Lewis Geyer / Staff Photographer
Lewis Geyer / Staff Photographer
Matthew Jonas / Staff Photographer
The joy has remained and the shine on the basketball state championship is still bright. But as a new prep year starts, The Longmont football team wants to replicate that success this fall.
The thrilling win by the Longmont boys basketball team in the state title game in March, one that previous squads had come close to, gave the Trojans an elusive basketball title. The football team hopes it can piggyback on that championship, and it has the quarterback – and basketball hero – to lead them into the 2018 season.
“It shows us it can be done,” Oakley Dehning said of the basketball title. “It makes us hungry for football. Some of the same kids that played basketball are out for football.”
Dehning, a senior, has been the full-time starting quarterback since his sophomore year but it will be his game-winning shot with 25 seconds left in the Class 4A state basketball championship game that might be remembered most. After Lewis-Palmer had rallied to tie it in the last minute, Dehning’s 3-pointer from the wing gave the Trojans a 62-59 win.
“It’s one of those things that never leave you,” Dehning said.
While he is the starting quarterback on the football team, Dehning came off the bench in basketball. He did so willingly, and it helped the team reach the ultimate goal.
“It’s a tribute to his character. Not only did he play a role on that team he made a very, very unselfish decision in the season to diminish his role to get someone else going,” Longmont football coach Doug Johnson said.
While that memory will always last, Dehning and the Trojans want to add more hardware to the trophy case, and the pieces are there for a football championship. Longmont is returning a senior-laden class from a team that reached the state semifinals last year.
It was an improvement over the 2016 season when the 6-5 Trojans felt they left wins on the table. That wasn’t the case in 2017 when Longmont, seeded eighth, upset top-seeded Mead in the quarterfinals.
The success has them thinking bigger for 2018. And they’ll need to come up bigger, as the Trojans are making the jump up from 3A to the super-competitive Class 4A Northern League.
Still, Longmont and Dehning are confident they have the talent to compete.
“We’ve got our skilled guys, we’ve got almost everybody coming back,” Dehning said. “The line is ready to play and we feel like we can go to war with anyone.”
Having an experienced squad back gives Johnson a chance to expand the playbook.
“I see us able to handle a bigger workload in passing game and little intricate things,” Johnson said.
It starts with Dehning, who has improved each season since he took over the position against Windsor in his freshman year. He threw for 1,668 yards and 17 touchdowns in 2017 and helped Longmont turn a 1-3 start into a 9-4 finish.
“He’s grown as a passer and his skills, but he’s grown in his maturity,” Johnson said.
That third loss was a 38-14 rout by Mead, but Longmont turned the tables in the playoffs, winning 30-26 on Drake Engelking’s 2-yard touchdown run with 16 seconds left.
“It was kind of a revenge game,” Dehning said. “They beat us on the homecoming and we wanted to repay that. It was one of the most fun games I ever played.”
The basketball championship game might have topped that one. Now the football team wants to take it to another level.
Follow us on Twitter: @BoCoPreps