It was a game they absolutely had to win. And, in a gritty 21-14 road victory over Highlands Ranch, the Impalas did just that. Now, Poudre has to sit back and see if that's enough to climb into a spot in the 2017 5A football playoffs.

The regular season finale carried great importance for both teams. The Falcons came into Thursday 6-3 overall and 10th in the Colorado High School Activities Association's ratings percentage index (RPI)--the format used to determine the postseason bracket.

Whereas, Poudre was on the outside looking in, but just by a hair. At 5-4, the Impalas were 17th in RPI, meaning they would need to leap at least one school ahead of them to make the 16-team cutoff.

First, they'd have to leap past a very good Highlands Ranch squad on a frigid night at Echo Park stadium.

From the opening kick, the Impalas certainly looked like a team desperate for the postseason. Poudre wasted no time getting on the scoreboard, marching down the field in the game's first possession for a touchdown--a beautiful 26-yard pass from Troy McFadden to Zach Leal to make it 7-0.

Then, as they've done all year, the Falcons turned to star running back Dominic Bettini to come right back.

The junior led his team to two touchdown drives--capped off by two short plunges for scores--to give Highlands Ranch a 14-7 lead in the second quarter.

The stingy Poudre defense wouldn't let up any more points the rest of the night.

McFadden knotted things up at 14 with an impressive touchdown run right before the half. And, in the third quarter, Joseph Erickson found the end zone from 2-yards out in what would end up being the game-winning score.

Highlands Ranch would have a final chance on offense with under two minutes to go, but Alonzo Leal came bursting through the Falcons' offensive line for a sack on 4th down to seal the 21-14 victory.

The regular season is over. Now, the two 6-4 teams will pay close attention to CHSAA's playoff brackets at the end of the weekend to see whether or not their postseasons are just beginning.