Football field with lights
Friday night lights on Sept. 1 during the Elizabeth-Burlington football game, honored as the Denver Broncos High School Home Game of the Week. Credit: Photos by Nicky Quinby / Special to Colorado Community Media

Rural towns are known for being close-knit and supportive — and residents showed up in force to support the Elizabeth High School Cardinals and see the festivities when EHS was chosen to host the Denver Broncos High School Home Game of the Week. Burlington High School was the opponent for the Sept. 1 game.

EHS was delighted to have Denver Broncos cheerleaders, a Broncos alumnus and the Lombardi Trophies on their home turf. EHS Athletic Director John Everhart was thrilled at being chosen, and said the opportunity was “awesome and insane.”

The Denver Broncos Foundation also made a $2,500 donation to support the Cardinals’ football program.

Both EHS and Burlington are small, rural schools and consider playing the High School Home Game of the Week as quite the achievement. Cardinals Country has a lot to be proud of. Despite its size, the EHS Cardinals football team has an impressive record. They have won the league championship two years in a row and hosted the playoffs twice.

Head Football Coach Michael Zoesch said the event was really “cool for our community.” Judging by how many people showed up, the town of Elizabeth agreed. The parking lot started filling up as early as 4 p.m. with animated fans. The Elizabeth School District Safety & Security team estimated as many as 2,000 people would attend.

Those fans included Superintendent Dan Snowberger and Assistant Superintendent Bill Dallas, who both arrived early to help set up the event. Snowberger mentioned that even residents without students were calling the district for specifics about the game.

Nick Ferguson, a retired Bronco, was full of verve and personality, happily signing water bottles, hats or footballs as they were presented to him. Ferguson played with the Broncos from 2003 to 2007 and has also played for the Bengals, Bears, Jets and Texans.

Ferguson gave a pep talk to the Cardinals football team before the game. He reminded the players not to worry about the past and instead to focus on the present. “Last week was last week,” he said, “nobody cares.”

Four Broncos cheerleaders came to sign autographs and pose for photos. They were gracious and friendly with their time and didn’t turn anyone away. Just before kickoff, they performed two dance routines to get the crowd on their feet.

The EHS marching band and cheer team also helped kick off the game. The team was escorted to the field by motorcyclists revving their engines. The roar drew a crowd of its own and drowned out every other sound.

The Cardinals won the High School Home Game of the Week, 33-12. As is tradition, the marching band and football team ran to the top of the stadium, and everyone gathered around to ring the victory bell.

EHS Cardinals football will host four home games this season, three of which are linked to special events expected to draw huge crowds. The first was the High School Home Game of the Week, a game against University (Greeley) is set for Sept. 15 after the Community Meet & Greet at EHS, and a game against Kent Denver will be Homecoming, currently scheduled for Oct. 6. The fourth home game will be against Alameda on Oct. 19.

The Elizabeth School District Community Meet & Greet Tailgate is from 4-6 p.m. on Sept. 15 and is an opportunity for locals to meet school board members. There will be free burgers, hot dogs, chips and drinks.

The EHS Girls’ Flag Football team also played on Sept. 1, ahead of the varsity football game. They were winning for the majority of the game but in the last seconds their opponent, Coronado, pulled ahead for the win, 18-14.

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