DENVER — The Skyline football team reached the 4A state championship game for the first time since 1999 but the Falcons will have to wait a bit longer for their program's second state title.
At Broncos Stadium at Mile High on Saturday, the underdog No. 9 Falcons fell behind 14 points after just the game's first four plays from scrimmage and couldn't match the undefeated No. 2 Indians on either side of the ball. The Falcons' improbable playoff run ended with a 62-14 loss.
Saturday's outcome was far from the perfect ending the Falcons had hoped for. But when they look back on the 2018 campaign, the Falcons will remember it most for putting their program back on the map.
"No one can tell me that making it to a state championship isn't a successful season," Falcons senior running back Jeremy Hollingsworth said. "Everyone doubted that we would even make it here and we're definitely proud of what we were able to accomplish this season. We persevered through a lot and really just came together as a brotherhood. That's why we made it this far."
As soon as the championship game began, the Falcons were met with a perfect storm of miscues and misfortunes.
Receiving the game's opening kickoff, the Falcons (10-4) misplayed a squib kick and the Indians (14-0) recovered. Also on the play, Falcons standout receiver and linebacker Kyle West was injured — and never was able to get back on the field. On the Indians' ensuing possession, Loveland's Riley Kinney took the first play 25 yards for a touchdown.
The Falcons' first drive of the game lasted just two plays. Sophomore quarterback Chase Silva's first pass of the game bounced off his intended receiver's hands and was intercepted by Cody Rakowsky. Kinney scored on a 17-yard touchdown run on the next play to put the Indians up 14-0 just 59 seconds into the game.
Silva found Nathan McGregor for a 10-yard touchdown pass on the Falcons' next drive to cut the lead to 14-7. But the Indians scored 21 unanswered points before Hollingsworth scored on an 11-yard touchdown run with 7:09 left in the first half. By halftime, the Indians had pushed the lead to 48-14 with the help of four Falcons turnovers.
"They're dudes and we knew that coming in," Skyline head coach Mike Silva said. "Four turnovers to zero in the first half, that's the biggest thing. It's like I told the boys at halftime, if we don't turn it over four times and give up three touchdowns, it's probably 28-14 and we're talking about how we can make some adjustments. But that's not where we were and at that point, you have to play for pride. When you make mistakes against a monster like that, it is what it is."
With their eighth touchdown of the game, the Indians took a 55-14 and the running clock began with 7:42 left in the third quarter.
The Indians, who have allowed an average of 5.9 points per game this season, held the Falcons to 218 yards of total offense. Hollingsworth rushed for 68 yards and Silva threw for 135 yards but also threw four interceptions, one of which was returned for a touchdown.
Saturday's game was similarly one-sided as the Nov. 2 meeting between the two teams in which Loveland defeated Skyline, 42-14 in Loveland, and claimed the Longs Peak League title. Loveland is 29-1 since Oct. 7, 2016, with its only loss over that span a 28-27 overtime loss to Broomfield in the second round of the 2017 playoffs. Saturday's was Loveland's seventh football championship.
As the No. 9 seed, Skyline defeated No. 8 Pueblo West, No. 1 Pine Creek and No. 5 Ponderosa to reach the title game. Skyline has won one football championship ever, claiming the 3A in 1986, and last played in a title game in 1999, losing 42-6 to Green Mountain in the 4A title game.
Hollingsworth finished the season second in 4A in rushing yards, Silva led 4A in passing yards and touchdowns, West led 4A in receiving yards and Skyline's Jack Wathen led 4A in receiving touchdowns.
"We're not going to be able to celebrate right now but we'll look back on it proudly," Silva said. "It was a great season, we laid a foundation for these younger guys and we'll just get back to work."
Brad Cochi: firstname.lastname@example.org and @bradcochi on Twitter.
Loveland 62, Skyline 14
At Broncos Stadium at Mile HighLoveland (14-0) 21 27 7 7 — 62
Loveland — Riley Kinney 25 run (Cody Rakowski kick). Loveland — Kinney 17 run (Rakowsky kick). Skyline — Nathan McGregor 10 pass from Chase Silva (Ben Kalisher kick). Loveland — Weinmaster 1 run (Rakowsky kick).
Loveland — Rakowsky 9 run (Rakowsky kick). Loveland — Kinney 1 run (Rakowsky kick). Loveland — Isaiah Meyers 19 interception return (kick missed). Skyline — Jeremy Hollingsworth 11 run (Kalisher kick). Loveland — Weinmaster 3 run (Rakowsky kick).
Loveland — Kinney 1 run (Rakowsky kick).
Loveland — Kinney 22 run (Rakowsky kick).
RUSHING — Loveland: Zach Weinmaster 22-117, Riley Kinney 16-108, Cody Rakowsky 5-31, Cody Donovan 3-11, Sean Boylan 2-36, Michael Lewis 2-7, Colby Mauck 1-2, Michael Deschene 1-2; Skyline: Jeremy Hollingsworth 16-68, Chase Silva 3-11, Wesler Brinkerhoff 1-4.
PASSING — Loveland: Riley Kinney 3-5-0-92; Skyline: Chase Silva 9-21-4-135.
RECEIVING — Loveland: Mason Adams 1-37, Cody Rakowsky 1-34, Seaon Boylan 1-21; Skyline: Jack Wathen 4-71, Nathan McGregor 3-42, Jeremy Hollingsworth 2-22.