The Valor Christian-Grandview clash for a spot in the Class 5A state football championship game came down to the wire as the Eagles bested the Wolves 31-29 in the game played Nov. 24 at Legacy Stadium.
Valor's win earned them a spot against Cherry Creek in the title game that will be played at 2 p.m. Dec. 1 at Mile High Stadium in Denver.
The Valor win was decided with 32 seconds remaining in the game after Grandview scored a touchdown to pull to within two points.
The Wolves went for a two-point conversion that would have tied the score and force overtime. Grandview ran what looked like a pass-run option play. The Wolves' quarterback threw a pass into the end zone. However, Eagles defender Chase Lopez picked off the attempt to negate the two-point conversion try.
The Eagles got possession of the ball on the kickoff, Valor quarterback Luke McCaffrey got the snap and took a knee to run out the clock and earn the Eagles a spot is the state football finals.
“I am proud of our kids in a game that was played in typical Colorado weather that began in the sunshine and ended in a snowstorm,” Valor Coach Ed McCaffrey said after the game. “We won the battle against a great football team. It was tough but our kids hung in there to win and we are going to the state finals.”
The coach said all his players contributed to the win and noted the play of Ethan Zemia on both sides of the ball was outstanding.
The 6-3, 220-pound senior plays tackle on offense and linebacker on defense.
“Today was a battle,” Zemia said after the game. “We got out in front early but they came back to really make it a battle. In the end, we pulled through to get the win.”
He said Grandview was big and strong up front but he and his teammates matched them on both sides of the ball.
“They are a very good team and it was a battle on both sides of the ball. I play offense and defense but I really like playing defense better,” he said with a smile. “I guess that is because I like the challenge of keeping the other team from moving the ball."
Coming into the game against Grandview, Zemia was Valor's tackle leader with 84 solos and 40 assists for a total of 124 tackles. He also had seven sacks.
In the win over Grandview, Luke MCaffrey completed 7-of-16 passes for 92 yards and a pair of touchdowns. He also ran the ball nine times for 77 yards and a touchdown.
“We are lucky enough to have practice on Monday and to be one of the two teams in state Class 5A still playing football,” he said. “In this game we had been passing the ball well early but the snow and wind made it harder to pass. So we mixed in the run and that touchdown run by Gavin Sawchuk was big for us.”
In the early going it looked like Valor was going to walk away with the game, quickly building a 21-0 lead. They scored early on a 52-yard pass play from McCaffrey to Marcus Staples, McCaffrey then threw a touchdown pass to Zain Zincola to make the score 14-0 in the second period. Sawchuk scored on a 39-touchdown run before halftime. All three extra-point kicks were good to make the score 21-0.
Before halftime, Grandview scored two touchdowns but only hit one of the two extra-point tries. The Wolves also added a field goal to make the halftime score 21-16
In the third period, McCaffrey escaped rushing defenders and ran 45 yards for a touchdown to make the Score 28-16. Grandview scored a touchdown with 8:19 left in the fourth quarter to make the score 28-23 and Valor kicked a field goal to make it 31-23.
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