Cherry Creek coach Dave Logan concluded his postgame comments to his football team on Nov. 23 on the field at Jeffco Stadium with a few meaningful words.
He told his team that they needed to continue to work hard and practice would be held Monday, since they will be playing in the state championship game.
His comments set off more celebrations following the Bruins' 10-7 victory over previously unbeaten Columbine in the Class 5A semifinals.
Cherry Creek (12-1) will play another unbeaten team when the Bruins face top-seeded Valor Christian at 2:30 p.m. Dec. 1 at Denver Broncos Stadium at Mile High Stadium in the state championship game.
The semifinal game was a contest between two run-heavy teams, and the defenses for both teams played well.
The Bruins' ground attack, sparked by junior Seamus Henderson, and a solid defense propelled Creek into its 17th state title game. The school has won nine state championships, the last one in 2014 with a victory over Valor Christian.
“I told my team we just beat a quality team,” said Logan. “Last year (in a semifinal loss) we didn't get all the way. I'm proud of the kids for hanging in there. They found a way to put a drive together. We made enough plays to win.
“We played 48 minutes and that's a characteristic of this team all year long. You need an effort like that to beat really good teams. I thought our defense made some key stops and that critical turnover at the end was the difference.”
Columbine, seeded second in the playoff bracket, came into the game averaging 311.1 yards per games rushing but were held to 110 yards by the third-seeded Bruins. The Rebels finished with 157 yards of total offense. Columbine averaged 40 points a game prior to the semifinal game against Creek, and the seven points scored were the fewest in 51 games by a Columbine team since a 12-7 loss to Fountain Fort Carson on Aug. 22, 2014.
Creek rushed for 123 yards and had 166 yards of total offense. The Bruins added to Mac Willis' 37-yard first-half field goal with a 58-yard, 14-play scoring drive that erased 5:43 from the clock for the winning TD in the fourth quarter.
The Bruins, who held a 17:45-6:15 advantage in time of possession in the second half, scored with 10:46 left to play in the game on a 6-yard run by Henderson.
"He made some big runs in the second half," Logan said.
Henderson, a junior, wound up with 103 yards on 25 carries. He sealed the win with a 28-yard run on a third-and-13 play with just over a minute left.
“I try to run like I weigh 200 pounds,” said Henderson, who actually weighs 170. “I didn't expect to carry the ball that much. It wasn't just me. Jaylee (Stacks) set it up for me with a block and all I did was score. We did it as a team. There's nothing like going to the state championship game.”
Cherry Creek was forced to punt with 4:44 still to play but a bad snap from center on the attempted punt set up Columbine, after a Rebels' personal foul penalty, at their own 43-yard line.
Columbine moved to the Creek 25-yard line when Marcus Miller, playing with a cast after returning to the lineup after missing five games with an injured thumb, hit Rebels quarterback Logan DeArment. Alec Pell stripped the ball and Gus Zilinskas recovered the fumble with 2:15 left to play in the game.
“I knew we would hold them and get the win,” said Pell. “It's an awesome feeling.”
Cherry Creek heads into the title game with a 2-5 overall record against Valor Christian. The Bruins won the first two games against the Eagles, including a 25-24 win in the 2014 state title game, but have lost the past five games against Valor.
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