LONGMONT — The Longmont-Pueblo East football series shouldn't be mistaken for a rivalry, but with Friday's meeting being the fourth straight year the teams have met there is a fun familiarity between the pair of highly successful programs.
One thing both squads will be looking for in 2017 is their first playoff matchup against each other in that time, and the potential of that down the line showed as the teams met in a Week 1 at Everly-Montgomery Field.
It's a series the three-time defending Class 3A champion Pueblo East led 2-1 in their recent history, but the host Trojans used two Austin Hassler interceptions and three second-half touchdowns to help stave off the well-traveled Eagles 31-6.
Cruz Garcia's 37-yard touchdown run with 9 minutes, 10 seconds left in the fourth quarter put some separation in the score after Pueblo East had hung in and made it a 17-6 game in the third stanza, and the Trojans managed some downhill running in the final few minutes to keep the ball out the hands of some dangerous Eagles weapons.
It was a long night for the Eagles, too, who could not get much going outside of their lone score, a 51-yard touchdown strike from Luc Andrada to Marcus Winston.
"It definitely showed how close we can be as a team together, how good of a team we can be and I am proud," said Hassler, whose team took a big blow in the offseason with the loss of linebacker Avery Peterson to injury. "Our offense stepped up, and when they did we knew the game wasn't going to be close."
In the junior Andrada, Pueblo East has its incumbent quarterback and the Eagles were out to test the Longmont defense through the air. But after converting on three passes to begin the game, the Eagles had issues.
Hassler's reads on a couple of plays were a big part of that. The linebacker intercepted a pass at the LHS 10 yard line late in the second quarter to erase what could have been a great scoring opportunity for the Eagles, and then later in the third picked off a pass at the East 30 and returned it all the way to the 1-yard line, setting up Oakley Dehning's 1-yard run with 9:26 to go in the third.
Dehning — also a junior incumbent QB — completed just seven passes but two of them went for touchdowns. He found Nick Paone on a 66-yard strike to start the scoring and finished the game with a 3-yard toss to Sage Yazzi.
It took that much to finally feel good about the score, Hassler said.
"(Andrada) is just an athlete and there's no telling what he can do at any time, run, throw. So I am very proud of the discipline we showed," Hassler said.
Garcia surpassed 100 yards on his TD run, which put LHS ahead 24-6. Drake Engelking added 63 yards on 16 carries and Longmont totaled 315 yards of offense.
Pueblo East had just three rushes of more than 10 yards and finished with 111 yards on the ground.
Longmont 31, Pueblo East 6
At Everly-Montgomery FieldPueblo East0060—6Longmont63814—31
Longmont — Nick Paone 66 pass from Oakley Dehning (kick failed).
Longmont — Cruz Garcia 35 field goal.
Longmont — Dehning 1 run (Garcia run). Pueblo East — Marcus Winston 51 pass from Luc Andrada (kick failed).
Longmont — Garcia 37 run (Garcia kick). Longmont — Sage Yazzi 3 pass from Dehning (Garcia kick).
RUSHING — Pueblo East: Luis Martinez 13-37, Luc Andrada 6-26, Mike Vivoda 3-45, Jon Lujan 1-5, Donavin Ada 1-2, Kain Medrano 2-(minus-4). Longmont: Drake Engelking 16-63, Cruz Garcia 9-104, Oakley Dehning 9-26, Beck Fieth 4-15, Jaydon Elkins 1-5, Caden Lowrie 4-(minus-8).
PASSING — Pueblo East: Andrada 12-37-3-170. Longmont: Dehning 7-18-0-111.
RECEIVING — Pueblo East: Marcus Winston 5-92, Lujan 1-29, John Orona 2-18, Joe Padula 2-8, Medrano 2-32. Longmont: Nick Paone 1-66, Danny Nichols 1-5, Elkins 3-17, Chris Gumeson 1-19, Sage Yazzi 1-3.