At the start of the year, senior Mason Keeler figured he'd have a hand in a few touchdown passes for the Broomfield Eagles this season.
He probably thought he'd be more on the front end of the play, however.
Keeler started the year under center for Broomfield, but was injured in the second game of the year. Sophomore Steven Croell stepped in and Broomfield never looked back, winning eight of its final nine games and the Longs Peak League title.
But things have worked out well for Keeler as well. The switch allowed the 6-foot-4, 225 pound Keeler to play on the defensive side of the ball, and he's developed into a pretty dangerous target for Croell as a wideout.
That was evident on Saturday when Keeler was able to use his size to create some space from a defender and haul in a 29-yard scoring strike for the game's first touchdown, helping propel the fifth-seed Eagles to a 27-14 victory over visiting Heritage at Elizabeth Kennedy Stadium in the first round of the Class 4A playoffs.
"I actually wasn't disappointed at all," Keeler said about being replaced at QB. "I knew that I could play defense and receiver at that point. It was working out pretty well to have (Croell) at quarterback, and you get the dual threat on both sides.
"We started rolling with it and it worked out well."
Not only did Keeler haul in the touchdown pass, he helped anchor a Broomfield defense than never allowed 12th-seeded Heritage (6-5) to maintain a consistent attack. The visitors passing game was about as accurate as most weather forecasts, and the running game never found much space against the Broomfield front.
After Keeler's touchdown reception gave Broomfield a 10-0 lead with four minutes remaining in the first half, Heritage started to gain some momentum, stringing together three first downs to move into Broomfield territory.
But Heritage was denied any points when Brady Pavlicek ripped the ball out of receiver's hands to record an interception of quarterback Chase Hansen at the Broomfield 3 yard line.
Heritage did get on the board on its first drive of the second half, but Broomfield responded with a 43-yard touchdown run by Jalon Torres on the ensuing possession to push the lead to 17-7.
Croell made a great play on Broomfield's next possession to pretty much put the game out of reach, stepping up to avoid the Heritage pass rush before hitting a wide open Tanner Garner for a 32-yard touchdown to give Broomfield a 24-7 lead with 1:15 left in the third.
"We knew our game plan and we knew if we executed it, we'd take care of business," said Croell, who has 19 touchdown passes on the year. "We put players in position to make plays and they made them. And now we're moving on."
Heritage was able to tack on another touchdown with under four minutes to play after a drive that was assisted by a couple of questionable pass interference calls and two unsportsmanlike conduct penalties on Broomfield.
But Heritage was denied on its next drive when Jaxon Pallone sacked Hansen for a 9-yard loss on fourth down with just more than three minutes to play.
"We knew it was going to be a grind the entire game. We told them this was going to be a tough game," Broomfield coach Blair Hubbard said. "(Heritage is) a good team and we wanted to make sure we just kept grinding at them."
With the win, Broomfield advances to next week's quarterfinals, where they'll face fourth-seeded Ponderosa (10-1). The Mustangs beat 13th-seeded Mesa Ridge 40-14 Friday night in the first round.
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Broomfield 27, Heritage 14
At Elizabeth Kennedy StadiumHeritage 0 0 7 7 — 14
Broomfield 0 10 14 3 — 27
Broomfield — Luke Coffman 18 kick. Broomfield — Mason Keeler 29 pass from Steven Croell (Coffman kick).
Heritage — Josh Martin 11 pass from Chase Hansen (Henry Hemphill kick). Broomfield — Jalon Torres 43 run (Coffman kick). Broomfield — Tanner Garner 32 pass from Croell (Coffman kick).
Heritage — Tyler Zoesch 1 run (Hemphill kick). Broomfield — Coffman 27 kick.