DENVER (CBS4)– In 1989, the Denver Prep League was the king of high school football. Thomas Jefferson High School beat Montbello High School 34-32 to win the 4A state title. It was the final game of Spartans head coach Herman Motz’s Hall of Fame career and the last time a team from the DPL won a state championship.
Now 32 years later, these city rivals are once again competing for the state title, except this time they’ll be playing two other teams in separate divisions.
Teams from the Denver Prep League have been playing football in Colorado since 1901 and they’ve only won six state championships. That could change this weekend as Thomas Jefferson will play Gateway in the 4A title and Montbello, now known as the Far Northeast Warriors, will take on Boulder in the 5A state title.
“We play good football here too and the kids in Denver can play, Thomas Jefferson High School head football coach Mike Griebel said. “We’re proud of that and hopefully we can keep that going and Coach (Tony) Lindsay and I can, and the teams we have can bring home both of those trophies this weekend.”
The Spartans are 7-0 and led by senior running backs Avery Shunneson and Jaden Hill. The two have combined for 951 rushing yards and 13 touchdowns.
“Jaden is a mix of everything because, where I am sort of a tuck it and downfield runner, well he can juke, he can move, and he even weighs more than me which is crazy,” Shunneson said.
“My main focus is if you’re in my way it’s just bad news for you,” Hill said when asked about his mindset as a running back.
And on defense by 320-pound senior defensive tackle who is affectionately nicknamed “Tiny.”
“I can get off of blocks real easy so it’s just fun for me. I love the trenches, so it works for me,” Treshawn “Tiny” Smith said.
This game has another special meaning. Coach Motz died on Jan. 9 and the Spartans and the Spartans are hoping to win one more game for him.
“He’s very special to us because of the recency if that. He brings us a sense of duty to live up to the greatness that TJ had prior to us,” Coach Griebel said