The Bruins came out on top in round one, but that was a long time ago. The two teams have very different looks in 2018. Ahead of Saturday's showdown, 9News' Taylor Temby, Orange and Blue 760's Chad Andrus and CHSAANow.com's Ryan Casey chatted about what fans should expect come kickoff at Broncos Stadium at Mile High.
How much will the quarterbacks affect the outcome of the game?
Temby: You've got two future Big 10, Division I quarterbacks playing in this game. Without a doubt, they will have a huge impact on the outcome.
Andrus: With two future Big 10 quarterbacks having plenty of speedy targets you would think they would be the biggest factors. I'm not convinced that is the case, at least going into the game.
Temby: What's interesting is how different they are. You have Alex Padilla who has thrown for more than 20 touchdowns and just one interception all season. That's pretty unheard of. And then you have Luke McCaffrey, who is a game changer on the ground. He's closing in on 500 yards and eight touchdowns rushing. If they're as sharp and accurate as they've been all season, this is anyone's game.
Andrus: Both offenses are at their best when their run game is dominant but both defenses are too good to just get pounded on the ground. Alex Padilla is good at avoiding pressure and keeping his eyes down field and could be helped out if Marcus Miller is able to catch deep balls with his injured hand. Luke McCaffrey made the biggest play of the game vs Grandview when he ran through their entire defense for a 45 yard TD in the 3rd quarter, and will have to use his legs against Creek.
Casey: This is one of my favorite parts of this game: this quarterback matchup. I'm really excited to watch these two go head-to-head. McCaffrey was a major reason why they won in the semifinals, including that huge touchdown run that Chad mentioned, which came on third down and 19. Padilla also looked great in the semifinals against Columbine. Both are big-time players, and this is a big-time game.
Which player on each team is someone who can step up and have a huge championship game?
Temby: It may be crazy to say because he's so young, but Valor running back Gavin Sawchuk continues to impress and could be a difference maker in this game. He's a freshman, sure, but his game — as of late — shows like a vet. Against ThunderRidge in the quarterfinals, he scored all five of the Eagles' touchdowns. If he can handle the pressure like that on the Mile High stage, he could help Valor take home the championship.
Andrus: There are so many good players and (college) recruits it could be several different guys. But if you're looking for under the radar playmakers I think Chase Lopez for Valor can make big plays in the secondary, at receiver, and in the return game.
Temby: I also think Marcus Miller can step up big for the Bruins in this title game. He missed some games this season due to injury, but since his return, he's come up with some game-changing moves — including forcing that fourth-quarter fumble against Columbine in the semis.
Andrus: For Cherry Creek Myles Purchase is a big time ball hawk. He had three interceptions in the close win over Ralston Valley and has played great in the playoffs.
Casey: Sawchuk and Miller are great picks. And Lopez was a major reason they won in the semifinals, too. The crazy thing about Sawchuk is he started the season on C-team! Miller may be a real X-factor in this game — he hurt his thumb and returned two weeks ago to play on defense. Then he made a surprise appearance against Columbine in the semifinals, catching a screen pass for good yardage, and then taking a reverse for a first down. If he's able to be a factor, that's huge for Cherry Creek.
Who has the edge in the trenches, and why?
Temby: This is a bit of a toss-up for me, and something I discussed with the sports department. I would lean toward Cherry Creek because seeing them bully the Columbine offensive line — which was a bunch of NFL-sized players — in the semifinals was very impressive.
Andrus: This will decide the game. Cherry Creek was fantastic against Columbines stout fronts on both sides of the ball. If their massive O-line can block Roger Rosengarten they will do something no one else has done all season. He is awesome. They'll also have to get to the second level and block Ethan Zemla who seems to be in on every tackle.
Temby: Dave Logan said that the Bruins' D-Line was made up of a couple sophomores and a junior, too. They stood strong against the Rebels' run game that was explosive this season, and they appear to be peaking at the perfect time.
Andrus: Valor is smaller up front but has created great angles for Gavin Sawchuk to run. Arden Walker is a super sophomore but will have his hands full trying to set the edge against Valor.
Casey: They're both excellent. What Cherry Creek did against Columbine was outstanding. Columbine had been having its way with opponents this season, in large part because of their line. And Cherry Creek's bunch held their own. Likewise, Valor Christian's group had a challenge in Grandview in their semifinal, and they opened some big holes for their backs. On the defensive side, keep an eye on Cian Quiroga, who has nine sacks and 20 tackles for a loss.
Cherry Creek wins if ...
Temby: The Bruins exploit Valor. Cherry Creek can stay on pace with the best of them, as we saw last week in the semifinals against Columbine. The Bruins patiently chipped away and waited for the Rebels to crack. Columbine quarterback Logan DeArment hadn't given up a turnover all season long, and the difference in that game ultimately came down to Cherry Creek’s defense forcing and recovering a fumble on what would have been the game-winning drive.
Andrus: They continue to win the turnover battle like they have all season. Also, if Marcus Miller can pop the top off the Valor defense and catch a few deep balls.
Casey: They are going to need to keep the ball away from a Valor Christian defense that has forced 35 turnovers. Padilla has been great at that this season, and if MaxPreps is correct, the Bruins have only lost one fumble all season long as a team. So if those trends continue, that will be good news for the Bruins. Reflecting on their only loss, which came in double overtime to Grandview, coach Dave Logan said his team had some mental lapses and they learned that "if we don't take care of our business, and play every play, there are plenty of teams who are capable of beating us."
Valor Christian wins if...
Temby: If the Eagles execute Valor football. Their history of success, both throughout the season and all the way through the state championship games, speaks for itself. Valor practices perfect football in all phases, and almost always performs it as well. The only times they stray from it are when we see a rare Valor Christian defeat. As long as the Eagles carry out the way the program is built to perform, without committing any mistakes, they will win yet another state title. Basically, don't give Cherry Creek any opportunity to capitalize on mistakes — because the Bruins will.
Andrus: Gavin Sawchuk is able to get to the edge and turn the corner. If he does no one is catching him. And if Luke McCaffrey can move the chains with his feet.
Casey: They are going to need to play a full 48 minutes. That nearly came back to bite them against Grandview, because Valor had built a three-touchdown lead, but the Wolves kept chipping away, and chipping away, and ultimately had a two-point conversion attempt at the end of the game to tie things up. Cherry Creek is a very balanced team on both sides of the ball without many weaknesses, so Valor will need a complete effort in order to win.