While many high school students spent Thanksgiving break relaxing with their families, a select few were counting their blessings on the gridiron.

The 18 teams that will play in Saturday's semifinal and state championship games lived to see another week of practices -- including the one on the turkey holiday.

"I'm thankful for another week of football," Kent Denver junior Josh McDonald said. "I'm thankful for my team and everyone who's helped us get to this point."

When the season began in August, there were 280 teams. This week, we were down to just 18. For the players and staff on these squads, there was no watching the holiday games on TV. Instead, they were the ones on the field.

"This is the best possible scenario. I wouldn't want a week off knowing that another team was playing for the championship," Kent sophomore Joey Licht said.

"It's just fun being with around coaches and your friends, just that brotherhood environment, [and] being around people that you love," Valor senior Noah Elliss added.

For some, this would mark pairing the traditional turkey dinner with football practice for the first time.

"Coach [Bret] McGatlin, it's always been a dream to practice on Thanksgiving, he's always been saying that to us," Chatfield senior John Gerd said. "I'm glad we could fulfill that for him."

Others have made practice on the holiday a new tradition, as they've consistently made it to the semifinal round of the football playoffs. Valor Christian is one such team. The Eagles have won six state titles in the past seven years.

"Not a lot of people can say that they're playing football on Thanksgiving Day and have it be a business atmosphere. The reason we've been able to have success in the past is because we're able to make sacrifices," Valor Christian senior Gianni Orlando said.

Watch the video to hear what players on these teams are grateful for this Thanksgiving, and tune in to the Sunday morning Prep Rally for highlights from the nine remaining football games.

5A Semifinals:

  • Pomona vs. Regis Jesuit, 1 P.M. at the NAAC
  • Valor Christian vs. Cherry Creek, 1 P.M. at Stutler Bowl

4A Semifinals:

  • Chatfield vs. Pine Creek, 1 P.M. at JeffCo Stadium
  • Windsor vs. Broomfield, 1 P.M. at Broomfield H.S.

3A Semifinals:

  • Mead vs. Pueblo East, 1 P.M. at Mead H.S.
  • Discovery Canyon vs. Silver Creek, 1 P.M. at Dutch Clark Stadium

2A State Championship:

  • Kent Denver vs. La Junta, 1 P.M. at La Junta

1A State Championship:

  • Meeker vs. Strasburg, 1 P.M. at Meeker

8-Man State Championship:

  • Akron vs. Sedgwick County, 1 P.M. at Sedgwick County