AURORA | A capsule look at the 2017 Class 5A state football first round playoff matchup between No. 6 Regis Jesuit and No. 3 Columbine:
Courtney Oakes is Aurora Sentinel Sports Editor. Reach him at 303-750-7555 or [email protected] Twitter: @aurorasports. FB: Aurora Prep Sentinel
NO. 6 REGIS JESUIT (10-1) vs. NO. 3 COLUMBINE (10-1)
7 p.m., Nov. 17 at Jefferson County Stadium
BREAKDOWN: Regis Jesuit and Columbine meet in the Class 5A state playoffs for the second time in the past three seasons, with the Rebels coming away with a 27-14 victory over the Raiders in a 2015 state quarterfinal contest. The teams met up in the regular season in 2009 (a 27-10 Columbine victory) and in 2008 (a 42-10 Columbine win).
REGIS JESUIT (10-1): Coach Danny Filleman’s sixth-seeded Raiders — the Mount Antero League champions — come into the quarterfinal matchup on a nine-game winning streak stretching back to Week 2 of the regular season. A last-second 40-39 loss to parochial school rival Mullen in which it allowed a double-digit fourth-quarter lead to slip away is what has kept Regis Jesuit out of the ranks of the unbeaten. The Raiders have qualified for the state playoffs for 11 consecutive seasons and won at least one postseason contest in six straight seasons, including a 17-10 victory over Mullen in this season’s opening round. In a defensive battle that included numerous turnovers, Regis Jesuit led the Mustangs 3-0 after three quarters on a field goal by senior PK Pierce Thrasher in the second quarter, then tacked on fourth quarter touchdowns from senior TE Jake Heimlicher (on a pass from senior QB Justin Lamb) and junior RB Kiahn Martinez via a 90-yard kickoff return. The Raiders’ defense sealed the win when Heimlicher forced a fumble that senior LB Ben Hecht recovered inside of the final minute with Mullen in the red zone looking for a tying score…Defense has been the biggest constant this season for Regis Jesuit, which ranks third in 5A in fewest points allowed with 123 in 11 games (11.2 points per game), which trails only the other two Aurora teams in the postseason in No. 8 Grandview (105 points allowed) and No. 2 Eaglecrest (118 points allowed). The 40 points the Raiders allowed to Mullen in Week 2 is the outlier, as they haven’t given up more than 14 points in a game in the last nine, a stretch that includes three shutouts and four games of limiting foes to single digits. Senior DE Jake Heimlicher is simply a destructive force along the line as he has racked up 17 sacks and been directly responsible for six forced turnovers (five forced fumbles and an interception), all while nearing the 100-tackle mark. The Raiders’ linebacking core is sound as usual with Hecht leading the way for the season with 154 tackles, followed by senior LB Tama Tuitele with 149 and junior LB Charlie Quinn with 114, while junior S/LB Geno Macias is also over the century mark with 105 stops. Senior DE AJ Smallwood has had success rushing the passer on the opposite side as Heimlicher and made six sacks, while converted OL Sean Dunnington has added four sacks. Senior DB Patrick Roe owns eight interceptions and two fumble recoveries to account for a large portion of Regis Jesuit’s 28 takeaways…Offensively, Regis Jesuit has the No. 6 scoring offense in 5A with 398 points over 11 games with the 17 points scored in the playoff win over Mullen — which came on the heels of four straight games with 42 points or more — representing its lowest output of the season. Martinez made a huge impact with his special teams play against the Mustangs, but he’s generally a workhorse in the backfield as he’s rushed for 1,418 yards and a whopping 20 touchdowns on the season, while Lamb is nearing the 300 yard plateau for the season on the ground and has scored five times with his legs. Lamb has also thrown for 1,768 yards and 18 touchdowns against just three interceptions, with senior WR Aubrey Marschel-Parker (741 yards, 7 TDs) representing his most common target. Senior WR Cade Mendenhall had a big third-down catch in the closing minutes to help the Raiders and has 432 yards receiving, while Heimlicher is an emerging weapons as a passcatcher with an average of 16.2 yards per catch on his 13 grabs with four scores…Thrasher is 4-for-8 in field goal attempts this season with a long of 36 yards.
COLUMBINE (10-1): Coach Andy Lowry’s Rebels — the Mount Cameron League champions — bring a seven-game winning streak into the quarterfinal contest, with their season spoiled only by a 35-14 loss to Chatfield back on Sept. 22. Columbine is a very regular part of the deep rounds of the 5A playoffs and has been to at least the quarterfinals in five of the last seven seasons, a stretch that included a state championship and undefeated season in 2011. This season’s postseason opened for the Rebels with a 45-14 victory over No. 14 Highlands Ranch in a game in which they rushed for nearly 291 yards and six touchdowns. Senior QB Logan Dearment and sophomore RB Tanner Hollens rushed for two TDs apiece for Columbine, while senior RB Conner Snow and sophomore RB Hogan Braeden also got into the end zone…Offensively, Columbine has piled up 430 points in 11 games for an average of 39 points per contest that ranks only behind No. 4 Pomona and No. 7 Cherry Creek. The Rebels traditionally feature a massive offensive line and that is the case this season as well with a 300-pounder in senior OG Kai Valentino, another close in 29–pound junior OT Evan Durbin and several others in the 260-pound range. Columbine gets tremendous push up front and uses a variety of ballcarriers, with eight players having seen double-digit carries on the season. Snow leads the way with 924 yards and 12 touchdowns, followed by Hollens with 747 yards and six scores, while Dearment has 12 rushing touchdowns to go with the 16 he has thrown (versus just two interceptions). Senior RB/WR Teddy Mullin has nearly 400 yards and six touchdowns on just 42 rushing attempts for the Rebels, while he is the only Columbine receiver over 100 yards receiving on the season with 378 to go with eight scores….The Rebels’ defense ranks fourth in 5A in fewest points allowed and they’ve put up big numbers in both sacks (21) and takeaways (20). Sophomore Justin Lohrenz has just 25 tackles, but seven of them are sacks to lead the team, while senior LB Espen Weber paces the team with 65 tackles, followed by senior Richard Hoffschneider with 58. Senior Anders Arterbrun has picked off four passes on the season and Columbine has 13 interceptions as a team…Aside from his play at quarterback, Dearment is a threat as a kicker as he has successfully made five of his six field goal attempts this season with a long of 42 yards.
WINNER GETS: The Regis Jesuit-Columbine winner advances to a Nov. 24-25 semifinal contest against the winner of the quarterfinal game between No. 7 Cherry Creek and No. 2 Eaglecrest, scheduled for 1 p.m. Nov. 18 at Legacy Stadium.