LONGMONT — Solving the perplexing riddle of figuring out exactly what was ailing the Longmont football team throughout September was a little like deciphering the ending of a good mystery novel.
Often, the most obvious solution is the correct one. In this case, the Trojans simply had to find a way to hang on to the darn football.
In August optimism skyrocketed around the Longmont program, and with good reason. The Trojans boasted one of the top interior linemen around in Tanner Wilkey. They were set to unleash a vast array of talented playmakers on offense, a unit led by a seasoned veteran at quarterback, Clint Sigg. An experienced, hard-hitting defense was expected to thrive with the return of linebacker Logan Goodner, who missed last season due to an injury.
Yet going into the final week of September, all those assets and expectations had garnered a 1-3 record and a world of question marks.
Two months later, those travails are a distant memory, as the Trojans prepare to host Broomfield on Saturday in a Class 4A state semifinal showdown. Since Longmont began taking care of the football the Trojans haven’t lost, bringing an eight-game winning streak into the contest.
“We didn’t crumble when we were 1-3, and we’re here,” Sigg said. “We definitely had to focus on not turning the ball over, because that lost us some games. We made some slight adjustments on the line, but really it’s been about staying focused in practice and not letting our record get the best of us. We knew we were good. We knew every game from there on out was a playoff game. We took it with that kind of mentality and it’s worked out well.”
Through the Trojans’ first four games, making plans to perhaps reach the Class 4A title game for the first time since 2009 seemed laughable. Not with the way Longmont kept giving the opposition easy opportunities.
The standard was set during an opening-week loss at Pueblo East that saw Sigg toss a pair of interceptions. Though the Trojans rallied for a win in their home opener against Falcon — which hosts defending champ Pine Creek in the other 4A state semifinal — the victory was marred by three lost fumbles.
The turnover plague continued in losses against Broomfield (one interception, three lost fumbles) and Fort Collins (two interceptions, three lost fumbles). With 14 turnovers in those four games, the Trojans perhaps were somewhat fortunate to be 1-3 instead of 0-4. Yet the turnaround was as abrupt as it has been complete. In the eight victories since, Longmont has committed just four total turnovers, including only one interception from Sigg in an eight-game span that has encompassed 103 attempts.
“We just have to keep working hard like we have during this winning streak and hope it carries us through to the end,” Longmont junior Eli Sullivan said. “We started slow, but cutting out the turnovers has really helped. We made a few adjustments here and there, and that has made a big change.”
Better protection of the football has allowed the Longmont offense to fully utilize its vast array of athletic playmakers, although the Trojans’ arsenal will take a hit with the loss of leading rusher Conlan Berger. Though he could very well see action on defense in Saturday’s showdown, the fractured wrist Berger suffered in last week’s quarterfinal win against Fort Collins will take his 1,137 rushing yards, 394 receiving yards, and 17 total touchdowns out of the offensive equation.
Nevertheless, the Sigg-led attack still boasts a number of versatile options. Sullivan has spent extensive time in the backfield and leads the Trojans with 45 receptions and 622 receiving yards. Junior Ethan Gabrielle has averaged 7.5 yards per carry in limited opportunities and has a 188-yard game to his credit against Silver Creek. Trevor Cook has provided a big-play target with a team-leading five touchdown receptions.
“We lost our best running back and our second or third-best receiver (in Berger), but Eli has been amazing and Clint has been amazing of late,” Longmont coach Doug Johnson said. “The most crucial piece has been the pass protection. That makes a big difference.
“I think we’re focused on trying to get some more free football. The excitement is good, but we want to come out and play well Saturday. It’s a great opportunity. Broomfield has gotten better too, and they’re a great team.
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