DENVER — In the second quarter of Saturday's Class 4A football state championship game, the Broomfield defense found itself backed up on its own 1-yard line and facing a first-and-goal against Pine Creek's vaunted offense.
The scenario was shaping up for Pine Creek, a team that has won three of the last four state titles, to inevitably score a touchdown and take the first lead of the game. But the Broomfield defense stopped the Pine Creek offense on the goal line four straight times and, against all odds, forced a turnover on downs.
Pine Creek won the game 36-14, but those four plays exemplified the type of relentless effort and belief, the indescribable "it factor," that powered the underdog Eagles all the way to the state title game.
"We had a new coaching staff this year and one of the models we had on defense this year was, 'Dark Side,'" senior linebacker Garrett Betty said. "We wanted to be mean, tough people out there, and to never give up, ever. The Dark Side is something you're afraid of, something that hurts. That was our mentality - to have the Dark Side take over - especially in the playoffs. We didn't get the outcome we wanted at the end but our guys all did a phenomenal job this season."
In the state title game, Betty had eight tackles by halftime. He and his defensive teammates holding Pine Creek to 14 points in the first half and three in the third quarter was a big reason Broomfield was still playing for a state title before Pine Creek pulled away midway through the fourth quarter.
Adam Forbush led Broomfield with 13 tackles. Mason Keeler, who dove over the Pine Creek offensive line to make the stop of fourth-and-inches in the second quarter, made 10 tackles. Betty, who took over a starting linebacker spot later in the season, also had 10.
The truth is that following a 5-5 campaign in 2015-16, no one was picking Broomfield to even make the playoffs, much less beat Ponderosa in the quarterfinals and then Windsor in the semifinals. But something clicked when head coach Blair Hubbard was hired after the season and Broomfield silenced its doubters.
Incoming defensive coordinator Robert O'Brien, who many of his players credited with this season's success, said the Eagles never considered themselves underdogs and that he inherited all the talent he needed. According to O'Brien, he just put the plays in and the players did all the hard stuff.
"It was all about effort," O'Brien said. "These guys never say die, they never quit. Our practice intensity went through the roof when we started playing Windsor and Monarch and Loveland. I've never been around a defense that practices as hard as they do.
"It didn't take anything special. It was the kids. From the first day, we didn't need anyone from outside to make us the team to beat. We felt like we were the team to beat with who we had and the kids bought in."
O'Brien said the Eagles, who allowed an average of just 18.9 points per game this season, will graduate just four starters from their defense and will return one of the deeper linebacker groups in the state. With plenty of returning talent on the offensive side as well, O'Brien said the Eagles expect to be contenders for several years to come.
"This is not going to be a one-and-done," O'Brien said. "We're going to be back here every year going forward. We have a great team, a great coaching staff, we have a great school and a great community. I know this was our first time here in 15 years but make sure that 'B' stays up there because it's going to be up there for a while."