tweet this Content by Twitter, Facebook; Reddit or other Networks, thanks!
The ultimate dream for big-school high school football teams in Colorado is to finish their season on the state’s grandest stage: Empower Field at Mile High.
“To have a chance to play here is a big, big deal for kids,” Cherry Creek head coach Dave Logan said.
But the future site of 4A and 5A football championship games is uncertain.
CHSAA has partnered with the Colorado Sports Hall of Fame, a nonprofit responsible for putting on the games since 2005, to crown football champions inside the home of the Denver Broncos. Their current agreement expires following the 2022 season. The CSHOF has offered CHSAA a new contract to keep state title games at Mile High through 2024, but a new deal has not been reached.
“We want to do it and the Broncos want to keep doing it,” CSHOF president and CEO Tom Lawrence said. “But we have received no response.”
CHSAA assistant commissioner Adam Bright confirmed there have been no “real serious conversations yet” regarding future plans for hosting big-school football championship games beyond 2022. CHSAA is weighing all of its venue options moving forward.
“It’s something where we need to sit down and address a contract that has been in place for (many) years. It’s probably time to make some adjustments to it,” Bright said. “The beauty of it is that it’s not something we have to rush into. We don’t have to make a decision today. We know where we’re going to be next year and we have a great partnership. It’s something we can take some time to really look at and decide what’s best for the sport of football as a whole in the state of Colorado at the high school level.”
On Tuesday, select players and head coaches from the four big-school state finalists — No. 5 Erie vs. No. 7 Chatfield (4A) and No. 1 Valor Christian vs. No. 2 Cherry Creek (5A) — spoke with reporters to preview their respective title games Saturday. They were nearly unanimous in support of playing at Empower Field.
“I definitely think it should be played at Mile High. It’s such a great opportunity to be able to play here. It’s a dream for some kids,” Valor Christian senior running back Gavin Sawchuk said. “I thank the Broncos and CHSAA for being able to put it on this year. I’d love to have it here in (future) years.”
Chatfield senior kicker/punter Andre Haddad said: “If it were not to be held at Mile High anymore, I think that would be a letdown for a lot of future generations of players. Because this is something that we look forward to and something you work for. It’s a landmark for us.”
One reason CHSAA might seek an Empower Field alternative? The opportunity to feature state championship games for all seven classifications at the same location.
Bright said the idea is to “celebrate all levels of football.” But the natural grass field at Mile High is ill-equipped to handle seven title games while maintaining an NFL-ready playing surface.
“I was in Limon last night being with our six-man coaches and talking with them about next season and the idea that you can create a culminating event — like our state wrestling tournament — and how awesome it is to have all classifications together,” Bright said. “Those are things we want to explore and see. Rather than reinvent the wheel, I want to talk to other state associations that have pulled it off.”
CHSAA has a separate two-year agreement to play five small-school championship games — six-man to 3A — inside the ThunderBowl at CSU-Pueblo through 2022. The Division II college football venue hosted all seven prep title games a year ago during split COVID fall/spring seasons on its artificial turf.
“The only thing I really liked about last year was how all the games were together,” Chatfield head coach Bret McGatlin said. “I know the grounds here (at Empower Field) is a big reason why they don’t do that. But it would be awesome to get all the classifications, or at least 2A through 5A up here, and make it a weekend-type thing. I thought it was pretty cool last year.”
Yet it appears a strong sentiment exists among coaches and players to keep big-school title games at Mile High. Saturday will mark the 16th year of crowning champions inside the stadium after missing 2020. CHSAA has not indicated whether it will return to Empower Field beyond 2022.
“I think it is absolutely great for kids to have a chance to play at the home of the Broncos,” Logan said. “If I had a vote, I would vote to stay here.”