Valor advances to football semifinals

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Valor Christian's football season, except for a loss to Bingham, Utah, in the second game of the season, has lacked adversity.

The last Colorado team to put up much of a battle against the Eagles was Cherokee Trail in last season's Class 5A state championship game. Valor wound up winning that game, 9-0.

Valor, which overwhelmed Columbine 49-13 in a quarterfinal game Nov. 15 before 5,200 fans at Valor Stadium, will go against Cherokee Trail Nov. 23 in a 1 p.m. semifinal playoff game at Legacy Stadium.

“Cherokee Trail is always very athletic and they are very disciplined,” said Valor Christian coach Rod Sherman. “It's not going to be easy for us.”

After the loss to Bingham on Sept. 7, the Eagles have had it easy by outscoring opponents 510-94 in the past 10 games.

Valor, seeking its fifth consecutive state championship and second in Class 5A, collected its 16th straight playoff win with a proficient offensive and smothering defensive performance against the Rebels.

The Eagles never punted and scored on their first seven possessions to grab a 49-6 lead and initiate the running clock with 7:10 left in the third quarter.

Valor, which amassed 261 yards total offense in the first quarter alone, finished with 510 yards of offense and averaged 10 yards per play.

The Eagles' massive offensive line of 305-pound Alec Ruth, 295-pound Ryan Cummings, 280-pound Cody Bratten, 265-pound Sam Kozan and 310-pound Isaiah Holland deserved much of the credit as senior running back Christian McCaffrey and quarterback A.J. Cecil picked apart the Columbine defense.

McCaffrey, who had only one carry in the second half, rushed for 272 yards and three touchdowns. He also caught two passes for 37 yards with one resulting in a TD. The 195-pound senior who will play at Stanford next season has 35 touchdowns this season.

Cecil completed nine of 11 passes for 129 yards and one touchdown. He led a 98-yard, second-quarter TD march that pushed Valor to a 42-6 halftime advantage.

“We were efficient offensively,” admitted Sherman. “We were really pleased with the win. Most of all when you play a team like Columbine, you know how physical they are and how they are going to run the ball. It was a great challenge for the defense. To give up one play by our starting defense was exceptional.”

Columbine's Bernard McDondle scored on a 69-yard run in the first quarter and was one of three big plays for the visitors. Austin Norton had an 85-yard kickoff return in the second period but the Rebels failed to score on four attempts after Norton gave Columbine a first-and-goal from the 10-yard line.

Columbine scored late in the fourth quarter against the Eagles reserves when quarterback Michael Tait and Norton hooked up on a 70-yard TD pass.

“I thought probably the series of the game was when we gave up the long kickoff return and then held them for four plays inside the 10-yard line and came out and went 98 yards for a touchdown,” said Sherman.

“There have been little pockets of adversity this season,” he continued. “Against Columbine after their long run cut the lead to 14-6, it wasn't freaking out our guys. There was consistency in their demeanor. Our guys are realists. We've been fortunate the last couple weeks against some pretty good teams that the ball has bounced in our direction. Our team is ready to be in a dogfight against Cherokee Trail.”

Valor was whistled for 10 penalties, including four for holding, against the Rebels.

“There are some things we have to clean up,” said Sherman.

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