Pomona 43, Bear Creek 25

ARVADA – There are two games high school coaches and players hate to lose – homecoming and the playoffs.

So when the Pomona Panthers beat the Bear Creek Bears, 34-26, at homecoming the Bears vowed revenge.

And what better way to take it than to end Pomona’s playoff hopes?

Such were the Bears gridiron hopes as they took to the field Friday night for a quarterfinal playoff game against the Panthers at the North Area Athletic Complex.

And things started well enough. But were this a Dickens novel, its title would be “A tale of two halves.” Or, perhaps, “A tale of one half and one quarter.”

The Bears owned the first half, seemingly doing everything right after a sluggish first-drive start. The defense seemed on track right from the start, led by a massive hit by senior Isaac Quintana that ended the Panthers’ drive at their own 43.

An excellent punt left the Bears backed up to their own 12-yard-line. Lukas Lockett got the call and carried out to the 18. Two plays later senior quarterback Zach Thenell hit senior Armani Brewington with a pass to the 34.

The Bear machine was humming.

Seven plays later Lockett would open the scoring when he burst over from the 5-yard-line. A missed point-after attempt gave the Bears a 6-0 lead.

That lead lasted just 16 seconds: On the ensuing kickoff Pomona junior Jamar Hebert fielded the ball at the two, made a quick juke at the 15, cut to his left and raced down the sideline for the touchdown. Dylan Carter’s extra point gave the Panthers a one point lead, 7-6.

Columbine vs. Lakewood game gallery. All photos courtesy George Kochaniec, Jr. Click to view.

Columbine vs. Lakewood game gallery. All photos courtesy George Kochaniec, Jr. Click to view.

Thenell and company took over at their own 20 with 2:49 left in the first. Two keeper calls opened the drive, with Thenell gaining 17 yards. Lockett got 24 on the next play. Six plays later the Bears found themselves with a second-and-10 at the Panthers 15. Thenell stood tall in the pocket and lofted a beautiful spiral that softly landed in the outstretched hands of Brewington. He took two steps and crossed the goal at the front pylon.

A try for two was unsuccessful and Bear Creak led 12-7.

Pomona’s fortunes weren’t any better on the next drive. Starting from their own 31, the Panthers moved 10 yards before things began to go awry. On first down, senior quarterback Nathan Grimes went to pass. Bear Creek Senior linebacker Vincent Delmonico was all over him, but couldn’t quite bring him down. As the two struggled and started to fall to the turf, Grimes tried to pass. The official flagged him for intentional grounding. That left the Panthers with a second-and-31. They got four yards on the next play, but were then hit with a delay penalty. On third-and-32 Grimes was sacked by seniors Jake Utley and Travis Barlock.

With 7:59 left in the half, the Bears set up at their 34. Lockett carried around right end for 12. Thenell kept for 13. Then Lockett got nine. On first-and-goal from the 12, Thenell executed a brilliant draw to Lockett, who easily scored. A trick PAT attempt, that was supposed to end with Thenell catching a pass on the right side, missed him by little more than a foot. The Bears led 18-7 with triple nickels showing on the clock.

The Panthers, it seemed, were their own first half enemies. On second down, Grimes had to leap high for a bad snap out of the shotgun. He came down with the ball, but it wasn’t very secure. He was hit by senior linebacker Cody Nolte. The ball came loose. Nolte thought he had it, but someone else grabbed it away.

“It slipped right out of my hands into his,” said Nolte, who identified Delmonico as the thief.

With first-and-10 from the 11, the Bears wasted no time in scoring. On second down, Lockett burst up the middle from seven yards out. Sophomore Nick Dalton was called on for the PAT and the Bears led 25-7, with more than four minutes left in the half.

A good runback on the kickoff set the Panthers up just 10 yards shy of midfield. Senior Tyler Pace, the workhorse of the Panthers offense, got the call three consecutive times. On the last one, from 20 yards out, he sliced through the Bears line like an ice-cutter in the Antarctic and bulled his way into the end zone. The PAT was good and the half ended with the Bears leading 25-14.

The best analogy to describe the third quarter, in which neither team scored, would be two heavyweight fighters in the middle of the ring flailing away at each other.

Bear Creek’s most promising drive of the quarter suffered a serious setback when Brewington seemingly caught a pass from Thenell for a long gain. The refs, however, flagged him as an ineligible receiver. Seems he had stepped out of bounds during his run and re-entered the field. According to coaches, the rules state a player can do that and still participate in the play, they just can’t be the first person to touch the ball.

Two plays into the fourth quarter the Bears punted and their demise began.

Pomona took possession at its own 15. Pace, ever the bulldozer, grinded out 13. After an incomplete pass, Grimes handed to Pace who slipped past the line, eluded the linebackers, cut to his left and got past the lone safety. With nothing but pay dirt ahead, the senior sprinted to the end zone. A pass from Grimes to Cody Morton for the two-point attempt was successful, and the Bears’ lead had been cut to three, 25-22.

In their next series, Thenell passed to the middle. But instead of a completion, Pomona’s Daijon Tyler was there for the pick. He drew a bead on the right sideline, skirted past a couple of Bear Creek linemen and zipped into the end zone.

Carter’s extra point put the Panthers up, 29-25. The Bears’ lead was gone, and, effectively, their playoff hopes.

But there was still 10:30 left to play.

On its next series, Bear Creek went three and out. A great punt set the Panthers up at their 23. Pace got the call on five of the drive’s seven plays. Clearly the Panthers were in clock-control mode. On third-and-5 from the Bears 23, junior Nick Allen cut to his left at the line, then back to the right and raced the final 20 yards for a touchdown.

With the temperature dropping, the wind picking up and just 6:05 left, the Bears were facing a daunting task, down 36-25.

On fourth-and-4 from the 44, Thenell made a valiant effort to get the first down, but Pomana junior Dustin Conley made an acrobatic catch to pick off Thenell’s pass. Five plays later, Grimes kept and scored from 32 yards out. The PAT made it 43-25 with just 2:38 to play.

Three plays into the Bears’ next possession, Thenell was intercepted for the final time of the night. An unsportsmanlike conduct penalty pushed the Panthers into Bears territory. Grimes took a knee and let the clock play out.

The Bears season ends at 6-6. The Panthers, at 11-1, advance to next week’s game against Fairview, 10-7 winners over Columbine.

Bear Creek soccer bests Coronado, moves to 2nd round

LAKEWOOD – Ask any coach or athlete and they’ll tell you a week long layoff can be the kiss of death when the playoffs roll around.

So with a two week layoff, one could well understand coach Mike Ackerman’s concern. When the Bear Creek Bears came out sluggish in their first-round state playoff game against the Coronado Cougars, Ackerman’s concern turned to real angst.

When Coronado’s Nathan Rubio, the team’s captain, scored with 8:05 left in the half, one might have thought Ackerman was on the verge of a massive coronary.

“We were pretty rusty in the first half, that’s for sure,” Ackerman said. “We didn’t come out with much intensity. We were sluggish, rusty with our touches. We weren’t controlling the ball like normal.”

One reason for the Bears sluggishness can be blamed on the weather. The Bears were originally supposed to play last week, but snow in the Denver area, and lack of a field due to other sports scheduling, left the Bears with a Monday, 3 p.m. start time at Trailblazer Stadium.

“After that first half, we came in at halftime and had a moment in the locker room like, ‘Hey, this is our season, we don’t want to put so much time and energy into the season and have it go to waste.’ It kind of clicked with the team in general.”

Ackerman’s halftime chat created a sense of urgency. “Individuals stepped up,” he said. “We kept the ball in the offensive side of the field, created a lot more opportunities to get goals. We limited their chances in the second half.”

The halftime chewing, er, chat, paid off. With just 47 seconds gone in the second half, senior forward Salman Bahurmoz made a fantastic play to get a goal. “It was a really nice goal off a volley and Salman hit it coming across his body,” Ackerman said. “Having a great goal like that one minute into the second half gave us more energy and helped us create other opportunities.”

Ackerman had hoped the Bears, now 15-1, could get a goal before halftime. The chances were there, Ackerman said, but the Bears just couldn’t convert. “We had a couple of opportunities to put it in and you could tell by guy’s body language in the locker room they were down a bit.”

At 15:14 senior forward Grant Keith scored to put the Bears up, 2-1. That would be all the scoring the Bears would need or would get.

Now, the tournament’s ninth seed gets to play the tournament’s eight seed, Rocky Mountain on the road in Fort Collins. Ackerman said Rocky Mountain plays in one of the better leagues in the state. “So we know they have a good team,” he said. “Other than that, we don’t know much about them.”

But even with the lack of knowledge, Ackerman has confidence in his troops.

“I definitely think we have a lot more confidence after today,” he said. “Last year we were the 20 seed in the playoffs and upset a No. 13 and No. 4 seed to go to the semis.”

The Bears will also be looking to their upperclassmen for leadership.

“Our guys from last year know we can go on the road and win,” Ackerman said. “Last year helps give us the confidence going on the road today.”

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.