AURORA | A capsule look at the 2017 Class 5A state football quarterfinal playoff matchup between No. 8 Grandview and No. 1 Valor Christian:
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NO. 8 GRANDVIEW (9-2) vs. NO. 1 VALOR CHRISTIAN (11-0)
7 p.m., Nov. 17 at Valor Stadium
BREAKDOWN: Grandview and Valor Christian meet in the Class 5A state playoffs for the second straight season and third time overall, with the Eagles owning a 2-0 advantage in the postseason series thanks to a 14-7 win in the 2014 semifinals and 66-35 victory in the 2016 first round. The programs have met on six occasions all-time, with Grandview owning regular season wins in 2010 (28-19) and 2014 (24-21) and Valor Christian holding regular season wins in 2011 (45-17) and 2015 (31-14) in addition to its two postseason wins in the series.
GRANDVIEW: Coach John Schultz’s Wolves — the Mount Massive League champions — enter the 5A quarterfinals on a seven-game winning streak stretching back to mid-September when they suffered consecutive losses to No. 2 Eaglecrest and No. 7 Cherry Creek, who are also still alive in the final eight. Grandview’s winning streak includes a 42-0 victory over ninth-seeded Lakewood in the playoff opener Nov. 11 at Legacy Stadium, a win that gave the program at least one postseason victory for the 13th consecutive season. The Wolves’ defense allowed 88 net yards of offense to Lakewood on its way to their third shutout of the season, all while the offense piled up nearly 400 yards and five touchdowns on the ground. Grandview had a particularly impressive 96-yard drive to further demoralize the Tigers….Defensively, the Wolves put forth another outstanding effort despite missing a few key players who suffered season-ending injuries to top-two tacklers Thomas Jenkins and Jordan Knapke and now owns the top spot in terms of scoring defense in 5A with just 105 points given up in 11 games. New faces have risen to the occasion such as star senior WR Gunner Gentry, who has been on the field much more defensively and made a big stop on a fourth-down gamble by Lakewood early in the game and finished second on the team with four tackles. Senior LB Luke La Flam led the way with six tackles and two sacks, while junior LB Daniel Graney collected five stops. For the season, senior DB Kevin Clark has 63 tackles and 5.0 sacks to lead active players in both categories for Grandview, while senior LB Darius Tucker and La Flam have 51 tackles and 3.0 sacks apiece. La Flam and junior LB Trevor Greenlee both have two defensive touchdowns and the Wolves have generated 20 turnovers…Offensively, Grandview scored 40 or more points for the fifth time on the season and now averages 32.4 points per game. The run game was particularly effective in the playoff opener with junior RB Jordan Billingsley racking up 210 yards and four touchdowns and senior RB Aaron Harris chipping in 107 yards and a score, while senior QB Kyle Smith needed to throw for just 80 yards — including a 39-yard touchdown pass to senior WR Andrew Turner — in the victory. Billingsley now has eight straight games with 131 or more yards rushing and has 1,594 for the season to go with 17 touchdowns (including 10 in his last four games alone), while Harris’ first 100-yard effort of the season puts him at 464 with five TDs for the season. Smith has been careful with the football and now has a 16-2 touchdown-to-interception ratio, while he has thrown for 874 yards in all. Senior WR Julius Carter Jr. had just five yards against Lakewood, but is the team’s leading receiver with 378 yards and five touchdowns on the season, sitting ahead of Gentry — who missed half the season due to injury — with 205 yards and five TD grabs. Turner, Harris and junior TE Dayne Prim have multiple touchdown catches as well.
VALOR CHRISTIAN: Coach Rod Sherman’s Eagles — the Mount Lincoln League champion — come into the 5A quarterfinal contest riding a 22-game winning streak that goes back to a seven-point loss to Pomona on Sept. 23, 2016. After it completed an undefeated regular season, Valor Christian opened the playoffs with a 35-7 victory over No. 16 Chaparral in a game that saw the Eagles shackle the Wolverines defensively and grind out a big win despite just 276 yards of total offense. Junior RB Joshia Davis and junior QB Luke McCaffrey each rushed for touchdowns and senior QB Blake Stenstrom threw a TD pass to senior WR Ryan Thibault to highlight the offense and the Valor Christian defense forced two turnovers and blocked a field goal…Defensively, the Eagles rank fifth in 5A in scoring defense and average 13.8 points per game allowed. They haven’t shut anybody out, but limited five opponents to seven points. Junior LB Ethan Zemlat paces Valor Christian with 68 tackles on the season, followed by sophomore S Chase Lopez with 63, while Zemla, junior LB Jaden Murray and sophomore DE Cameron Smith all have three or more sacks. Seven different players have interceptions for Valor Christian, including two apiece from senior DB Noah Kuzma, senior DB Jadin Watson and Thibault…Offensively, the Eagles rotate quarterbacks in McCaffrey and Stenstrom, who have combined to pass for 1,930 yards and 16 touchdowns against eight interceptions. Both QBs are dual threats as Stenstrom is the leading passer with 1,074 yards and also 416 rushing yards, while McCaffrey has 856 yards through the air and 539 yards on the ground plus nine touchdowns. Davis paces Valor Christian with 833 yards rushing and 11 touchdowns, while Watson (370 yards, 2 TDs) and senior RB Alexis Chavez-Salinas (281 yards, 3 TDs) both see occasion time in the backfield as well. Thibault has hauled in 36 passes for 657 yards and six touchdowns to lead his team in all three categories, while four others have at least 165 yards receiving… Should the game come down to a field goal, sophomore PK Brian Brogan has made 7 of his 8 field goal attempts on the season with a long of 40 yards.
WINNER GETS: The Grandview-Valor Christian winner moves on to a Nov. 24-25 semifinal contest against the winner of the quarterfinal between No. 5 Fairview and No. 4 Pomona, scheduled for a 7 p.m. Nov. 17 at the North Area Athletic Complex.