LAKEWOOD — When Ethan Simmons headed back to the north end zone in preparation to receive a kick with just over a minute remaining in Friday evening's Mt. Antero League showdown with Bear Creek, the Legacy senior wasn't sure what he was going to do. He just knew it had to be big.
It ended up being huge.
Mere moments after the Bears had captured momentum and tied things up following a long, time-consuming touchdown drive, Simmons electrified the sparse visiting crowd at Jefferson County Stadium, hauling in the ensuing kick and returning it 87 yards for a score that lifted the Lightning to a 31-24 win and kept their postseason hopes very much alive.
"That was excitement," Simmons said. "You can't celebrate early and you know you have to finish through the (goal) line. You can't be distracted from the goal."
It was a big win for Legacy (6-2 overall, 2-1 Mt. Antero), which fell behind Bear Creek (2-6, 1-2) early and then made enough mistakes to keep the outcome in questions after clawing its way back in the contest. But Lightning coach Wayne Voorhees was happy with the way his team preserved and found a way to win it in the end.
"We've said this all year, we play to the last snap," Voorhees said. "And our kids, even though we make mistakes, the next snap we're going to go hard and try to rectify what we did before. That's the good thing about this group."
The Bears got a great all-around game from their quarterback Walker Rumsey, an athletic 5-foot-10 senior that seemed to make a play every time it looked like the Lightning had Bear Creek in trouble.
Rumsey, who finished with 308 total yards of offense, scored on touchdown runs of 8 and 65 yards in the first quarter to give the Bears a 14-0 lead.
Even after Legacy punched the ball free from Rumsey as he drove the Bears down the field in the fourth quarter, and the Lightning's Nick Solusod was able to scoop the fumble up and rumble 89 yards down the sideline for a score that gave Legacy it's first lead of the game at 24-17 with 5:30 to play, Rumsey was able to respond.
He drove Bear Creek 80 yards in 13 plays, tying the game up after a brilliant 18-yard scoring strike to Brian Sanchez with 1:22 to play.
But that just set the stage for Simmons, who took the ensuing kick near the right sideline, found a wedge formed by his teammates that allowed him to move across the field to the left, then broke a couple of tackles near midfield before racing down the sideline for the game-winner.
"The play was left, sometimes when the kick is that far right they tell us just to take it, but you have to trust your teammates to make those blocks," said Simmons, who also had 79 yards rushing. "After I broke the first set of tackles, I knew I had my teammates ahead of me.
"I had my man Anthony (Lyle), No. 21, on my side and he wasn't going to let anybody get me. And you have to trust him with that, and we broke it."
Lightning quarterback Alec Lewis was 19 of 26 for 188 yards and a score. Lyle, who also had an interception, finished with 70 yards receiving on five receptions, and Ryan Lynch hauled in four passes, setting a new single-season record for receptions with 46. Solusod's fumble return was also a new school record.
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Legacy 31, Bear Creek 24
At Jefferson County StadiumLegacy (6-2) 0 7 7 17 — 31
Bear Creek (2-6) 14 3 0 7 — 24
Bear Creek — Walker Rumsey 8 run (Farzad Asgari kick). Bear Creek — Rumsey 65 run (Asgari kick).
Legacy — Ryan Lynch 3 pass from Alec Lewis (Kyle Freeburg kick). Bear Creek — Asgari 31 field goal.
Legacy — Lewis 2 run (Freeburg kick).
Legacy — Freeburg 32 field goal. Legacy — Nick Solusod 89 fumble return (Freeburg kick). Bear Creek — Brian Sanchez 18 pass from Rumsey (Asgari kick). Legacy — Ethan Simmons 87 kick return (Freeburg kick).
RUSHING — Legacy: Simmons 17-79, Lynch 1-12, Anthony Lyle 1-2, Lewis 9-(minus) 24. Bear Creek: Rumsey 12-125, Andre Renteria 19-66, Dominic Encinas 5-28, Sanchez 3-(minus) 3.
PASSING — Legacy: Lewis 19-26-0-188. Bear Creek: Rumsey 19-28-1-183.
RECEIVING — Legacy: Lyle 5-70, Ross Smith 5-49, Lynch 4-36, Braxton Hansen 4-30, Simmons 1-3. Bear Creek: Neil Vanlerberghe 8-91, Sanchez 4-47, Encinas 3-18, Jared Campbell 1-23, Nathan Madrid 1-8, Renteria 2-(minus) 5.