As Arapahoe senior Xavier Harrell walked toward the dressing room at Littleton Public Schools Stadium, one of his teammates yelled that Harrell was the best running back in the state.
Harrell had what he called a decent game as he helped Arapahoe grind out a 17-7 win over Castle View on Nov. 8 in a first-round Class 5A state playoff game.
Arapahoe, 7-4 and seeded 15th in the playoffs, advanced to a second-round game at second-seeded Ralston Valley.
And, that will give Harrell another chance to show his abilities.
He was a workhorse against Castle View, carrying the ball 33 times, gaining 189 yards and scoring two touchdowns. He also completed one pass for 33 yards.
“I feel like I had a pretty decent game,” said Harrell. “I would liked to have a couple of them (rushing attempts) back and maybe break a couple. It was a decent night. I have a great offensive line to run behind. We just did what we do, run the ball and play our game out there.”
Arapahoe's victory avenged a 23-13 loss to Castle View earlier this season on Sept. 6.
“The difference was night and day, without a doubt,” said Harrell. “ It's how much we have grown over the season and how much we have matured. It's unreal. We knew what we're doing out there and we know how to get set up.”
Warriors coach Rod Sherman, the former head coach at Valor Christian, has adjusted to suit his personnel .
“You know I love throwing the football,” Sherman said. “You have to adjust to the way your team is. For us right now, I believe we are blessed with two really good running backs (Harrell and Connor Benson, who gained 78 yards) and obviously we got some wildcat packages in. Our quarterback (Cole Hansen) is getting more experience. He's a sophomore. I think every week in the playoffs we can put a little more on his plate.
`'I thought (Xavier) ran really, really hard. I thought he was elusive. And our offensive line had its best game of the season. Collectively I thought we had our best run game of the season.”
Arapahoe went ahead 7-0 after Harrell's 9-yard TD run with 11:54 to play in the second quarter. The Warriors took the second half kickoff and put together a 80-yard scoring drive with Harrell's 2-yard TD run helping the Warriors take a 14-0 lead.
On the next possession, Castle View moved to a first down at the Arapahoe 11 yard line but turned the ball over on downs at the 6-yard line.
Arapahoe added a 28-yard field goal by Sabastian Pucher to increase its lead to 17-0 with 5:04 left in the game and Castle View scored with 3:54 to play on Jordan Jackson's 6-yard run.
Castle View, the 18th seed, ended its season with a 6-5 record.
“Arapahoe did a much better job than we did on the line of scrimmage “ said Sabercats coach Todd Casebier. “They had a good plan and executed it. Our offense was shut down for the first time all year. Arapahoe players and coaches deserve all the credit. They played better and coached better than we did. We have a bright future. We started 17 underclassmen and will get better from this."
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