Football: Capsule look at Arvada West vs. Cherokee Trail

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2013 CLASS 5A STATE FIRST ROUND PLAYOFF MATCHUP

Arvada West
ARVADA WEST
Cherokee Trail
CHEROKEE TRAIL

NO. 27 ARVADA WEST (4-5) VS. NO. 6 CHEROKEE TRAIL (7-2)

Nov. 1, 7 p.m., Legacy Stadium

BREAKDOWN: Cherokee Trail of the Centennial League and Arvada West of the North Metro League meet for the first time in the regular season or playoffs. …Coach Monte Thelen and his staff have guided the Cougars to seven consecutive postseason appearances, including all five seasons since they moved up to 5A. Cherokee Trail made the 4A semifinals in 2007 and the 5A semifinals in 2010, while it lost to Valor Christian in last season’s 5A state title game. …Arvada West is back in the 5A playoffs for the first time since 2010 when it lost to Rangeview in the second round. … ARVADA WEST: Coach Greg Whisler‘s Wildcats finished the regular season at 4-5 — an improvement on last season’s 3-7 campaign — capped by a 31-20 defeat at the hands of Pomona on Oct. 25. ….Arvada West’s offense hasn’t had many big games this season, but has a pretty balanced unit. Junior QB Travis Thorsten has completed 78 passes for 876 yards and 6 touchdowns vs. 4 interceptions with the main targets being senior WR Tristan Rios (290 yards, 2 TDs) and senior WR Allen Martin (230 yards, 3 TDs). Senior RB Claude Neloms is the Wildcats’ biggest threat on the ground with 964 yards rushing and 7 touchdowns. …While Arvada West’s scoring is down, so is the number of points it allows, as the defensive unit has yielded 90 fewer points than a year ago. Junior LB Tyler Lewis has been a force for the Wildcats, racking up a team-high 111 tackles, including 8 of the team’s 32 sacks. DL Keenan Leary has 7 sacks to his credit. …CHEROKEE TRAIL: The Cougars lost just 2 games in the regular season and both came in the late stages of games, as they dropped their opener on a last-second touchdown pass to Chatfield, while a missed extra point in the closing seconds spelled a one-point loss to Cherry Creek. Cherokee Trail won its last 3 games of the season, capped by a 27-14 Centennial League victory against Overland. …As usual, defense has been the Cougars’ calling card. Cherokee Trail has allowed just 89 points in 9 games so far, an average of 9.9 per contest, an improvement on last season’s unit that gave up 11.6 points per game in 14 contest. A speedy core of linebackers is a big part of the Cougars’ defensive success, as senior LBs Mar’Keith Bailey and Kaleb Barnum lead the team with 63 and 55 tackles, respectively. Senior DE Nic Bogulski paces Cherokee Trail’s strong pass rush with a team-high 8.5 sacks, 3 more than senior DL Jacob Martin, who sat out the regular season finale. Senior S Evan White — a University of Colorado commitment — hits hard and is a ball-hawker with a team-high 4 interceptions. …Cherokee Trail’s offense is experienced at the skill positions, as senior QB Aric Johnson is back after playing in 5 playoff games last season. Johnson missed the Cougars’ opener, but has thrown for 1,354 yards and 15 touchdowns, against 3 interceptions, in the 8 games he has played in addition to 264 yards and 5 scores on the ground. Junior RB Cameron Smith is a workhorse with 1,087 yards and 16 touchdowns rushing, while junior WR Izaiah Lottie has been a threat in several spots with 386 yards receiving and 6 TDs plus 137 yards rushing and a pair of scores. Junior WR Jason Thompson is Cherokee Trail’s leading receiver with 492 yards and 5 touchdowns.

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