AURORA | A capsule look at the 2017 Class 5A state football first round playoff matchup between No. 15 Fountain-Fort Carson and No. 2 Eaglecrest:
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NO. 15 FOUNTAIN-FORT CARSON (4-6) VS. NO. 2 EAGLECREST (10-0)
7 p.m., Nov. 10 at Legacy Stadium
BREAKDOWN: Eaglecrest and Fountain-Fort Carson haven’t met in the playoffs in at least the last 18 years and may be squaring off in the postseason for the first time. The Raptors and Trojans last met in the second game of the 2011 regular season, with Fountain-Fort Carson posting a 19-0 victory after winning a 2010 meeting 22-16.
FOUNTAIN-FORT CARSON (4-6): The Trojans are the lone team in the 5A playoffs with a sub-.500 record, as they come in at 4-6 after losing their last four games. Fountain-Fort Carson finished sixth in the Mount Lincoln League, which sent five of its six teams to the postseason in No. 1 Valor Christian, No. 8 Lakewood, No. 13 Poudre and No. 14 Highlands Ranch. There’s no doubt coach Jake Novotny’s Trojans have been tested, as their 10-game regular season schedule included seven opponents currently in the postseason in 5A or 4A, which helped them to the No. 16 spot in the final RPI…Offensively, Fountain-Fort Carson has been held in single digits four times, including two of its last three games, and then put up 13 in its finale against Valor Christian. The Trojans have rushed for nearly 2,000 yards as a team and senior QB Eric Donnell has 1,094 of those yards and six touchdowns, while he has also thrown for 808 yards and eight touchdowns (with six interceptions). Senior RB Gavin Green has rushed for 630 yards and five scores and caught 16 passes for 155 yards and two more TDs. Senior WR Gabe Elliott has 367 yards receiving and four touchdowns as the primary target in the passing game…Defensively, Fountain-Fort Carson has surrendered nearly 25 points per game and ranks in the middle of the pack in scoring defense in 5A. Senior LB Jarren Sly is the team’s leading tackler, just ahead of senior LB Iosua Maika, while senior SS Ahmed Bernard paces the team with four sacks and senior FS Erik Rolle has three interceptions to go with two fumble recoveries.
EAGLECREST (10-0): The Raptors finished off a second straight regular season with a 10-0 mark — matched only by No. 1 Valor Christian — claimed a second Mount Wilson League title and qualified for the 5A playoffs for the fifth time in the past six seasons, missing out only in 2015 when Highlands Ranch’s forfeiting of the season due to a cheating scandal affected their RPI (Eaglecrest Playoff History). Coach Mike Schmitt’s Eaglecrest team was one of two Mount Wilson League teams to make the postseason, No. 10 Ralston Valley is the other, and it played three 5A playoff teams in all in the Mustangs, No. 8 Grandview and No. 12 Arvada West….The Raptors own the defense that has allowed the fewest points in all of 5A (104) or an average of just a little over 10 points per game, while they’ve held five teams to seven points. Sacks (20) and turnovers (15) have been a big reason for Eaglecrest’s defensive success and they get some of both from a wide variety of sources. Junior LB Tyler Dufour picked up his team-leading fifth-sack of the season in the Raptors’ Week 10 win over Arvada West and he also leads the team with two fumble recoveries, while hardworking senior LB Kyante Christian has collected four sacks and ranks second behind senior LB Cody Bardin in tackles, junior DE Elijah Anderson-Taylor is second on the team in tackles for loss with 8.0 and big junior NG Matt Youngblood is a force on the interior. Senior S Victor Garnes is the ultimate playmaker for the defensive group as he has return both an interception and fumble for long touchdowns and ranks third in tackles, while senior CBs Corey Corbin and Thomas Dangerfield III have combined for six interceptions…Offensively, Eaglecrest ranked eighth in 5A with 359 points (nearly 36 per game) and that’s with several games in which starters came out early in lopsided contests. Senior QB Jalen Mergerson is a significant threat to run or throw and has accounted for 2,513 total yards (1,745 passing and 768 yards rushing) and 25 touchdowns (14 passing, 11 rushing) while running the offense efficiently. He has two very dangerous weapons on the outside in senior WR Theryne Sandoval-Jimenez (836 yards receiving, 6 touchdowns) and Garnes (476 yards, 5 TDs), while junior WR Amaris Duggan and junior TE Dawson Macomber can also come up with big catches when needed. Senior RB Kenny Wantings fell just shy of 1,000 yards rushing last season but needs just 25 yards to get there this season and his 17 touchdowns are 10 more than he had last season, with a line bolstered by junior OL Barrett “Bear” Miller and sophomore OL Reece Atteberry paving the way…Eaglecrest is also talented in special teams with Garnes owning two punt return touchdowns and Sandoval-Jimenez a capable placekicker who calmly knocked a short field goal through to five the Raptors a last-second win over Ralston Valley.
WINNER GETS: The Fountain-Fort Carson-Eaglecrest winner moves into a Nov. 17-18 quarterfinals against the winner of the first round game between No. 10 Ralston Valley and No. 7 Cherry Creek, scheduled for 7 p.m. Nov. 10 at Stutler Bowl.
??? — Full Class 5A state playoff bracket & schedule, here