4A No. 5 Loveland (10-2) vs. Fossil Ridge (5-6)*
When where: 7:00 PM Thursday at Timnath Stadium
The last meeting: Loveland 28, at Fossil Ridge 10, October 30, 2009
After a promising finish last season (4-2 in last six games), the SaberCats enter the 2022 season looking to produce their first winning campaign since 2016. Quarterback Tyler Kubat (3,116 yards, 27 TDs in ‘ 21) is back snapping, with a host of weapons at his disposal, including tight end Mac Busteed (1,154 yards, 11 TDs). A Week 1 matchup with Loveland, consistently one of Class 4A’s top defensive teams, provides the perfect barometer.
No. 4 Regis Jesuit (8-4) vs. No. 2 Valor Christian (13-1)
When where: 7pm Friday at Valor Stadium
The last meeting: Valor 24, at Regis Jesuit 6, August 27, 2021
The state’s top private school football powers meet in Week 1 for the second year in a row, providing an early look at the 5A standings. Valor lost a significant amount of production from last year’s 5A runner-up team and has a new leader — former Chatfield coach Bret McGatlin. On the other hand, Regis returns dual-threat QB Exander Carroll, CU-bound tight end Andrew Metzger and Nebraska linebacker Hayden Moore as it looks to replace Valor as the primary threat to Cherry Creek’s 5A hegemony.
5A No. 8 Legend (11-2) vs. 4A No. 6 Vista Ridge (7-4)
When where: 7pm Friday at Vista Ridge
The last meeting: Vista Ridge 46, vs. Legend 0, October 3, 2008
Legendary coach Monte Thelen’s methodical rebuild has produced four straight playoff campaigns at Parker, including trips to the 5A state semifinals the past two years. Now comes the hard part: Maintaining that success now that the Titans must replace all but two starters. First up is a matchup with perhaps the best passing tandem in the state: Arizona-bound quarterback Brayden Dorman and Washington State commit Brandon Hills.
No. 1 Cherry Creek (12-2) vs. No. 6 Ralston Valley (9-3)
When where: 19:30 Friday at NAAC Stadium
The last meeting: Cherry Creek 24, vs. Ralston Valley 16, Nov. 16, 2018
For the first time in program history, Ralston Valley will take the field without Matt Loyd as coach. Now, it’s former Golden boss Jared Yannacito’s team, and he gets the most challenging 5A football presentation imaginable: the three-time defending 5A champion Bruins. Creek begins the season as the unanimous no. 1 in the CHSAANow.com rankings, its roster is loaded with FBS talent as head coach Dave Logan enters his 11th season in Greenwood Village.
4 Palmer Ridge (10-2) vs. No. 2 Montrose (12-1)
When where: 6pm Friday at Montrose
The last meeting: Montrose 28, at Palmer Ridge 21, October 1, 2021
Months after seeing its bid for excellence end in the state semifinals, the Red Hawks host Palmer Ridge in a season-opening showdown of expected 4A contenders. The Red Hawks spent most of last season containing everything in their path, but with four of their top five players gone to graduation, young impact players must emerge. Palmer Ridge also has some reloading to do, but with QB Derek Hester (2,345 yards, 25 TDs passing) back, big things are expected.
No. 7 Ponderosa (7-5) vs. No. 1 Erie (13-1)
When where: 7pm Friday at Erie
The last meeting: N/A
Erie began its quest to return to the 4A state championship with a home game against one of the most consistent contenders in the classification. The Mustangs have made the playoffs eight straight seasons, but are coming off a 7-5 season that saw them lose four of their last six games. Meanwhile, the Tigers fell one Hail Mary short of the 4A crown, but return quarterback Blake Barnett, one of three QBs in the state to pass 2,000 yards and 1,000 yards rushing last fall.
No. 3 Dakota Ridge (11-1) vs. No. 9 Pueblo West (1-0 in 2022)
When where: 7pm Friday at Pueblo West
The last meeting: Pueblo West 31, at Dakota Ridge 7, Sept. 22, 2017
No, this is not a misprint. The Cyclones are one of four teams to have already played a regular-season game this year — a 42-22 demolition of Grand Junction that saw them explode for 382 yards of offense. Now they take on a Dakota Ridge team that hasn’t lost in the regular season since Week 10 of the 2019 season. Keep an eye on senior running back Noah Triplett, who ran for 1,551 yards and 28 touchdowns last fall .
No. 7 Palisade (9-3) vs. No. 2 Roosevelt (12-1)
When where: 6 pm Friday at Roosevelt
The last meeting: Palisade 17, vs. Roosevelt 14, Nov. 11, 2017
A murky 3A picture will gain some clarity with this matchup of title contenders. Roosevelt has reached the 3A finals and semifinals in back-to-back seasons thanks in large part to a stingy defense that has allowed just 10.4 points per game since 2020. This unit will get a stiff test right out of the gate against Palisade, which brings back a pair of 1,000-yard rushers in quarterback Malakhi Espinosa and running back Phallen Salvati.
No. 6 Holy Family (6-6) vs. No. 8 Frederick (9-2)
When where: 7pm Friday at Frederick
The last meeting: Holy Family 42, vs. Frederick 35 (OT), October 14, 2021
The Matt Loyd era begins in Frederick, with the former Ralston Valley coach taking over a Golden Eagles program looking to build on last year’s 9-2 mark. His first game will be a repeat of last year’s overtime thriller, which produced a career game from then-sophomore quarterback Rylan Cooney with 326 yards and six touchdowns on 13-of-18 passing.
* All records for the 2021 season unless otherwise noted.