LONGMONT — With 4 minutes and 15 seconds left in the Class 3A state championship game, the Silver Creek offense knew it had plenty of time to execute a drive like so many others the Raptors had performed all season long.
What they didn’t expect was for Coronado to bring the house like it did Saturday in the waning minutes at Everly-Montgomery Field.
Playing the odds against man coverage with Silver Creek needing a touchdown to defend its 2012 football title, the Cougars disrupted the Raptors’ offense at the perfect time and dashed SCHS’ hopes of a second consecutive title, hanging on for a 28-24 victory and the first football state title of its own.
Excited to host the game in front of the home crowd in Longmont, Silver Creek could not overcome mistakes that allowed Coronado to rally from a 17-0 deficit in the second quarter. The Cougars took a lead in the third quarter only to see Silver Creek respond, but quarterback Joah Smith put the final points on the board for Coronado in the fourth frame — an tough 11-yard run that put CHS up for good.
The Cougars (13-1) pounded the ground to the tune of 282 yards, but just enough plays were made in the air to earn the Colorado Springs-based team the golden football. Silver Creek fell to 10-3 with its second loss in a championship game in the past three seasons.
“You’re playing for the marbles in one game, and you’ve got to play your best on that game. Today … we just didn’t make enough plays and on the Big Dance you’ve got to do that,” said head coach Mike Apodaca. “We’re a ball-control offense and we were getting too many negative yards. Those are tough to get out of.”
“It was a great journey that we made,” added senior quarterback Ben Sjobakken, who finished 16 of 25 for 206 yards with a touchdown and an interception. “You’ve got to tip your hat to them, because they weren’t the biggest guys, but they were speedy. They were good because of their aggressiveness and their intensity, and it just didn’t go our way today.”
Coronado seemed to be a team of destiny in 2013, just two years removed from an 0-10 campaign. They squeaked through all three of their previous playoff games, winning all of them by a combined six points. On Saturday, they out-gained Silver Creek for the game 432-301. Smith completed seven passes for a 150 yards and tailback Isaah Duvall ran for 189 yards on 21 carries.
Their final drive was a work of art, starting from the 1-yard line. The Cougars ate up 7 minutes on 17 plays, converting a third-and-24 at one point, before Smith’s physical scoring run.
Afterward, CHS head coach Bob Lizarraga was still shock. The 13th win in 2013 was one more than they had combined from 2006-2012.
“(The kids) had the determination to stay in the program, knowing they had something to offer. This is incredible. I’m speechless,” Lizarraga said.
The Cougars showed they came to play after getting down by as much as 17-0 in the second quarter, and bounced back even after giving up a 97-yard opening kickoff return to Anthony Kasper and a 24-yard scoring run from wide receiver Eric Machmuller in the first quarter after coming up short on a fourth-down play.
Coronado responded to a 43-yard field goal from Ryan Charles with a 13-play drive capped with a Zeb Foster 8-yard run with 4:19 left in the quarter. Austin Micci ended Silver Creek’s next drive with an interception when Silver Creek could have run out the clock, and CHS made good on the miscue with a 5-yard run set up by a 44-yard reception by Junior York.
Rather than 17-6, the lead shrank to 17-14 just like that.
“Penalties on offense killed us, and my interception led to a score that put us on our heels,” Sjobakken said. “I felt pressure from the outside and I stepped up, and I saw Zane (Lindsey) come across the middle but the safety jumped the ball. It was a mistake by me, you can’t throw the ball over the middle of the field.”
Coronado took its first lead at 21-17 on another big mistake from the SC defense, when the Raptors jumped offside on a 4th-and-1 at the CHS 15. The next play, Duvall took a handoff 80 yards untouched.
Fifty-three seconds later, the Raptors were back on top thanks to a heady bubble screen from Brock Ricks that went for 58 yards and a 24-21 lead.
But that was the only score Silver Creek could muster in the second half. They had the ball twice, and after driving to the CHS 30 on its last desperate drive trailing by four, the Raptors took three straight losses. Ryan Strabala and Joseph Hunt sacked Sjobakken on 2nd-and-13 from the 33, and a screen play to Kasper was sniffed out on third down for another five-yard loss. The final play was a 14-yard gain to Ricks, but it wasn’t enough.
“They took advantage of our mistakes and obviously came out with the win because of it,” said senior Isaac Miller. “We have overcome some crazy adversity this whole year, so we felt like we had (rallied) before, we could do it again. Sometimes it just doesn’t end up in your favor. They stopped us when they needed to.”
“They did (bring pressure), and we probably panicked a little bit,” said Apodaca. “That sustained drive, you know, there were a couple penalties that were called, and we just let them out of too many opportunities. We had them third-and-long several times on that (final drive), and again their kids made more plays than we did. That’s how it ends this way.”
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Coronado 28, Silver Creek 24
At Everly-Montgomery Field
Coronado (13-1) 0 14 7 7 — 28
Silver Creek (10-3) 14 3 7 0 — 24
SC — Anthony Kasper 97 kickoff return (Ryan Charles kick), 11:45.
SC — Eric Machmuller 24 run (Charles kick), 2:05.
SC — Charles 43 field goal.
C — Zeb Foster 8 run (kick failed), 4:19.
C — Foster 5 run (Sam Smith pass to Joah Smith), :09.
C — Isaah Duvall 80 run (Jose Perez kick), 4:27.
SC — Brock Ricks 58 pass from Ben Sjobakken (Charles kick), 3:34.
C — Joah Smith 11 run (Perez kick), 4:15.
RUSHING — Coronado: Isaah Duvall 21-187, Zeb Foster 9-33, Joah Smith 10-46, Corbin Bender 3-7, Austin Micci 3-8, Colt Nixon 1-2, Devon Baker 1-(minus-1), Chandler Fulks (1-0); Silver Creek: Anthony Kasper 12-62, Eric Machmuller 1-24, Josh Quiroz 3-9, Ben Sjobakken 5-(minus-1), Brock Ricks 1-1.
PASSING (comp-att-int-yards) — Coronado: Joah Smith 7-14-0-150; Silver Creek: Sjobakken 16-25-1-206, Kasper 0-1-0-0.
RECEIVING — Coronado: Sam Smith 2-51, Junior York 3-73, Baker 2-26; Silver Creek: Zane Lindsey 8-74, Machmuller 2-22, Ricks 3-82, Nico Rembert 2-33, Kasper 1-(minus-5).