FORT MORGAN - The Longmont football team took a winding road to a 3A Northern League championship in 2017 that included two wins over top-ranked teams, a three-game losing streak and an undefeated conference schedule.
But what matters most to the Trojans is that they eventually arrived at their destination.
In a battle between two teams entering with perfect conference records and squarely on the bubble in the Class 3A RPI standings on Friday, the Trojans completed their regular season with a 28-13 win over Fort Morgan that locked up the league title and a spot in the 16-team postseason.
"Football is a team sport and the guys that I'm playing with are great men," Trojans defensive end Bryan Blanks said. "I consider all of them my brothers. Our whole team stepped it up and we did a great of playing together instead of as individuals."
Ranked No. 7 in the CHSAANow.com poll, Longmont entered Friday night's game 13th in the RPI and For Morgan was 18th. All conference champions get automatic playoff berths, while the rest of the bracket is filled out by the top 16 teams in the final RPI standings.
The Trojans (7-3, 5-0 Northern) struck first in the regular-season finale, scoring on a well-blocked sweep play that Cruz Garcia took 63 yards for a touchdown in the first quarter. Pushing the lead out further while the defense held Fort Morgan (6-4, 4-1 Northern) scoreless in the first half behind a pair of interceptions from Austin Hassler, wide receiver Jaydon Elkins scored on a 10-yard end-around to give the Trojans a 14-0 halftime lead.
Hassler, who led the Trojans with 13 tackles, also forced a pair of fumbles in the second half. After a scoreless third quarter, Trojans running back Drake Engelking scored on a short run early in the fourth to put the Trojans up 21-0 and on a 78-yard run with 2 minutes, 39 seconds left in the game to put his team ahead 28-7.
Defensively, the Trojans held CSU-Bound tight end Trey McBride and the Mustangs scoreless until there was 8:54 left in the game and forced five turnovers.
"We knew it was going to be tough game in a hostile environment," Trojans junior Anthony Rodriguez said. "But our coaches gave us a great game plan on defense, we stuck with it and played intense all night. We had a rocky start to the season but we just stuck together and strung together a few wins and now we're conference champs."
The Trojans will find out who they will play in the first round when the state playoff brackets are released on Sunday.
Longmont 28, Fort Morgan 13
At Legion FieldLongmont (7-3, 5-0) 77014—28
Longmont — Cruz Garcia 63 run (Garcia kick).
Longmont — Jaydon Elkins 10 run (Garcia kick).
Longmont — Engelking 1 run (Garcia kick). Fort Morgan — Grayson Garver 8 pass from Leo Linker (Jose Jimenez kick). Longmont — Engelking 78 run (Garcia kick). Fort Morgan — Luis Garcia 10 pass from Linker (kick blocked).
RUSHING — Longmont: Drake Engelking 11-102, Cruz Garcia 10-86, Jaydon Elkins 6-42, Oakley Dehning 9-(-20).
PASSING — Longmont: Oakley Dehning 6-10-0-82.
RECEIVING — Longmont: Nick Paone 1-45, Jaydon Elkins 3-19, Sage Yazzie 2-18.