LAFAYETTE - It took Centaurus about a half for its intensity level to match what was at stake, but the Warriors eventually took care of their end of the bargain Friday night.
Now, the waiting game.
The Warriors entered the night 18th in Wildcard points - two spots off the playoff pace - and closed the regular season with a needed 29-15 win against Thomas Jefferson at chilly Warrior Stadium.
It was not immediately known after the Metro North League contest whether the Warriors (7-3, 3-2) cracked the 16-team bracket, but they absolutely made their case.
"This is just an unbelievable season," said Warriors junior Matthew Axelrod, who scored two second-half touchdowns and racked up 137 yards on six carries. "Everyone thought that we weren't going to be anywhere near this. I remember hearing over the summer at 7-on-7s that we were going to be the same old Centaurus. We were just tired of it."
While the numbers have to be hashed out, some of the other results seemed to tilt in the Warriors' favor. No. 14 Berthoud and No. 16 Pueblo Central each lost, so it remains to be seen how far each falls. No. 15 Discovery Canyon and No. 17 Pueblo County, meanwhile, each were victorious.
A photo-sharing scandal at Canon City did the Warriors no favors, as the well-publicized matter led to a forfeit win for Discovery Canyon. But it might not matter from a football standpoint for the Warriors, based on how the additional results shook out.
"These kids went from being 3-7 to 7-3," Warriors first-year head coach Bob Carskie said. "They played every football game like it was the Super Bowl or the Rose Bowl, so when we start looking at Wild Card points and wins, nothing should ever cheapen anything that these kids did."
Centaurus failed to score on eight offensive possessions in the first half, but trailed only 8-6 thanks to a 95-yard kickoff return by Andrew Vigil. Despite losing running back Elijah Silver to an injury before intermission, the Warriors were much more crisp to start the second half.
Quarterback Ryan Cotter capped the opening drive of the third quarter with a 5-yard scoring pass to Vigil, and after Matthew Axelrod bulled in for the two-point conversion, the Warriors led 14-8 and never again trailed.
"Looking back at our past games, we're mostly a second-half team," said Axelrod, who added fourth-quarter TD runs of 31 and 47 yards. "We get a talk in the locker room from all our great coaches, especially coach Carskie. He amps us up."
The Centaurus defense kept the Warriors afloat early by allowing a mere 74 yards in the first half. Justin Vigil scored both TDs for Thomas Jefferson (3-7, 1-4) on 10-yard receptions.
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Centaurus 29, Thomas Jefferson 15
At Warrior StadiumThomas Jefferson (3-7, 1-4) 0 8 0 7 — 15
Centaurus (7-3, 3-2) 0 6 8 15 — 29
Thomas Jefferson — Justin Vigil 10 pass from Dane Washington (run failed). Centaurus — Andrew Vigil 95 kickoff return (kick failed). Thomas Jefferson — Safety. Intentional grounding in end zone.
Centaurus — Vigil 5 pass from Ryan Cotter (Matthew Axelrod run).
Centaurus — Axelord 31 run (Felipe Cruz kick). Thomas Jefferson — Vigil 10 pass from Washington (Ricardo Felipe kick). Centaurus — Axelrod 47 run (Cruz run).
RUSHING — Thomas Jefferson: Justin Vigil 3-43, Kinshasa Sayers 4-22, Dane Washington 11-15, Donavaughn Baucom 10-3, Justice Hallman 6-(minus 9); Centaurus: Matthew Axelrod 6-137, Anthony Losasso 14-75, Elijah Silver 7-54, Ryan Cotter 3-5, Felipe Cruz 2-0.
PASSING — Thomas Jefferson: Washington 8-29-1-66, Vigil 0-1-0-0; Centaurus: Cotter 12-23-1-113.
RECEIVING — Thomas Jefferson: Thomas Jefferson: Vigil 5-46, Corbet Tate 1-10, Alex Kah 1-5, Jae'vin Douglas 1-5; Centaurus: Andrew Vigil 4-27, Michael Torres 3-48, Nick Lanier 3-33, Mac Post 1-8, Losasso 1-7.