DENVER — The Class 4A and 5A football finalists got a taste of what Saturday's championship games will be like during a tour of Empower Field at Mile High on Tuesday.
4A finalists Broomfield and Pine Creek, and 5A finalists Cherry Creek and Columbine, each brought a few coaches and players to the stadium on Tuesday for a walkthrough and press conference ahead of their games. (Complete information about each game is available here.)
"You get out there, and you can't help but take a deep breath. It's a big stadium," said Pine Creek coach Todd Miller. "It's a Cathedral."
Each team got to tour the locker rooms they will use, walk the field, and even got down to the details like which entrance their bus will drop them off at.
The hope, from the coaches, is that it all helps their players get adjusted to playing on such a big stage.
"Part of it starts today and coming up here, and seeing the facilities and being in the stadium," Columbine coach Andy Lowry said. "Today's a great opportunity for our guys to be able to experience that."
This will be the 15th year the 4A and 5A games have been held at Mile High.
"Congratulations to everyone here," Miller said. "This ain't easy. Getting to this point, I think, sometimes we take for granted. And it's a great opportunity. Four great teams going to do this best they can."
The 4A game, set for an 11 a.m. kickoff, pits top-seeded Pine Creek (12-1) against No. 2 Broomfield (13-0). Both Eagles teams feature strong running attacks, spearheaded for Pine Creek by David Moore III, and for Broomfield by Caden Peters.
Peters has 2,567 yards and 22 touchdowns. His yards are the most in the state, regardless of classification.
"Great athlete, gets down and gets his shoulders square," Miller said of Peters. "He's a physical runner, and if you miss him, he's gone. And that always puts pressure on everybody. He's enjoyable to watch on film because it's a kid that plays hard."
Moore III has 2,490 yards and 34 touchdowns. Moore III leads the state in touchdowns and is second to Peters in yards.
"He's a great runner," Hubbard said. "Breaks tackles — that's one thing that we're going to have to do, that we're sound-tackling. It's going to be fun, hopefully for the fans, watching two great athletes battle it out on the field together toting the rock."
The 5A game, which will begin at 2:30 p.m., matches No. 1 Cherry Creek (13-0) against No. 6 Columbine (11-2). It promises to be a heavyweight slugfest, as both teams feature strong defenses, and massive bodies on their offensive and defensive lines.
Both 5A coaches are expecting a physical battle.
"Their run game is extremely effective," said Columbine coach Andy Lowry. "We're just still in the Dinosaur age. ... It all starts up front. They're going to run the daylights out of it, too."
Said Cherry Creek coach Dave Logan: "Anytime you play Columbine with coach Lowry, you know that it's a double-buckle-your-chinstrap-type game. You have to withstand their physicality and what they do. It's going to be a 48-minute game. ... This is a heck of a good Columbine team."
"We have an understanding of what we're getting ourselves into," Logan added. "And I'm being completely honest about it. This a great football we're playing that has a complete buy-in to what they do. They cannot be as successful as they have been, not just this year, but last year and all these years, if you don't get your kids to completely buy in. And they have, over a long, long time."
Saturday, each of the four teams will get one last chance to play together.
"It's been a fun ride with these guys," Hubbard said. "We fight every week in the playoffs to have another week together, and that's what's brought us here."