Weather clogs roads, closes schools and businesses

LAKEWOOD – The city began digging out from as much as 21 inches of snow Thursday as a slow-moving storm lingered through mid-afternoon on its slow move eastward.

The snow, slush and poor visibility clogged the morning rush for a second day and extended the season’s first weather related school closure in Jeffco to two days. City and county offices opened late and a number of local businesses remained closed.

Red Rocks Community College also is closed and students were urged to check with the school before heading out to class Friday. The weather also caused the postponement of a number of athletic events, including the first round of Boys Varsity soccer playoffs.

Jefferson County also canceled the Citizen Input Meeting scheduled for Thursday night at Belmar Library in Lakewood. Check http://www.jeffco.us for the latest information on rescheduling the meeting.

The National Weather Service expected snow to continue falling across the metro area into the night, but forecasters said the heaviest amounts will hit the southern and eastern suburbs as the storm moves eastward over the Plains. Blizzard conditions are expected in eastern Colorado tonight and Interstate 70 was closed from the metro area to the Kansas state line due to blowing and drifting snow as well as icy road conditions. A number of other highways in eastern Colorado also were closed, according to the Colorado Department of Transportation. Northbound lanes of Interstate 25 remained closed from Wellington to the Wyoming state line because of treacherous driving conditions.

Lakewood city streets varied from wet to snow-packed and slushy with patches of ice at some intersections.

City crews kept abreast of the storm, hitting major streets first, then moving into neighborhoods.

“It’s gone pretty well” Jay Hutchison, Lakewood’s Public Works director, said Thursday afternoon. “We did bring in some contract motor-graders and, through the course of last night and this morning, we were able to get to all of the residential streets as well as the priority routes.”

Some of the less-traveled residential streets were covered again as snow fell throughout the day, but city crews had turned their attention back to keeping the priority routes open and prepared for what is expected to be an icy Friday morning commute.

“There is quite a bit of moisture in this snow and, as temperatures drop overnight, I’m sure there are going to be areas that get icy,” Hutchison said. “But, unless things turn around, I think we are in pretty good shape.”

Green Mountain 1, Cherry Creek 2

AURORA – For a team built on batting, Green Mountain’s Ram softball team lost their bid in the state tournament Friday in a pitching duel during which the Rams could manage only two hits.

But Green Mountain’s ace – junior Emily Canaday – responded in kind, holding the Bruins only four hits while striking out nine and surrendering only two walks. Creek Pitcher Alyse Harris, a senior, also gave up four hits, walked two and posted 10 strikeouts.

A close game should have been expected, the Rams went 16-5 for the season; Cherry Creek posted a 16-7 record.

But a low-scoring squeaker wasn’t expected.

“Our bats didn’t come out right away,” said Ram coach Danny Dunn-Abrams. “We are an amazing hitting team and it didn’t show.”

Hitting was almost a no-show for the Bruins, as well. Canaday and some solid fielding by her teammates, kept Cherry Creek’s batters trundling back to the dugout.

Green Mountain shortstop Hannah Pearce was first to break the ice on a sunny but chilly morning, reaching first when the Cherry Creek’s shortstop overthrew first base, but could not advance.

But the Rams took a one-run lead in the bottom of the 5th when junior Taylor Rohlenberg reached first on a muffed pop-up, then advanced to third when Canaday’s slow roller to third was thrown to the fence near first base. After freshman outfielder Kayla Teschetter drew a walk to load the bases, Rohlenberg scored on Megan Brown’s scorcher up the middle.

Pictures from the state softball tournament. Click to view. Photos by George Kochaniec, Jr.
Pictures from the state softball tournament. Click to view. Photos by George Kochaniec, Jr.
But Canaday was tagged out at home after trying to stretch the lead and Pearce’s line drive was snared by the Bruin infield to end the inning, leaving Teschetter sand Brown on base.

Cherry Creek responded in the sixth, when lead-off hitter Taylor Gifford shot a grounder into short left field and she advanced to third when teammate Laura Leonard tried to beat out a bunt and the throw to first sailed high.

With runners at first and third, Canaday went to a full count before striking out sophomore Emily Davies. Then Bruins’ catcher Sami Spring launched a two-run double into center field, sending Gifford and Leonard across the plate. Canaday struck out the next two batters, but the damage was done and the Rams trailed by a run.

The Rams got a base runner to first in the last of the 6th inning when Demi Riecke’s line drive eluded the Bruins’ shortstop with two outs, but Riecke was stranded on first when Rohlenberg smashed another line drive, but straight into a glove at second base for the third out.

Cherry Creek seemed destined to widen the lead as the 7th inning began. Bruins’ outfielder Berit Eppard walked. Meagan Iritani was sent in to run for Eppard and reached second when the throw after Bruin outfielder Katie Armstrong ‘s bunt went awry. With runners at first and second with no outs, Cherry Creek’s Lauren Rinetti bunted, but was thrown out at first and Armstrong was tagged out at second. Iritani tried to steal third and was picked off for the third out, sending the game into the last half of the 7th with Green Mountain trailing 2-1.

That would be it for the Rams, though. A ground out by Canaday, a fly ball fielded in shallow right field by outfielder Tara Grout and a strike out by Teschetter ended the Rams’ season.

“You’re in a state (playoff) game, you have to be ready,” Dunn-Abrams said. “Unfortunately we took a back seat in this one.”

Lakewood Comeback vs. Columbine Falls Short

LAKEWOOD – Years from now, some historian or library patron or just some curious, rabid football fan will stumble across a recap of the first game of Friday’s double-header at JeffCo Stadium. They’ll note the Columbine Rebels brought in a 4-1 record and were ranked fourth in the state. They’ll see Lakewood was just 2-3 before the kickoff.

Perhaps they’ll glance at the final score – Columbine 41, Lakewood 29 – and think: “Losing by 12 points to one of the state’s top teams isn’t anything to be ashamed about.”

And they would be right. Except…

There’s always an exception. In this case, it’s the fact Lakewood could have won. Skeptics will look at the game and say, “They were down 21-0 before the first quarter ended. They were down 34-0 before they ever scored a point.” And they would be right on all counts.

But on the east sidelines, where the Columbine Rebels had set up camp, Coach Andy Lowry was concerned enough with the change in the game’s momentum, that with just over seven minutes to play, he sent his first team defense and offense back into the game.

Columbine vs. Lakewood game gallery. Click for more photos.
Columbine vs. Lakewood game gallery. Click for more photos.
“They’re a scrappy team. Tough kids, always have been. They gave us a good fight,” he said.

“I’m glad they put those guys back in – it was fun,” Lakewood coach Mark Robinson said. “And that was a class act by Andy Lowry to call the dogs off.”

Lakewood started well enough. The opening kickoff was caught in the end zone. Under Colorado prep rules, that’s an automatic touchback, so the Tigers started at the 20. Senior quarterback Joe Hemschoot, who would carry the load for most of the game, ran for 3-yards and then 6 more. On third-and-1 a fumbled snap left the Tigers with a fourth-and-2. They punted.

Columbine got to work at its own 45. Junior Gary Miller got the first call, a run up the middle for three. Facing a fourth-and-3 at the Tiger 49 the Rebels decided to go for it. Senior quarterback Danny Spond looked for and found senior Sean Neu for a 9-yard gain. Three plays later Spond rambled in from 16 yards out on an option keeper around the left side. Spond also served as the team’s kicker and booted the extra point.

Lakewood’s second drive of the contest moved forward three yards, from the 20. It then proceeded to move backward 10 as Hemschoot was sacked on second down and threw a pass for minus five on third. Facing a fourth-and-17 the Tigers punted – but only out to the 30.

Two incomplete passes and a 5-yard run by Miller and it looked as if the Tigers might get out of the jam by holding Columbine to a field goal. But on fourth-and-5 from the 25, Spond took the ball, jammed it up the middle, gave a second effort, then a third and maybe even a fourth. He kept his legs churning until he reached the 19-yard-line. First down Columbine. On the next play, Spond hit Neu for the remaining yardage needed for the score.

After three plays, Lakewood fumbled. The miscue gave the Rebels excellent field position at the Lakewood 38. Sophomore Cameron McDondie took the pitch around the left side and raced down the sideline to Lakewood 2. The Rebels gave him a chance to make up the final two yards on the next play. He bobbled the pitch but kept running. He regained control while the ball was still in the air, cut between two defenders and waltzed into the end zone. Spond’s PAT made it 21-0 with 1:56 left in the first.

Lakewood’s next drive was shaping up to be one that might get them back into the game. The kickoff return gave them good field position at the 35. The Tigers abandoned the running game and took to the air. Hemschoot hit junior Tim Zott for five, then senior Trey Battistic for 12. A 3-yarder to sophomore Robert Condon put the Tigers into Rebel territory for the first time at the 48. Hemschoot’s next pass came up short and was intercepted by senior Trey Torres at the Columbine 22.

The Rebels went on a methodical march down the field. Spond passed to Neu for 13. He hit McDondle for eight. He scrambled for two to get a fresh set of downs. And then, with a first-and-goal at the nine, he zig-zagged through the Tiger line and into the end zone. With 7:55 to play in the half Danny Spond booted the extra point to put the Columbine Rebels up 28-0.

“I really like that Spond kid, he’s really a great player,” Lakewood coach Robinson said.

Lakewood’s next drive pushed deep into Rebel territory. Hemschoot kept on the first play up the middle in a move that more resembled a rugby scrum than a football play. Somehow, when the pile stopped moving, Hemshoot and the Tigers found themselves 37 yards further down the field. The drive stalled at the 13, though. Facing a fourth down and what amounted to about a half yard for a first, Hemschoot shot up the middle. The Rebels were ready and stopped him cold.

With 52.9 seconds to go in the half, Columbine coach Andy Lowry decided to switch quarterbacks. Sophomore Justin Brown bobbled the snap. Senior Derek Aga pounced on it, and the Tigers were staring at the Rebel goal line with possession of the ball at the Rebel 10. Hemschoot’s first pass was off the mark. On second down he kept around the left end for the score. The point after sailed wide right and Lakewood trailed 34-6.

Things didn’t start much better in the second half. Lakewood kicked to Neu, who took the ball at the five. 14 seconds later he was handing the ball to the official in the end zone following a 95-yard kickoff return. The PAT gave Columbine a 41-6 lead.

The game’s next score didn’t come until 2:56 remained in the third. Facing a fourth-and-13 from the Lakewood 15 the Rebels decided to go for it. The pass fell incomplete and Lakewood started at its own 15 with six minutes left in the quarter. They went three and out, but the Tiger punt was touched by a Rebel and recovered by senior Casey Ophaug at the Lakewood 40. On fourth-and-1 at midfield, Hemschoot went up the middle for a 20-yard gain. Four plays later he jammed himself up the middle again and scored from five yards out. The PAT kick by junior Danny Giertz cut the deficit to 41-13.

Then the fun started.

On Columbine’s next series they got as far as the Lakewood 47. On fourth-and-10 they punted. Like mad men possessed Ophaug and sophomore Sam Powell broke through the line and blocked the kick. Battistic fell on it. Three plays later, with second-and-1 at the Rebel 23, Hemschoot scrambled through the secondary for a touchdown. A holding penalty negated the run, pushing Lakewood back to the 31. The next play was an incomplete pass. Hemschoot ran a keeper on the next play for a 21-yard gain. Two plays later he hit Battistic in the end zone. The Tigers went for two. Hemschoot passed to Ophaug and, with 10:42 to play, Lakewood found itself down 41-21.

It was Columbine’s turn to go out in just four plays. A defensive stand on fourth-and-1 with 8:32 to play gave Lakewood the ball on its own 46.

The Rebels, sensing a shift in momentum, put the first string defense back into the game.

A pass from Hemschoot to Ophaug and a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty gave Lakewood the ball at the Columbine 33. A 16-yard pass to Battistic set the Tigers up at the 14. But the drive stalled when, on fourth-and-6 from the 10, another Hemschoot pass fell incomplete.

The Rebels could manage to get only out to the 18 before having to punt. Lakewood took over at the 44. In five plays Hemschoot marched the Tigers down the field, scoring on a keeper from five yards out. Hemschoot ran in the try for two and the Tigers were now looking at a 41-29 deficit with 2:43 to play.

“I was really happy with our own QB in the second half. He hung in there and made some plays,” Robinson said.

“They get a turnover and another quick score and we could be in trouble,” one Columbine coach said almost as if talking to himself.

But the Rebels were able to run out the clock following the failed onsides kick attempt.

“They’ve got us on size, speed and strength,” Robinson said. “We’ve got four top 10 teams in a row, so we knew this was going to be a tough stretch. We’re playing a lot of young kids. Start a lot of sophomores. We think that will help next year. We’re hoping the experience is invaluable.”

Lowry seemed genuinely impressed by the effort. “They fought hard. They came back and didn’t give up,” he said. “They always put up a fight.”

Columbine goes to 5-1. Lakewood falls to 2-4.