HIGHLANDS RANCH - Arapahoe’s football team accomplished a lot in 2012.
The Warriors won the talent-rich Class 5A Super 6 League championship.
They also won 10 games for the just the fifth time in school history.
One thing they were unable to do was slow down Valor Christian, specifically junior running back Christian McCaffrey.
McCaffrey showed why he’s considered the best prep football player in the state with his performance in the Nov. 16 5A state quarterfinal game at Valor Christian Stadium.
The ultra-quick junior rushed for 295 yards on just 12 carries and, for good measure, threw in 108 receiving yards on eight catches. He scored a total of six touchdowns as the No. 4 Eagles took down the No. 5 Warriors 49-18 to reach the semifinals.
“On defense, we just had no answer for No. 5,” Arapahoe coach Mike Campbell said of McCaffrey. “That guy is awesome. At the end of the day, they are better than we are. We had a long drive after they scored where we didn’t come away with any points.
“Had we scored there, it’s 7-7 and maybe we settle back down, but then it goes to 14-0, 21-0 and momentum went the other way.”
Valor Christian (10-2), winners of 10-straight games, will play No. 1 ThunderRidge (11-1) at 7 p.m. Nov. 23 at Shea Stadium. The winner of that game gets either No. 2 Ralston Valley or No. 3 Cherokee Trail the following week at Sports Authority Field at Mile High in the state championship game.
McCaffrey, with a big assist from his quarterback, set the tone for the game on the game’s opening drive.
With Arapahoe’s student section buzzing at a jam-packed Valor Christian Stadium, McCaffrey took the snap out of a wildcat formation and raced off towards the right sideline. Quarterback Luke Del Rio, who was split out wide on the play, took Arapahoe’s Tommy Saager off of his feet with a block and McCaffrey coasted into the end zone from there. The 43-yard run put the Eagles up 7-0, and quickly quieted the Arapahoe contingent.
“I didn’t see (the block), but I can’t wait to get in the film room to see it because everyone on the sideline was talking about it,” McCaffrey said. “That just shows you how fearless (Del Rio) is and that he’s willing to lay it all on the line.”
Del Rio, operating Valor Christian’s up-tempo attack, was nearly perfect in the first half. The senior (who’s committed to Oklahoma State) completed 18-of-24 passes for 209 yards and three touchdowns, including a 50-yard score to McCaffrey that gave the Eagles a 35-0 midway through the second quarter.
Arapahoe (10-2) opened the second half with a pair of touchdown passes from quarterback Taven Sparks to Ethan Brunhofer and Michael Babb, to trim the deficit to 35-12, but an 80-yard run by McCaffrey pushed Valor Christian’s lead back up to 30 points at 42-12 with 6:02 to play in the quarter.
McCaffrey opened the fourth quarter with an electrifying 57-yard touchdown run as he first split a pair of oncoming Arapahoe defenders, then juked another near the goal line to make the score 49-12.
“We definitely wanted to come out and set the tempo right from the start,” McCaffrey said. “We still made some mistakes, but a lot of those can be fixed and so (Saturday) we’ll look at the film, have a good practice and be ready for (the semifinals).”
Despite the loss, Campbell was still very proud of the season his team put together.
“League championships and 10-win seasons don’t happen very often,” Campbell said.
“To play in our league and to play our schedule and win 10 games, we’re really, really proud of our kids and the year we put out.”