Bru­ins sur­vive af­ter Rap­tors miss late FG

The Denver Post - - SPORTS - By Daniel Kramer

AURORA » If this was Chap­ter 1 to­ward a po­ten­tial Class 5A play­off re­match, the early di­ag­no­sis sug­gests to ex­pect a thriller. An un­fore­seen bout be­tween de­fenses cul­mi­nated with a missed field goal on fourth­and­3 with less than a minute re­main­ing, leav­ing No. 4 Ea­gle­crest stunned in what would’ve been a hall­mark win for first­year coach Gar­rett Looney.

The fi­nal: Cherry Creek 14, Ea­gle­crest 13.

The top­ranked Bru­ins, who went score­less through the first 31 K min­utes be­fore mount­ing a fourth­quar­ter come­back, cap­i­tal­ized on two crit­i­cal turnovers late in the third quar­ter that led to a late win at Legacy Sta­dium on Fri­day, so­lid­i­fy­ing their No. 1 rank in this week’s CHSAANow.com poll.

Cherry Creek, which showed life on of­fense in the first half but strug­gled to gain any trac­tion, re­mained per­sis­tent. Quar­ter­back Alex Padilla led the back­to­back scor­ing drives that cul­mi­nated with a touch­down pass to tight end Vance Brazile, and a run­ning score by Jayle Stacks, who rum­bled for an off­tackle touch­down in which he dragged three de­fend­ers into the end zone with him with 7:54 re­main­ing in the game.

The Bru­ins made their case as ar­guably the best team in the state with just two games re­main­ing un­til the 5A play­offs. Head coach Dave Lo­gan’s half­time ad­just­ments led to a re­ju­ve­nated and ag­gres­sive of­fense in the sec­ond half. Padilla was 10­of­15 pass­ing for 121 yards, keep­ing the Bru­ins alive while their run­ning at­tack av­er­aged just two yards per carry on 28 at­tempts.

It rained on Ea­gle­crest coach Gar­rett Looney’s break­out game with his ef­fec­tive triple­op­tion of­fense that was in­stalled just this sea­son, as the Rap­tors again faced an awak­en­ing re­lat­ing to ball se­cu­rity. Se­nior trans­fer quar­ter­back Dy­lan James was the cul­prit on three of the four fum­bles; run­ning back Isa­iah Emecheta dropped the last ball that led to Cherry Creek’s go­ahead score.

James ran for 114 yards on 21 at­tempts and was just 1­of­2 through the air, part of a by­de­sign ap­proach that puts a pre­mium on the Rap­tors’ ground at­tack. James churned out one lengthy drive af­ter an­other, pound­ing Ea­gle­crest’s of­fense up­field be­hind its burly line­men, the linch­pins of their per­sis­tent at­tack. Be­hind left tackle Brad Miller (com­mit­ted to Stan­ford), right tackle Jake Wi­ley (Colorado) and cen­ter Reece At­te­berry (of­fers from Michi­gan and Ohio State), the Rap­tors ran for two touch­downs in the first half while their ad­mit­tedly sus­pect de­fense limited Cherry Creek to just four first downs and zero points.

James, the 5­foot­9, 160­pound speed­ster, re­cov­ered one of his fum­bles and scored from mid­field to push the Rap­tors ahead, 13­0, scor­ing his 25th touch­down of the sea­son and 21st on the ground. The Chero­kee Trail trans­fer, who played al­most ex­clu­sively at run­ning back with the Cougars, is widely revered as among the best dual­threat quar­ter­backs in the state, and with his trio of line­men up front, the Rap­tors, turnovers aside, showed their abil­ity to am­bush de­fenses with phys­i­cal­ity and speed.

Fri­day was sup­posed to fea­ture of­fen­sive out­bursts from both teams — each came into this Cen­ten­nial League clash av­er­ag­ing more than 40 points per game — but it man­i­fested into a de­fen­sive duel, which could re­flect how these teams game­plan for each other should they meet again in the com­ing weeks. Ea­gle­crest de­feated Cherry Creek, 26­7, in the sec­ond round of last year’s play­offs.

The Bru­ins host No. 10 Chero­kee Trail then wrap their sea­son in two weeks at Grand­view. The Rap­tors next week play Ara­pa­hoe and then com­plete their reg­u­lar sea­son with Chero­kee Trail, leav­ing a small mar­gin to re­main near the top of the 5A stand­ings head­ing into the post­sea­son.

Andy Cross, The Den­ver Post

Ea­gle­crest kicker Tay­lor Gomez (85) holds his head in his hands af­ter miss­ing a field goal late in the fourth quar­ter against the Cherry Creek on Fri­day.

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