LAKEWOOD — Mike Gabriel doesn't dwell on the what-if's, instead the Holy Family coach plays the hand he's dealt and goes with it.
On Saturday afternoon, you couldn't help but wonder how different the Tigers fortunes would have been had their senior leader and captain, Chris Helbig, not been reduced to shorts and a T-shirt on the sideline.
"It is what it is," said Gabriel after his teams 40-8 Class 3A first round dismissal to Evergreen at Trailblazer Stadium.
It was another tough pill to swallow for the Tigers, who exit in the first round for the fifth straight season. Tenth-seeded Holy Family finishes the season 8-3 and the Cougars (9-2) will travel to Johnstown next week to face another Northern League team in Roosevelt. The Roughriders beat Eagle Valley 49-7.
The Holy Family offense, under the direction of freshman quarterback Stone Samaras, put up big numbers last week against Northridge but struggled to get it going against the Metro North League champs.
The Tigers went three-and-out on their first two possession and set the Cougars up with short fields. Holy Family was able to limit the damage, holding the Cougars to two Davis Price field goals, but the defense was on the field for a long time.
"The defense did a pretty good job considering the position we were putting them in," Gabriel said. "We just couldn't get things moving."
On their third possession, Samaras had his pass tipped and intercepted by Garrett McCarty, who set up his team at the Tigers' 32-yard line.
James Hardy, who finished with 96 yards on 25 carries found pay dirt five plays later from three yards out.
"It's going to happen, I just wish it didn't happen in the first round of the playoffs," said Gabriel of his teams offensive woes. "We had a lot higher aspirations than this, but who knows what the future holds at this point. Hopefully things get better from here."
What seemed manageable, even at 16-0 (as two possession game), became that much more difficult when the Cougars made the Tigers pay for a bad punt snap and were set up at the 11-yard line. With 55 seconds before the half, Hardy scored again and the rout was on.
"I've watched our defense just grow bigger and bigger," said Evergreen coach Rob Molholm, whose grandfathers both attended Holy Family. "We were doing some disguised coverages and some blitz schemes against a freshman quarterback."
The Evergreen defense held Holy Family to just 31 first half yards and 163 total yards.
Holy Family got a majority of those yards on its lone score of the game in the fourth quarter. Samaras connected with A.J. Giron for a 51-yard pitch-and-catch touchdown.
It was a tough day for Samaras, who finished 11 of 25 for 175 yards and four interceptions. But Gabriel knows that there are better days to come for his young quarterback.
"Stone is a great player and a great kid, he's going to be a great player for us," Gabriel said. "We can't change the past and we were doing the best we could with what we've got and the kids played hard."
Evergreen 40, Holy Family 8
At Trailblazer StadiumHoly Family (8-3) 0 0 0 8 — 8
Evergreen (9-2) 3 20 7 10 — 40
Evergreen — FG Davis Price 22.
Evergreen — FG Price 47.
Evergreen — James Hardy 3 run (Price kick).
Evergreen — FG Price 31.
Evergreen — Hardy 3 run (Price kick).
Evergreen — Seth Ausman 15 pass from Dylan Reifeis (Price kick).
Evergreen — Hardy 1 run (Price kick).
Holy Family — A.J. Giron 51 pass from Stone Samaras (Bryce Buderus pass from Samaras).
Evergreen — FG Price 43.
RUSHING — Holy Family: Michael Zeman 10-14, Stone Samaras 11-(minus-26). Evergreen: James Hardy 25-96, Dylan Reifeis 15-63, Matt Daly 12-20, Taylor Gray 3-7, Luke Solawetz 2-6.
PASSING — Holy Family: Samaras 11-25-4-175. Evergreen: Reifeis 7-13-0-98.
RECEIVING — Holy Family: Travis Montoya 4-35, Joey Golter 3-73, Kyle Helbig 3-16, AJ Giron 1-51. Evergreen: Seth Ausman 4-55, Solawetz 1-29, Garrett McCarty 1-9, Luke Lajoy 1-5.