ERIE — After opening with a win over three-time defending state champion Pueblo East, the Longmont Trojans' 2017 season took a turn that appeared from the outside to have all the makings of a disappointing season.
That's just how it looked on the outside, however, and not what the Trojans saw inside their own locker room.
The Trojans (9-4) endured a three-game slide following the season-opening win, but never gave up on each other. From there, they won eight straight games and rallied all the way to the Class 3A state semifinals.
That run ended in the semifinals with a 31-14 loss to Erie on Saturday, but that single loss will sit pretty far down on the list of things Trojans players like linebacker Austin Hassler will remember when they look back on the season years from now.
"We didn't start how we'd like and once we went down 1-3, people kind of slept on us and counted us down and out," Hassler said. "But we had each other and I'm proud of my guys."
Hassler made an incredible 20 tackles in the Trojans' season finale, pushing his season total to a team-high 140. He also intercepted five passes and forced five fumbles to lead a stingy defense that allowed over 20 points to just three of its final nine opponents and spearheaded the Trojans' turnaround this fall.
Starting with Pueblo East, the Trojans also beat Holy Family on Sept. 28 and Mead in the quarterfinals on Nov. 18 to accomplish the improbable feat of defeating three different teams that were ranked No. 1 in the state at the time Longmont faced them. Entering the postseason as the No. 8 overall seed in 3A, they advanced as the lowest seed still alive in the classification this far into the postseason and playing after Thanksgiving.
Without the run the Trojans went on in 2017, senior lineman Jarod Fixmer wouldn't have been able to start his 50th and 51st career games, and any number of the Trojans players' accomplishments and lasting memories would have been impossible.
"It definitely stings for the whole team, I know that," Fixmer said after Saturday's loss. "But give them credit, Erie came out and had a great game. And we just had a bad day. Defensively, we couldn't stop them. They were running it down our throats the whole game and we just couldn't get it done. Best of luck to Erie.
"This season was great. We just came together as a brotherhood. We were 1-3 and we were in that same position my freshman year. Everybody just decided to work hard and we had a good run. Beating the No. 1 team three times is pretty cool, I'd say. Most teams don't get the chance to do that. It wasn't the ending we were hoping for but it was definitely a great season."
The Trojans have a 37-13 record between 4A and 3A over the past four years and have reached the state semifinals in three of those four seasons.