There were frowns of pain and disappointment and even some tears on the Cherry Creek sideline as the final minute ticked away in the Nov. 15 Class 5A football quarterfinal game, where Cherokee Trail has beat the Bruins 27-14.
“That is a really good football team, and you can't turn the ball over six times and expect to win,” Dave Logan, Bruins coach, said after the game. “Our kids did some good things, but give them credit, they were very good on both sides of the ball and we wish them well.”
The Bruins bested Cherokee Trail by one point in the regular season and appeared ready to do it again. Cherry Creek's defense stopped the Cougars later in the fourth period and forced a punt. With just under two minutes left to play and trailing 20-14, Cherry Creek was marching toward the end zone. But the Bruins' bid to win ended there when Izaiah Lottie picked off a Cherry Creek aerial and raced 48 yards for a Cherokee Trail touchdown to seal the Cougars win.
The loss ended the season for the Bruins, and Cherokee Trail moves to the state semifinals against Valor Christian.
The Nov. 15 game started out as a give-and-take battle. That changed with 2:17 left in the first quarter, when Cherokee Trail scored on a long run. The Cougars added another touchdown midway through the second period to build a 14-0 advantage by halftime.
Logan said he made some halftime adjustments.
“They are big and tough up front, which makes them a very tough team to run against,” he said. “We did throw a few more passes and mixed up the attack a bit. Late in the game, it looked good for us when we were down six and moving the ball. But they got the interception and won the game.”
Logan said he will lose some important cogs in the Bruins game plan, but he looked ahead and said the team will get over a painful loss, and Cherry Creek will move into the off-season working to rebuild the varsity so they can return to the state playoffs.
After the game, running back Nathan Starks said Cherokee Trail was tough against the run, but Cherry Creek played hard, grinding out yardage.
“The blockers gave me seams at times and I just tried to run hard to gain as much yardage as possible,” he said. “I got banged up a couple times during the game, but I played through it and got back out there to try to help my team.”
He had a 68-yard touchdown in the third quarter to put Cherry Creek on the scoreboard.
“The hole was there and there was just green in front of me,” he said. “I just focused on pushing as hard as I could to break free and score.”
He finished the night with 10 carries for 80 yards, and junior Milo Hall had 18 carries for 135 yards.
The Bruins' defense was stingy most of the game, holding Cherokee Trail's explosive offense to 275 yards.
Defensive lineman Bret Hollenbeck said he didn't want to talk bad about the team, but he didn't feel they weren't that strong up front.
“They came in with a good game plan,” he said. “They knew what we run and worked well against it. At the same time, tonight we didn't play like this team can play on either offense or defense.”
The senior played linebacker his sophomore year and moved to the defensive line for his junior and senior seasons.
“They move me around, sometimes inside and sometime outside,” he said. “I like being outside because I only have one guy on me and I get to hit more people.”