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As Cherry Creek primes for Class 5A five-peat, who can dethrone Colorado’s prep football dynasty?

Forget about the five-peat. Who will dethrone Cherry Creek, ever, so long as Dave Logan is wearing a headset?

The Bruins are the four-time defending Class 5A champions who have lost a grand total of two in-state football games since 2018. As the largest school in the state, and with the most accomplished coach in Colorado prep football history roaming the sidelines, Cherry Creek has the ingredients in place for an iron-clad dynasty.

So yes, Cherry Creek is again the heavy title favorite this year. And if somebody can’t knock off the Bruins this fall, after they graduated 15 starters from a year ago, Cherry Creek’s talented sophomore class could very well push them to the crowns in 2024 and ’25, too.

“We need Dave to retire,” Legacy coach Jay Madden quipped. “Because it’s Creek and it’s everybody else, and that’s just the reality. They’ve got more than 3,500 kids to start with, then they have a program with history and a coach who everybody knows and has been very successful.

“It’s going to be hard to dethrone that.”

Only Valor Christian has been able to match Cherry Creek lately in terms of sheer skill, size and depth in recent years, and even the Eagles can’t put a dent in a run of dominance that’s seen the Bruins beat Valor in the title game three years running. Cherry Creek now owns a big-school record 13 titles.

And if the Eagles can’t take down the Bruins, recent history says the odds are against the state’s other top programs.

In the last 15 5A championship games, only two haven’t featured a Logan-led team (Mullen/Cherry Creek) or Valor Christian — 2011 (Columbine over Lakewood) and 2017 (Pomona over Eaglecrest). In 2011, Logan’s top-seeded Mustangs were upset by Pomona in the quarterfinals, and in 2017, Grandview stunned No. 1 Valor Christian, also in the quarterfinals.

Valor Christian coach Bret McGatlin acknowledged “you have to hope you get Cherry Creek on a good day for you, and bad day for them.” McGatlin’s program is extremely young overall this season, with 38 total upperclassmen to 92 underclassmen. That means senior QB Asher Weiner and the Eagles will likely need to overachieve to be in the same conversation as the Bruins come playoff time.

“You’re going to have to play a full, four-quarter game to beat them,” McGatlin said. “Last year, we played two-and-a-half quarters pretty well (in a 24-17 title game loss), but we couldn’t keep it going in the second half, and that’s where they got us.”

If vaunted Valor Christian isn’t set up to play spoiler this fall, then whom?

Pine Creek, Ralston Valley, Grandview, Columbine and Mountain Vista are the main challengers to Creek, with Regis Jesuit, Fossil Ridge and Chatfield additional sleepers. Both Pine Creek and Ralston Valley were semifinalists last year, the former losing to Cherry Creek, and each brings back a plethora of talent.

Four of those top challengers feature experienced quarterbacks: junior Cameron Cooper at Pine Creek, All-Colorado senior Logan Madden at Ralston Valley, senior Liam Szarka at Grandview and junior Austyn Modrzewski at Mountain Vista. Plus, smashmouth Columbine, though smaller in size up front this year, returns senior tailback Josh Snyder.

Whether any of those teams can hang with Cherry Creek in the trenches is another question altogether.

As has been the case throughout their dominant run, the Bruins feature three enormous FBS commits up front in right guard Hayden Treter (USC commit, 6-foot-7/320 pounds), right tackle Max Parrot (Purdue, 6-4/275) and left tackle AJ Burton (Iowa State, 6-5/275). With talent like that in the trenches over the past four years, Cherry Creek’s ability to run the football and stop opponents from doing the same is the true secret to their success.

“To beat Creek, you have to try to control the clock,” McGatlin said. “They’re a really good ball-control team, and their run game has always been something that Dave’s prioritized. You have to stop their run, so you have to be decent up front in order to have a shot to beat them. That’s a challenge for anyone, because Creek has size.”

Cherry Creek Bruins head coach Dave ...
Cherry Creek Bruins head coach Dave Logan during practice at Cherry Creek High School Aug. 12, 2021. (Photo by Andy Cross/The Denver Post)

In Greenwood Village, the 68-year-old Logan is beating back the hype, reminding this year’s team that looking in the rearview isn’t going to help the Bruins get through a rigorous non-conference schedule featuring Ralston Valley, Legacy, Chatfield, Arvada West and Regis Jesuit.

The Bruins may have won the last four 5A state titles, but they haven’t won the Centennial League crown outright either of the past two seasons thanks to regular-season losses to Arapahoe and Grandview, respectively.

Translation: All it takes is one bad night for the run to come to an end.

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