Turnovers, a goal line stand and explosive plays were all involved in Cherry Creek's 14-7 semifinal state playoff victory over Pomona on Nov. 30, which pushed the Bruins into the Class 5A state championship game.
Creek (13-0) will be seeking its 10th state championship when the Bruins face Columbine (11-2) in a 2:30 p.m. game on Dec. 7 at Empower Field at Mile High in Denver.
It will be Creek's second straight appearance in the title game after losing to Valor Christian last season.
“It's no mystery,” Creek coach Dave Logan said. “We are going to be in a dogfight. Anytime you play Columbine you are in for a physical battle. We have to lick our wounds and come back with a good week of preparation.”
Columbine is 5-0 in state championship games under coach Andy Lowry, and included in those five titles was a 21-14 win over Creek in 1999.
The Rebels come into the game with a dangerous rushing attack that helped the team score 39.5 points a game and average 353 yards of total offense while giving up 14.1 points per game. Creek scores 36.3 points and allows 9.8 a game.
“We lost last year and we want sweet revenge,” said Creek junior Myles Purchase, who played a key role in the win over Pomona.
The semifinal game was played on a cold night at the Stutler Bowl in Greenwood Village. The contest had been scheduled to be played at the North Area Athletic Complex but was moved because the field was unplayable.
Pomona dominated early in the game, but two first-quarter turnovers hurt the Panthers. Purchase recovered a fumble at the Creek 14-yard line to stall a Pomona drive and Chavis Nourse fell on a fumbled pass reception at the Bruins' 21-yard line on the Panthers' next possession.
“I thought Pomona outplayed us in the first half but we talked about it all week long that in a game like that it is a 48-minute game,” said Logan. “It was sort of an old fashioned, hard-nosed football game.”
Pomona got to the Creek 3-yard line but couldn't score on fourth down and turned the ball over with 5:23 to play in the first half, which turned out to be a 14-point turnaround.
On the second play after the goal line stand, Purchase took a snap from the wildcat formation and went 90 yards for a TD to put Creek ahead 7-0.
“I knew going into the week that I would be the wildcat, the running back and whenever I got into the game I had to execute and do my job,” said Purchase, a defensive back and punt returner. “I had a lane, cut off one guy and I was just gone. Free from there.”
Creek added some wrinkles to its offense for the game — and playing Purchase on offense was one of them.
“At this point of the game you are trying to get the ball into the hands of your best player and he certainly is one of our best players,” said Logan.
Cherry Creek put together a 95-yard scoring drive to increase its lead to 14-0 with 1:55 to play in the third quarter when quarterback Julian Hammond III hooked up with Gunnar Helm on a 19-yard TD pass.
Pomona finally scored on a fourth down, 1-yard pass from Brady Ritzman to Jack Pospisil with 4:31 to play and still had plenty of time remaining for a comeback.
The Panthers were at the Creek 34-yard line with less than two minutes to play but linebacker Jack Adams intercepted a tipped pass to seal the victory for the Bruins.
“Our defense is really poised,” said Purchase. “We know to bend and not break and we did that. We got an interception at the end to close the game.”
Purchase finished with 91 yards rushing on nine carries. Hammond III had a season-high 65 yards rushing and was 10-of-14 passing for 55 yards and one TD.
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