AURORA | A capsule look at the 2019 Class 5A state football second round playoff matchup between No. 11 Smoky Hill and No. 6 Columbine:
Courtney Oakes is Sentinel Colorado Sports Editor. Reach him at 303-750-7555 or [email protected]: @aurorasports. IG: Sentinel Prep Sports
NO. 11 SMOKY HILL (11-0) VS. NO. 6 COLUMBINE (8-2)
7 p.m., Nov. 14 at Jefferson County Stadium
BREAKDOWN: Smoky Hill and Columbine meet for the first time in the postseason and for the first time in at least the past 15 seasons. …The Buffaloes qualified for the Class 5A state playoffs for a second straight season after breaking a drought that stretched back to 2008 and their victory in the opening round marked the first postseason win for the program since the 1991 season. …The Rebels, conversely, are state playoff staples with postseason appearances in at least 16 straight seasons and they’ve progressed to at least the second round in all of those trips, while they own five all-time state championships (1999, 2000, 2002, 2006 and 2011).
SMOKY HILL (11-0): Coach Tom Thenell’s Buffaloes have won 21 of their last 22 games over the past two seasons (which brought back-to-back Metro 10 championships), with the only defeat coming to Regis Jesuit in the first round of last season’s 5A state playoffs. Smoky Hill is one of four undefeated teams among the 16 that remain alive (along with No. 1 Cherry Creek, No. 2 Ralston Valley and No. 4 Regis Jesuit), but it was the only one that played in the opening round. …The Buffaloes opened the postseason with a decisive 48-6 victory against Cherry Creek Schools rival and 22nd-seeded Overland, sweeping the season series between the programs. Senior RB Obie Sanni rushed for 175 yards and five touchdowns, while junior QB Leslie Richardson III finished a perfect 9-of-9 and threw touchdown passes to senior TE Ryan Hollingsworth and junior WR DeAngelo Horn. Senior DE K’hari Upshaw racked up a trio of sacks and recovered a fumble, while senior DB Tavaras Transou and sophomore S Cruz Hernandez each recorded interceptions in Smoky Hill’s best defensive effort since shutting out Northglenn on Sept. 13. …The Buffaloes boast the highest-scoring offense in 5A as they have amassed 456 points in 11 games. Sanni — a 2,000-yard rusher last season — has upped his total to 1,494 yards for the season and has scored 30 touchdowns (29 rushing, 1 kickoff return) that ties him for the state lead regardless of classification. Richardson III has been both efficient (66 percent completion percentage) and dynamic in the passing game as he has thrown for 2,645 yards (second in the state) and 27 touchdowns. His targets are multiple and led by Hollingsworth, who has snared 41 passes for 955 yards and 10 touchdowns. Senior WR Kaleb Starling is next with 506 yards and five touchdowns, while senior WR Sean Guzman and junior WRs Davien Norman and Horn all own at least 188 yards receiving and a touchdown. …Defensively, senior LB Vincent King is closing in on 100 tackles (91 total) for the season, followed by sophomore LB Max Zueger with 71, senior LB Chase Lyons with 68 and junior DB Kamari Lewis-Stallworth with 54. Upshaw ranks third in the state regardless of classification and tops in 5A with his 18 sacks, while senior LB Travon Holmes is also in double figures with 11. Smoky Hill has generated 26 turnovers with Zueger pacing the team with three fumble recoveries and senior DB Matthew Lash leading 11 players with at least one interception with three.
COLUMBINE (8-2): Coach Andy Lowry’s Rebels got off to a 7-0 start before they dropped consecutive games — tight contests with No. 2 Ralston Valley and No. 5 Pomona — and then finished the regular season with a decisive victory over Arvada West to secure third place in the standings in the rugged Metro West conference. Columbine was one of eight teams to receive first round byes in the 5A playoffs. …The Rebels rank third in 5A in points scored with 405 in 10 games and as is their tradition, does most of their damage with a physical ground attack. Columbine has rushed for 2,671 yards and 38 touchdowns, with a good portion coming from senior RB Tanner Hollens (1,254 yards, 21 scores), while senior RB Adam Harrington has scored nine times to go with 564 yards on the ground and four other players have rushed for at least 135 yards a touchdown on the season. Senior QB Jadon Holliday has had double-digit passing attempts in only two games this season — both of the Columbine losses — and has throw for 697 yards (on just 38 completions) plus nine touchdowns against just one interception. Thirteen players have caught at least one pass for the Rebels, but Hollens (14 catches for 227 yards and three touchdowns) is the only one in double figures, while senior RB Braden Hogan has a team-best four TD catches. …Defensively, Columbine has allowed the fifth-fewest number of points in 5A (124) in 10 games, helped by three blocked field goals and 12 generated turnovers, including four taken back for touchdowns. The Rebels have put significant pressure on opposing quarterbacks with a total of 48 sacks, with senior DE Justin Lohrenz leading the way with 15. Sophomore LB Seth Cromwell paces the team with 55 tackles, while Lohrenz has been credited with 45 and senior LB La’akea Like 44. …On special teams, junior PK Adam Tasei has made 90 percent of his PATs and is 5-for-7 in field goal attempts with a long of 37 yards.
WINNER GETS: The Smoky Hill-Columbine winner advances to a quarterfinal matchup against the winner of the game between No. 19 Mountain Vista and No. 3 Valor Christian.