The directions were clear. Longmont football coach Doug Johnson told junior running back Ethan Gabrielle he needed to “have a Silver Creek game.”
Johnson, of course, was referring to the monster game Gabrielle put together against the Trojans’ city rivals two months ago. Gabrielle didn’t quite match that production Saturday during the Trojans’ Class 4A semifinal battle against Broomfield, but with leading rusher Conlan Berger sidelined Gabrielle and Dave Speidel more than filled the void, helping Longmont to reach the title game for the first time since 2009 with a 21-14 victory.
“They can do the job, and they did,” Johnson said. “Ethan has been a great player all season and he had a great game today. And he can be even better once he learns some of the nuances of the passing game.
“They’ve cushioned the blow all season and have contributed all year. It’s not a one-man team. Conlan, he’s a great kid and you can’t totally replace him. But the rest of the team executing can make a huge difference, and they did.”
Missing Berger meant the Trojans entered the penultimate match of the season without an asset that had compiled 1,137 rushing yards, 394 receiving yards, and 17 combined touchdowns. A fractured wrist suffered during last week’s quarterfinal win at Fort Collins kept Berger on the sideline.
Fortunately for the Trojans, they had players like Gabrielle and Speidel, both juniors, who were more than capable of picking up the slack.
Gabrielle has been a steady if unspectacular contributor throughout the season — the lone exception being a 188-yard eruption on just nine carries against Silver Creek in September. Still, Johnson had no qualms turning to Gabrielle on Saturday, and he responded with 75 yards on 10 carries. Speidel added 35 rushing yards on eight carries.
“I’ve been kind of been preparing all season to fill a role for Conlan or Eli (Sullivan), because they are such big assets for our team that if one of them got hurt we’d need someone to step up and be a man,” Gabrielle said. “For this game, every rep in practice this week I just went as hard as I possibly could to help our seniors get to state, because you only have one senior year.”
Gabrielle’s contributions Saturday certainly went beyond simple numbers in the box score. His nine-yard run late in the first quarter set up Longmont’s first touchdown, a one-yard plunge by McCartney Coyle. A 33-yard run by Gabrielle early in the third quarter would have led to another score if not for Longmont’s second red-zone turnover of the game and, following an interception by Longmont’s Barrett Ingvaldsen early in the fourth quarter, a seven-yard run by Gabrielle set up the Trojans’ final touchdown.
“Conlan was such a big part of our team and a big part of our offense, we knew when he went down we had to step up,” Speidel said. “We made up for him today, and we’re going to bring it home for him. Once Conlan got hurt, coach said I’d be playing more this week. We got the job done and I’m so happy now.”
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Longmont 21, Broomfield 14
At Everly-Montgomery Field
Broomfield (9-4) 7 0 0 7 — 14
Longmont (10-3) 6 8 0 7 — 21
Broomfield — Logan McCormick 6 run (Bryan Tanigawa kick).
Longmont — McCartney Coyle 1 run (pass failed).
Longmont — Eli Sullivan 17 pass from Clint Sigg (Sigg run).
Longmont — Sigg 10 run (Cooper Rothe kick).
Broomfield — Dante Panicucci 21 pass from McCormick (Tanigawa kick).
RUSHING — Broomfield: Logan McCormick 16-52, Jalon Torres 11-39, Nate Knowles 7-38, Jack Sherwood 2-5. Longmont: Ethan Gabrielle 10-75, Clint Sigg 14-58, David Speidel 8-35, Eli Sullivan 5-19, McCartney Coyle 3-5.
PASSING — Broomfield: McCormick 12-24-2-164, Jack Burgesser 2-3-0-17. Longmont: Sigg 18-25-1-173.
RECEIVING — Broomfield: Payton Holloway 5-72, Dante Panicucci 5-62, Nate Lehnerz 4-47. Longmont: Sullivan 7-78, Filippo Swartz 3-44, Gabrielle 3-14, Coyle 2-16, Dallas Smith 1-9, Ryan Rulon 1-9, Trevor Cook 1-3.