has helped Loveland become the top overall running team in the state, regardless of classification.
The senior believes that in a state championship game, the ability of his team to control the ground game will generate positive results by the time the final horn sounds.
“Our o-line obviously has done a great job and I give them all the credit," Weinmaster said. "Controlling the game will certainly dictate the outcome, especially this late in the season.”
This is where things get fun for the 4A title game. Skyline's offense is also one of the top in the state, but in true form, the Falcons (10-3) like to work through the air. Quarterback Chase Silva is fifth in the state in passing yards, but is complimented by a solid ground attack as well.
Jeremy Hollingsworth has rushed for over 1,700 yards, but still knows that taking to the air gives Skyline a unique edge in striking big and striking fast.
“It just spreads everything out," Hollingsworth said. "In that sense you have to respect Kyle West, Jack Wathan and all our receivers. You have to respect that ability to big every time. It makes us so much more dynamic.”
The passing game is not a foreign concept for Loveland, but McGinn subscribes to the theory that success will come if his team is able to do what it typically does best, and that's keeping things on the ground.
But should the need arise for the Indians to take through the air, he knows that the personnel is there to make things happen.
“We have Riley Kinney who can throw the ball at quarterback," McGinn said. "He’s a great quarterback and can throw, but we’re not going to it unless we have to.”
After riding a wave of momentum through the playoffs, Skyline hopes that Saturday can serve for redemption after a 42-14 loss to Loveland in the regular season finale.
Since that game, coach Mike Silva has seen his team up its intensity and play with a fire that has helped them to three impressive playoffs wins. He knows that the intensity on Saturday needs to match, if not exceed, what it has been the last three weeks.
"Keeping that mentality (is a must) for sure," Silva said. "Honestly, the Loveland loss played a huge role in that. They play with a lot of intensity and a lot of tenacity and we didn’t match that.”
The 4A football state championship game kicks off at 11 a.m. on Saturday at Broncos Stadium at Mile High.