PUEBLO — Holy Family had the two time defending Class 3A champion Pueblo East Eagles right where they wanted them.
The Tigers had rallied all the way back from an early 21-0 deficit at Dutch Clark Stadium to tie the game and had figured things out defensively.
But as quickly as the momentum swelled in their favor, it went right back to the Eagles and they rode it back to the state semifinals with a stunning 41-21 victory that ended Holy Family's season.
"It stings knowing we've lost six years in a row in the playoffs and we finally won in the first round and we got that out of the system," senior Joey Golter said. "We thought we could keep rolling and unfortunately it stopped tonight."
Second-seeded Pueblo East (11-1) will travel to either Mead or Palisade for next week's semifinals. Holy Family finishes its season 9-3.
It was a frustrating start for the Tigers, who appeared to have everything going their way in the opening minutes. A Travis Montoya interception of Luc Andrada set them up on the Eagles side of the field. A quick three-and-out — ironically the only offensive plays they would run in the first quarter — forced them to punt, but they were able to pin East on it's own 2-yard line.
What happened next set the tone for the rest of the first half. A 20-play 98-yard drive, featuring senior Bryson Torres, ate up over eight minutes of clock and culminated in the first of Torres' six touchdowns.
"In the first quarter, we just didn't seem right," Holy Family coach Mike Gabriel said. "Things just weren't working quite right and then we got the flow going and honestly believed we were going to win this game at the half."
After Torres scored on runs of 9 and 1 yards to put the Eagles up 21-0 midway through the second quarter, the Tigers finally found their mojo.
Michael Zeman broke the ice with a 6-yard scoring run with 4:36 to play before half.
And it looked like it might go to the half that way, but Eagles did Holy Family a favor on the final play of the half. Sebastian Benavides lined up for 49-yard field goal attempt and instead of kicking it, tried to shovel a pass forward that was intercepted by Golter, who proceeded to maneuver his way 70-yards for a touchdown.
"Everybody was fired up and we knew we were in this, we had momentum and we were getting the ball to start the second half," Golter said. "We were jazzed up."
The Tigers made the necessary defensive adjustment and got back-to-back three-and-outs to start the second half with a defense that was swarming to Torres every time he touched the ball.
Golter's 10-yard touchdown reception from Stone Samaras late in the third quarter finally tied the game up and Tigers were back in business.
Even after Torres' fourth score early in the fourth quarter gave the lead back to Pueblo East, it still felt like the Tigers had things going their way.
Both team knew the next big break would be the deciding factor and it came on special teams. Pueblo East's Josh Tellez broke though the line and blocked Matteo Lonardo's punt and it was picked up by Grant Baggett and returned to the 9-yard line. Torres would score four plays later on fourth and goal from the 1.
"That was the nail in the coffin, but our special teams has been great all year and you hate to have that happen in a game like this," Gabriel said. "They are a good team, we are a good team and sometimes things just fall apart."
Torres would finish the game with 230 yards on a ridiculous 52 carries and would cap his night with a 16-yard score with 2:30 to play.
PUEBLO EAST 41, HOLY FAMILY 21
At Dutch Clark StadiumHoly Family (9-3) 0 14 7 0 — 21 Pueblo East (11-1) 0 21 0 20 — 41
Pueblo East — Bryson Torres 2 run (Sebastian Benavides kick).
Pueblo East — Torres 9 run (Benavides kick).
Pueblo East — Torres 1 run (Benavides kick).
Holy Family — Michael Zeman 6 run (Matteo Lonardo kick).
Holy Family — Joey Golter 70 interception return (Lonardo kick).
Holy Family — Golter 10 pass from Stone Samaras (Lonardo kick).
Pueblo East — Torres 2 run (Benavides kick).
Pueblo East — Torres 1 run (Benavides kick).
Pueblo East — Torres 16 run (kick failed).
RUSHING — Holy Family: Michael Zeman 13-52, Stone Samaras 8-(minus-27).Pueblo East: Bryson Torres 52-230, Luc Andrada 9-41, Josh Tellez 3-10, Luke Padula 2-8.
PASSING — Holy Family: Samaras 11-24-1-121, Joe Geist 0-1-0-0.Pueblo East: Andrada 2-8-1-22, Sebastian Benavides 0-1-1-0.
RECEIVING — Holy Family: Kyle Helbig 5-43, Travis Montoya 3-43, Joey Golter 2-27, Zeman 1-11.Pueblo East: Marcus Winston 1-16, Padula 1-6.