Colorado high school football gets a national spotlight this week against a Washington powerhouse.
ESPNU is broadcasting live from Highlands Ranch Friday night when Valor Christian hosts Eastside Catholic in a prep football juggernaut matchup. The Eagles and Crusaders have won seven state championships together since 2015.
Both schools are now undefeated in the early season with legitimate title aspirations.
We wanted a schedule with some top teams, said Valor coach Donnie Yantis.
Eastside coach Dominic Daste added: It’s always exciting when you have a national platform. It means hopefully you’re doing something right.
The origins of the matchup go back to 2019 when Yantis was the tight ends coach in the state of Arizona. His recruiting area included Sammamish, Wash star Eastside tight end DJ Rogers.
Yantis has failed to make a commitment. But he did form a lasting friendship with Daste.
Fast forward about three years later. Yantis, in his second season at the head of Valor, reached out to his football connections in surrounding states for non-league options. Eastside – described by Yantis as an eternal force – was a natural fit.
It’s really good for us, Yantis said. It’s about making sure we prepare for the play-offs by playing against different teams. And, to be honest, it’s hard to find non-league opponents here (in Colorado) who will play us.
Eastside is known for playing on a national stage. ESPNU aired games in 2018 and ’19 against Marietta (Ga.) and Centennial (Ariz.), respectively. The Crusaders share a mutual respect for their next high-profile adversary.
Valor is really well coached. That’s the first thing you see about the film, Daste said. They play with extraordinary effort. They are disciplined. It’s going to be a big challenge for us, comparable to our rival here at ODea High School.
Valor opened the year with wins over Regis Jesuit and Oaks Christian (Calif.) as CHSAA’s second-ranked Class 5A team going into Week 3. The Eagles have several FBS recruits, including running back Gavin Sawchuk (Oklahoma), offensive tackle Jake Maikkula (Stanford), and linebacker Jordan Norwood (Liberty).
Eastside – playing in Washington’s second-largest classification (3A) – was forced to hold out 10 starters in his first game after a positive COVID-19 test and subsequent contact tracing, Daste said. The Crusaders still won by two touchdowns. Their success as a program caught the attention of CU coach Karl Dorrell.
Sammamish is a prominent Seattle suburb that sits at 541 feet in elevation. Players visiting Eastside must now compete above 5,800 feet at Valor Stadium with temperatures expected into the high 80s around kick-off.
It’s all a part of us challenging ourselves, Daste said. We can run from it and be afraid. Or we can embrace it and watch us play.
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