MONUMENT — The Longmont football team is used to being in the postseason.
The Trojans reached the 4A state semifinals last year and the title game the year before that, so this year's players felt right at home in the 16-team state bracket. They are not, however, used to being a lower-seeded underdog tested with traveling far from home to challenge a top-eight seed in a strange, hostile stadium.
In the first round of the Class 3A playoffs on Friday, the 13th-seeded Trojans (6-5) did exactly that. They hit the road to take on the favored No. 4-seeded Lewis-Palmer Rangers (10-1).
The Trojans put forth their best upset bid but, despite leading for three quarters, fell 28-23.
"We had our chances in this game," Trojans sophomore quarterback Oakley Dehning said. "We had a 10-point lead but they went on a roll and scored two touchdowns. That just turned the game around."
Dehning put the Trojans up early with a 7-yard pass to junior Hayden Mosness in the first quarter and scored on a 1-yard run in the second. With 1st-and-goal at the 6-yard line, the Rangers fumbled the ball back to the Trojans a second time, this time with only 29.5 seconds remaining in the half.
The gaffe ensured a 14-6 halftime lead for the Trojans.
Longmont's Avery Peterson added a 41-yard field goal on the Trojans' first drive of the second half but the breaks that were going in favor of the Trojans, who recovered three Rangers fumbles, began to go the other way late in the third quarter. After Rangers quarterback Kevin Tims cut the lead to 17-14 with a scoring pass, the ensuing squib kick hit a Trojans player and was recovered by Lewis-Palmer.
The Rangers took the lead with 11:27 left to play and pushed it to 11 points with 5:11 left on the clock. Longmont hung around by converting twice on fourth down and scoring on a 30-yard pass to Nick Paone with 3:35 left but kicked the follow-up kickoff out of bounds to allow a decisive clock-draining drive from Lewis-Palmer.
"I thought we had some good moments but in the end it was some missed opportunities that cost us," Dehning said.
The Trojans offense, a unit that split three points between the team's final two games of the regular season against playoff teams Silver Creek and Fort Morgan, put up 289 yards against a defense that held opponents to 12 points per game during the regular season.
"I was really proud of the way we fought and I was really pleased with our drive," Trojans head coach Doug Johnson said. "We got back in the game there at the end and man we had a chance to make some plays. It was a classic Colorado playoff game and we had a chance but they got it done. My hat's off to them."
Lewis-Palmer will face the winner of Saturday's first-round game between No. 5 Silver Creek (10-0) or No. 12 Durango (7-3) in the second round. Silver Creek and Durango will kick off at 1 p.m.
Lewis-Palmer 28, Longmont 23
At Lewis-Palmer H.S.Longmont 6 8 3 6 — 23
Lewis-Palmer 7 0 7 14 — 28
Longmont — Hayden Mosness 7 pass from Oakley Dehning (run short). Lewis-Palmer — Charley Young 7 run (Cody Fitzgerald kick).
Longmont — Dehning 1 run (Engelking run).
Longmont — Avery Peterson 41 field goal. Lewis-Palmer — Kevin Tims 3 run (Fitzgerald kick).
Lewis-Palmer — Young 8 pass from Kevin Tims (Fitzgerald kick). Lewis-Palmer — Young 28 run (Fitzgerald kick). Longmont — Nick Paone 30 pass from Dehning (pass incomplete).
RUSHING — Longmont: Oakley Dehning 13-55, Drake Engelking 11-54, Kelvin Townsend 8-31, Cruz Garcia 6-30, Kobe Martin 6-27. Lewis-Palmer: Charley Young 18-144, Dieudonne Chea 22-134, Kevin Tims 5-24, Chase Allen 1-3.
PASSING — Longmont: Oakley Dehning 7-16-0-92. Lewis-Palmer: Kevin Tims 6-10-0-102.
RECEIVING — Longmont: Nick Paone 1-30, Hayden Mosness 2-12, Kelvin Townsend 1-23, Kobe Martin 1-14, Drake Engelking 1-7, Will Preuss 1-6. Lewis-Palmer: Alex Bailey 3-63, Charley Young 2-21, Chase Allen 1-18.