Cherokee Trail senior wide receiver Jack Pierce leads Class 5A in receiving yards and scored five touchdowns in the Cougars’ Class 5A first round playoff win over Fossil Ridge. Pierce and the 12th-seeded Cougars face No. 5 Ralston Valley in the second round on Nov. 12, 2021, at the North Area Athletic Complex. (Photo by Courtney Oakes/Sentinel Colorado)

AURORA | A capsule preview of the 2021 Class 5A state football second round playoff contest between Cherokee Trail and Ralston Valley scheduled for Nov. 12, 2021:

Courtney Oakes is Sentinel Colorado Sports Editor. Reach him at [email protected]: @aurorasports. IG: Sentinel Prep Sports


No. 12 Cherokee Trail (7-4) vs. No. 5 Ralston Valley (8-2)

Nov. 12, 7 p.m. at North Area Athletic Complex

BREAKDOWN: Cherokee Trail and Ralston Valley have become somewhat regular opponents in the Class 5A state playoffs over the past decade, as they will face each other for the fourth time since 2010. The Cougars won the first two matchups (14-2 in the quarterfinals in 2010 and 17-10 in the semifinals in 2012), while the Mustangs rolled to a 52-0 victory in a 2018 second round matchup. The teams also met in the 2008 and 2009 regular seasons with Cherokee Trail taking the first meeting 17-9 and Ralston Valley winning the second 14-10.

CHEROKEE TRAIL: Coach Joe Johnson’s Cougars come into the quarterfinal matchup with a 7-4 record that includes a 41-29 first round home victory over 21st-seeded Fossil Ridge. The Cougars prevailed in a battle of two of the most prolific passing teams in Class 5A, as senior QB Logan Brook threw for six touchdown passes, with five of them going to speedy senior WR Jack Pierce and the other to senior WR Kaelen Bing. Pierce had 223 of Brook’s 410 yards passing in the game. …For the season, Cherokee Trail is averaging a shade under 30 points per game offensively, thriving on a high-powered passing game and complimentary run game. Brook ranks third in 5A in passing for the season with 3,057 yards and could finish as the classification leader as the two passers in front of him are no longer playing. He already leads 5A in passing touchdowns with 33 and has been intercepted just four times. Pieces is 5A’s leading receiver as well with 1,169 yards and 14 touchdowns, which ranks second in the classification. Bing is also a top-10 receiver in 5A with 755 yards and eight touchdowns, while junior WR Noah Greer (495 yards, 2 touchdowns) has been on fire recently and senior TE Gage Gordon (434 yards, 5 touchdowns) also has gotten plenty of work. On the ground, senior RBs Ciaran Hyslop and Nate Gaye Jr. have combined for more than 1,400 yards and 13 touchdowns running behind a hard-working line that features University of Colorado commitment in senior OL Travis Gray, who checks in at 6-foot-7, 295 pounds. …Defensively, Cherokee Trail has been tested against some elite offenses and has yielded 27.2 points per contest. The Cougars have forced 13 turnovers on the season, the majority coming from interceptions, including three from senior DB Michael Hemingway as well as two from senior DL Jackson Gridley, who also leads the team with three sacks. Junior LB Ellis Williams is the team’s leading tackler, followed by junior S Kalib Davis.

RALSTON VALLEY: Coach Matt Loyd’s Mustangs earned a bye in the opening round of the postseason thanks to an 8-2 regular season record that saw them finish third in the loaded Jeffco League (where five of the six teams made the playoffs and four of them are still alive in the final 16 teams). …Ralston Valley has been outstanding defensively on the season with a unit that has allowed an average of just 10.8 points per game and hasn’t given up more than 17 in a game all season. Senior LB Steele Fredricks has racked up 85 tackles to lead the way for the Mustangs, sitting in front of junior Eli Keith, who has 76 stops and paces the team with five sacks, which has helped him rack up seven tackles for loss, same as senior Samuel Ross. Ralston Valley has forced 13 turnovers on the season and junior S Jason Thome has accounted for four of them with two fumble recoveries and two interceptions. …Offensively, the Mustangs have put up 27.4 points per game with plenty of balance and a lot of players involved, as three quarterbacks have attempted 39 or more passes (led by junior James Wochner) and combined for 1,822 yards through the air, while four players have 40 or more rushing attempts, paced by 384 yards from junior RB Diano Benallo, who has scored five touchdowns on the ground, as has senior RB Marquel Collins. Five Mustangs have 17 or more receptions and nine have caught at least one touchdown. Sophomore WR Jackson Hansen has 408 yards receiving to lead the way, while junior WR Brayden Schatz has 372 yards. …On special teams, Fredricks is 6-for-6 in field goal attempts with a long of 45.

WINNER GETS: The Cherokee Trail-Ralston Valley winner advances to a 5A quarterfinal matchup against the winner of the second round game between No. 13 Mullen and No. 4 Grandview. Ralston Valley defeated both Mullen (40-14) and Grandview (24-13) during the regular season, while Cherokee Trail lost to Grandview (42-18) in Centennial League play.