It was hard to tell which team was priming for the state playoffs in the Oct. 25 Pioneer League game between Castle View and Legend.
As it turned out, both teams made the Class 5A playoff field, but it took Castle View's 42-20 victory over Legend for the Sabercats to claim a spot on the postseason bracket.
Castle View was 34th in the wild-card standings used to determine the 32 playoff teams and needed a win to have a chance to move up.
The Sabercats (4-5) climbed to 28th after the upset and will challenge No. 5 seed ThunderRidge (8-1) in a first round matchup Nov. 1 at Shea Stadium.
“We needed that game,” said Castle View coach Ryan Hollingshead of the 22-point triumph over Legend. “It worked out pretty good for us.”
Legend was playing for a share of the Pioneer League title, but the loss not only cost the Titans a co-championship but also the opportunity to host a first-round playoff game.
The top 16 teams in the wild-card standings host opening-round games. Legend was 14th before the Castle View game but slipped to 17th after the loss.
Legend (6-3) will play No. 16 Douglas County (6-3) Nov. 1 at Douglas County Stadium.
Castle View was the better team in the tuneup contest against Legend, which was played at Douglas County Stadium.
The Sabercats grabbed a 35-14 halftime lead and rushed for 304 yards that included 207 in the first quarter. Legend turned the ball over four times and failed to convert on fourth down three times.
“We came out with an attitude that we were just going to be physical,” explained Hollingshead. “We've played them pretty physical every year and we had that confidence. We cut down on mistakes. For the previous two weeks we just shot ourselves in the foot.
“We always knew were we underachieving. In the back of kids' heads when you are losing close games, they know they are still there and they are still hungry.”
Castle View was coming off setbacks to Fountain-Fort Carson and Heritage by a total of nine points.
The Sabercats scored 28 unanswered points to break a 7-7 tie and made sure they would not lose another close game.
“The last two games were close but we lost them in the end,” said senior Kaleb Geiger. “Everyone was clicking on all cylinders.”
Geiger, a linebacker who started doubling as a fullback two weeks ago, rushed for 129 yards on eight carries and scored a touchdown. He also had a team-high six tackles, intercepted a pass and recovered a fumble.
“I just recently became a fullback,” said Geiger. “They give me the ball and I just run. My main position is a will backer.”
Senior Elias Jackson ran for 98 yards on 16 carries and scored three touchdowns.
“Those two kids were not our starting running backs two weeks ago,” pointed out Hollingshead. “Elias Jackson is coming off an injury and Kaleb Geiger is new to running back but he's one of the toughest kids on the team.”
Legend quarterback Peyton Remy, the league passing yardage leader, completed 24 of 43 passes for 376 yards and three touchdowns. He also was intercepted twice.