The Wagon Wheel traveling trophy is at stake for the seventh time in the football rivarly between Overland and Smoky Hill, which resumes at 7 p.m. Thursday at Stutler Bowl. The game is also the center of the Cherry Creek School District’s Veterans and Military Appreciation event. (Photo by Courtney Oakes/Sentinel Colorado)

AURORA | The Wagon Wheel traveling trophy will find its home for the next year Thursday night when longtime football rivals Overland and Smoky Hill meet at Stutler Bowl.

On a night will also serve as the Cherry Creek School District’s annual Veterans and Military Appreciation event — with festivities beginning at 6:15 p.m. ahead of a 7 p.m. kickoff — the Trailblazers and Buffaloes will square off for the 40th time.

Smoky Hill trails in the all-time series 26-13, but has won three straight contests between the teams, regular season games in each of the past two seasons along with a first round Class 5A state playoff matchup last season.

Since the Wagon Wheel trophy was introduced in 2014, Overland has had possession four times and Smoky Hill two.

Coach Tom Thenell’s Buffaloes enter this contest at 1-3 overall (0-3 in Centennial League play) after back-to-back losses to Cherokee Trail (35-21) in Week 3 and Grandview (49-21) in Week 4 following a non-league victory over Poudre. Behind senior quarterback Leslie Richardson III, Smoky Hill’s offense has scored at least 14 points in every game (with the low mark of 14 coming against Cherry Creek, which has the second-stingiest defense in 5A).

With 1,165 yards passing, Richardson III is just three yards off the lead in 5A (currently held by Fairview’s Liam O’Brien) and his 13 touchdown passes rank second in the classification to Cherry Creek’s Julian Hammond with 15. The Buffaloes have three of the top five receivers in 5A in seniors Alec Pinkowski (who shares the classification lead with six touchdown catches) and Davien Norman and junior Anthony Harris Jr.

Overland continues to look to give its first win to first-year head coach Kyle Reese and getting one in the Wagon Wheel game would be huge. The Trailblazers fell to top-ranked Cherry Creek 45-0 in Week 4 in a game in which senior quarterback Kai Ilela left due to injury in the first half. Sophomore Komari Owens came on in relief and faced a swarming Bruins defense.

The loss to Cherry Creek marked the first game in which Ilela and sophomore playmaker Ismael Cisse did not connect for a touchdown pass. Defensively, junior Brett Stonebraker had two of the Trailblazers’ four sacks in the contest.

Courtney Oakes is Sentinel Colorado Sports Editor. Reach him at 303-750-7555 or [email protected] Twitter: @aurorasports. IG: Sentinel Prep Sports