First and foremost hats off to both squads. Valor, now with four straight titles, has all the pressure that goes along with being the favorite. So far they have not faltered during their multiple playoff runs. Also, many, myself included, did not give Cherokee Trail their due. The Cougar's combination of sound defensive fundamentals and athletic, physical players kept a Valor offense that has sprinted through playoffs in check almost the entire day.
Valor's Stanley Gilbert, a veteran of all four Eagle championships dominated. The low to the ground 300 pounder ate up blockers and did not allow a big Cherokee Trail line to get any push. Most impressive was Gilbert's ability to make plays off the double team, not only defeating blockers but collapsing the line and finishing with tackles. DIs are scared off by Gilbert's sub 6-0 height, but bottom-line the kid can play. Spoiler alert, Gilbert is an early favorite for the PrepColorado 2012 Defensive Player of the Year.
DE/TE Clarke Cooper will need to anchor the defensive line next year with Gilbert's graduation. The 250 pounder looks up to the task. At 6-3 he could add weight to play DT and is also a very salty blocking tight end.
Daryl Hawkins, the underrated Valor fullback, would be a 1,500 plus rusher for almost any other team in the state, but sharing carries with McCaffrey limits Hawkins' touches. As always, Hawkins on Saturday got the most of his touches averaging six yards a carry. About 215 pounds, Hawkins is a great lead blocker, can catch the ball out of the backfield and he is not only a short yardage runner but is a threat for the big play. Hawkins' best football is in front of him.
Cherokee Trail, never short on DBs, has multiple kids that will play on Saturdays. Junior Evan White is the real deal! At 6-2 180, White is a long fluid athlete that looks born to play DI free safety. Project him in five years potentially an inch taller and 25 pounds heavier patrolling the field. White has great instincts and the ability to play in and out of the box. Cougar QB Aric Johnson, also a junior, has many of the same attributes of White and could also be a very good college safety. Word is colleges are already very interested in White.
I have talked multiple times about the bookend tackles at Valor, Isaiah Holland and Alec Ruth are big and they can play, but I was also impressed with Cherokee Trail's giant 2014 tackle Colt Jones. The 6-6 305 pound Jones, caught my eye on a defensive play as he chased Luke Del Rio out the pocket. The big kid could run and showed feet and athleticism. Once again, Colorado will be a destination for offensive line talent.