Columbine shook off a scoreless first half against Legend in a Class 5A state quarterfinal game Friday night at Jeffco Stadium.
The No. 2-seeded Rebels scored 21 unanswered points in the second half against the No. 10 Titans to take a 21-3 victory. Columbine (12-0) remains undefeated in ending the season for Legend (9-4).
“Offensively, that first half was a struggle and a grind,” Columbine coach Andy Lowry said. “The kids ended up coming back and playing hard. We didn’t make a lot of adjustments at half. Our kids just kind of got off the ball.”
Columbine now heads to the 5A football state semifinals next week. The Rebels will host south-Jeffco rival Chatfield who defeated Grandview 37-28 at Legacy Stadium in one of the other four quarterfinal games that took place Friday night.
No. 5 Ralston Valley and No. 1 Cherry Creek will be the other semifinal at Stutler Bowl next week. Ralston Valley made it a trio of Jeffco teams in the semis with a dominating 28-3 road win over No. 4 Pine Creek. The Bruins handled No. 8 Mountain Vista 51-24.
No. 14 Chatfield kept its playoff run alive and will get another chance at Columbine. The Rebels defeated 35-14 back on Oct. 27 to wrap up the 5A Jeffco League title.
“I’m excited. I’m excited,” Columbine senior defensive back Ryder Williams said of the all-Jeffco semifinal against the Chargers that will be played either Friday, Nov. 24 or Saturday, Nov. 25 next week at Jeffco Stadium. “Those kids (Chatfield), we love them. We know them. I’m excited.”
Williams played a huge role in the second-half comeback. Legend had the ball to start the second half and a 3-0 lead. Williams intercepted Titan junior quarterback Nick Farley and returned it to Legend’s 38-yard line.
“That pick, I couldn’t have done it without my best friends, my brothers,” Williams said of his interception that set up the Rebels’ first score of the game. “It was a big momentum change. We needed that.”
Columbine’s rushing attack that was held in check for most of the first half got going with the senior tandem of Mason Moreno and Josh Snyder. Moreno broke the ice with a 5-yard touchdown run with 4:37 left in the third quarter to give the Rebels their first lead of the game at 7-3.
Columbine’s defense kept the momentum, forcing a three-and-out. Legend lost 14 yards on its next drive and Columbine took over at midfield.
“That was all the defensive line with Carlos (Mendoza), Julian (Bremigan), Spencer (Houle) and Hunter (Hamilton). We have so many other people who contributed to this,” Columbine senior linebacker James Cillessen said of the Rebels’ defense pitching a second-half shutout. “Everyone was playing on all cylinders.”
Snyder broke off the longest run of the night for 40 yards to put the Rebels at Legend’s one-yard line. Cillessen got the one-yard touchdown run with 55 second left in the third quarter to put Columbine up 14-3.
“We want that ball in the end zone more than any other team,” Cillessen said of the Rebels’ rushing attack getting on track in the second half. “That came to fruition in the second half. It was a great team win.”
A muffed punt by Legend set up the final score. Columbine took over on the Titans’ 25-yard line and Moreno ran in his second score on a one-yard touchdown with 5:24 left in the game.
“It felt great,” Moreno said of the finishing touch on the Rebels’ flawless second half. “The hogs (linemen) were just blocking for me. It was all the hoggies.”
The Rebels have outscored their opponents 504 to 114. Columbine’s only game decided by single-digits this season so far was a 31-29 road victory over Arapahoe back in early September.
However, the first-half scare by Legend was a wake-up call.
“It’s playoff football is what I told our kids at halftime,” Lowry said. “We have been winning by some lopsided scores. This is playoff football right now.”
Friday was the first ever meeting on the football field between Columbine and Legend.
“We’ll enjoy this win tonight, but tomorrow it’s onto the next team,” Moreno said. “We are going to play our game and do us.”
Dennis Pleuss is the Sports Information Director for Jeffco Public Schools. For more Jeffco coverage, go to CHSAANow.com.