Mountain Range
Cherokee Trail

Nov. 8, 7 p.m., Legacy Stadium

BREAKDOWN: Cherokee Trail of the Centennial League and Mountain Range of the Front Range League meet for the fourth time overall and for the second straight season in the Class 5A state playoffs. The Cougars have won all three previous meetings: 44-0 in the 2008 regular season and 10-0 in the 2009 regular season, plus a 42-6 decision in the opening round of the 2012 5A postseason at Legacy Stadium. …Coach Monte Thelen’s Cherokee Trail program has made the playoffs in all 10 of its varsity seasons and made the semifinals three times and the state championship game once, an appearance that came last season when the Cougars lost to Valor Christian 9-0 at Sports Authority Field at Mile High. …Coach Bryan Davey‘s Mountain Range team, meanwhile, picked up the first playoff win in program history when it beat Heritage 24-20 in the first round. The Mustangs had lost in the first round in three of the previous four seasons. …CHEROKEE TRAIL: The sixth-seeded Cougars advanced to the second round of the playoffs for the fifth time in six seasons since moving up to 5A in 2008 with a 40-21 victory over No. 27 Arvada West on Nov. 1 at Legacy Stadium, marking their fourth straight victory. A rash of turnovers and inability to handle the Wildcats’ early pressure led to a 14-14 tie at halftime, but Thelen’s Cherokee Trail bunch scored 19 points in the third quarter to blow the game open. Junior RB Cameron Smith rushed for a game-high 132 yards and two touchdowns, while senior QB Aric Johnson overcame two interceptions to throw three touchdown passes, two to senior WR Dominique Grady and one to junior WR Izaiah Lottie. Johnson spread the ball around, with his 12 completions finding the hands of seven different receivers. Early turnovers helped Arvada West score as many points as Cherokee Trail’s stout defense had allowed in its previous three games combined. …Smith is in the midst of a monster season on the ground and is working on a streak of six consecutive games with 100 or more yards rushing and has scored 15 touchdowns in that same span, pushing his totals to 1,219 yards rushing and 18 touchdowns for the season. Johnson is second on the team in rushing with 308 yards and 5 TDs, which compliments his work in the air, through which he’s thrown for 1,484 yards and 18 touchdowns against 5 interceptions. Lottie has emerged as a versatile weapon and is second on the team to Smith in yards gained from scrimmage with 578 (406 receiving, 150 rushing) with a total of nine touchdowns, while junior WR Jason Thompson leads the way with 521 receiving yards and 5 TDs. Senior WR Isaiah Kaiser and senior Cameron Currington also have 11 or more catches to their credit, while three of Grady’s seven receptions have made it to the end zone. …The Cougars have one of the fastest defenses from sideline to sideline in the state, a big reason they yield only an average of 11.0 points per game. Senior S Evan White, a University of Colorado commitment, is a key figure in the defensive backfield and combines with senior S Thomas Thortvedt as aggressive backline of defense. Senior LBs Mar’Keith Bailey, Kaleb Barnum and Currington are constantly around the football, while junior DL Niko Sangster has become another playmaker for the Cherokee Trail defense as he’s tied with White for third-most tackles on the team and is third in sacks with 4.0. Senior DE Nic Bogulski has 8.0 sacks to his credit — plus a team-high 3 forced fumbles — while senior DL Jacob Martin has racked up 5.5. …MOUNTAIN RANGE: The 10th-seeded Mustangs come into the game on a six-game winning streak since their only loss of the season — a 14-0 defeat at Grand Junction on Sept. 20 — and rode a big second half to beat Heritage in the first round. Senior QB Andrew Wamsley and senior WR Kyle Dunbabin did the big damage offensively for Mountain Range, connecting on two touchdown passes, with Dunbabin coming up with 126 of Wamsley’s 154 yards passing. Senior RB Gabe Gillespie rushed for 119 yards, sophomore WR Gabe Aguilar scored the Mustangs’ other touchdown on the ground and junior PK Kyler McCleland knocked in his only field goal attempt of the night. …For the season, Gillespie has piled up 1,324 yards and 18 touchdowns on the ground for a team that’s averaged just a shade under 6 yards per carry for the season on 380 attempts. Wamsley has thrown for 1,232 yards and 12 touchdowns against 4 interceptions, while Dunbabin has 32 catches for 768 yards and 10 scores. Sophomore WR Elijah Gillespie is a versatile weapon for Mountain Range with 1,087 all-purpose yards to his credit. …The Mustangs’ defense runs through the linebacking corps, where senior LBs Jorge Rodriguez and Ben Platt each have more than 100 tackles to their credit. Mountain Range has also racked up 30.5 sacks on the season, with senior DE Grant McConnell the biggest concern for opposing offensive lines with 15 of those, and also come up with 15 interceptions topped by Gillespie’s four. …WINNER GETS: The Cherokee Trail/Mountain Range winner advances to the quarterfinals to the face the winner of the game between No. 3 Cherry Creek and No. 19 Overland. The Cougars lost to Cherry Creek 28-27 and beat Overland 27-14 in Centennial League play, while Mountain Range hasn’t faced either team.

Courtney Oakes is Sports Editor of the Aurora Sentinel. Reach him at 303-750-7555 or sports@aurorasentinel.com. Twitter: @aurorasports. Facebook: Aurora Prep Sentinel.

Courtney Oakes is sports Editor and photographer with Sentinel Colorado. A Denver East High School alum. He came to the Sentinel in 2001 and since then has received a number of professional awards from...