AURORA | A capsule preview of the 2021 Class 4A spring football state championship game between Gateway and Thomas Jefferson scheduled for May 14, 2021:
Courtney Oakes is Sentinel Colorado Sports Editor. Reach him at [email protected] Twitter: @aurorasports. IG: Sentinel Prep Sports
2021 CLASS 4A SPRING FOOTBALL CHAMPIONSHIP GAME
No. 6 Gateway (5-3) vs. No. 1 Thomas Jefferson (7-0)
May 14, 7 p.m. at Colorado-State Pueblo
BREAKDOWN: Gateway plays for a state football championship for the first time in school history, while Thomas Jefferson has qualified for title game for the first time since 1989, when it won its second all-time crown. …Gateway is the first team from Aurora to make a state championship game appearance since 2017 when Eaglecrest took on Pomona for the 5A state championship. Regis Jesuit and Cherokee Trail lost in the 2010 and 2012 5A finals, respectively, while Aurora’s last state winner came in 2007 when Grandview on 5A. …Gateway will look to break a three-game losing streak since 2008 against Thomas Jefferson, which includes a 30-22 loss in the first round of the 5A state playoffs in the 2004 season. The Spartans won regular season matchups in 2008 and 2009 by scores of 17-0 and 14-6.
GATEWAY (5-3): The Olys finished the regular season 3-3 (including a forfeit received from Sierra), but peaked at the end of it with a 49-0 victory over Aurora Central that eventually put them in the No. 6 position in the eight-team 4A postseason. Coach Justin Clyatt’s Gateway team opened its postseason run with a matchup against undefeated and third-seeded George Washington, which it downed 30-27 May 1 at All-City Stadium for the program’s first postseason win since 2005 in the process, going ahead in the fourth quarter on a touchdown run by senior RJ Webster followed by a two-point conversion pass from senior quarterback Erick Covington (who had two touchdown runs in the game) to senior wide receiver Tony Gallegos. The Olys followed that up with a 28-21 win over second-seeded Harrison — which they had lost to 34-18 during the regular season — May 8 at Aurora Public Schools Stadium in a game in which they led several times before going ahead for good on a touchdown pass from Covington to senior Kaden DeVault in the early stages of the fourth quarter. Covington rushed for nearly 200 yards and two touchdowns as well, while Webster started the scoring with a short fumble return touchdown. …In seven games, Covington has rushed for nearly 1,000 yards (969 on just 73 carries) and has scored 13 touchdowns on the ground, while he’s thrown for 735 yards and seven touchdowns. Webster has also been effective in the ground game and has rushed for 570 yards and six touchdowns, while senior Sh’marre Johnson has been a big play threat in the passing game and has 335 yards and three receiving touchdowns, tied with DeVault for best on the team. Johnson has also been a special teams difference maker and picked off a pair of passes defensively. Gateway has been stepping up defensively of late with seniors Taylor Coe II and Eric Rivera II stepping up in the trenches plus great play at linebacker from Webster and senior Antwuan Smith.
THOMAS JEFFERSON (7-0): The Spartans received the top seed in the 4A bracket after posting a 6-0 mark in the regular season, then got a bye into the semifinals after eighth-seeded Aurora Central had to withdraw due to COVID-19 protocols. Coach Mike Griebel’s Thomas Jefferson team advanced to the state championship game with a 35-21 win over fourth-seeded Falcon in a game dominated by the ground game of senior running back Jaden Hill, who rushed for 105 yards and four touchdowns. Junior quarterback Austin Lindegren also scored a rushing touchdown for the Spartans. …Thomas Jefferson’s ground game has been the focus of its offense as it has racked up 1,743 yards and 23 touchdowns rushing vs. 430 yards and seven touchdowns in the passing game. Four Spartans have rushed for more than 200 yards on the season, led by senior Avery Shunneson with 557 yards, followed by Lindegren with 432 and Hill with 394. Lindegren and Shunneson share the team lead with seven rushing touchdowns. Senior Trenton Koser is the Spartans’ leading receiver with 180 yards and is one of three players with multiple touchdown catches. Shunneson is also a tonesetter on defense as he leads the team with 52 tackles, followed by junior linebacker Jalen Shipp, while senior Blake Wilson has 4 1/2 sacks.