Football: Broomfield’s air attack resurfaces heading to playoffs

Jeremy Papasso / Staff Photographer
Broomfield’s Steven Croell is coming off a game in which he threw for a career-most six touchdowns. Seen here against Monarch earlier in the season, the senior will be looking for continued success this Saturday against Chatfield in the Class 4A state playoffs.

BROOMFIELD — With the field at Elizabeth Kennedy Stadium chilled by the shadows of the press box on a clear-but-cold Thursday afternoon, the Broomfield football team was out in full force warming themselves up by being quick off every snap of the football and getting back into position for the next whistle.

Concise, coordinated and with collective fluidity — that’s how the Eagles hope to attack Chatfield and whichever opponents may come during the 2018 Class 4A playoffs.

And that’s how quarterback Steven Croell has thrived over the past couple of weeks, as the Broomfield passing attack has warmed up rather quickly after a couple of down weeks.

Saturday afternoon, the No. 4 seeded Eagles host the No. 13 Chargers in a game that could feature plenty of masterful quarterback work. Chatfield senior gunslinger Zack Yanda is back from an injury ready to match wits against Croell, who has 15 touchdown passes this season.

But for the Eagles, a few little changes have meant a lot in the past two weeks. Outstanding offensive line play notwithstanding, the Eagles have spread things out a little bit to allow for Croell to visualize the field better. And with a no-huddle offense looking to keep defenses on their heels, Broomfield has found a steady rhythm.

“We’ve really tried to speed things up as the year’s gone on, get good with conditioning and get kids to understand the pace of the game we want to play at,” Broomfield head coach Blair Hubbard said. “We want to try and get the ball snapped very quickly, as soon as it’s set and that umpire has backed out. That presents defenses with the challenge of having their call in and being ready to go. We hope to continue to hang our hat on that.

“We’ve gone some more with some spread sets to try and spread the defense out more.”

Broomfield has certainly lived up to the billing as a team that will take what the opposition gives — the squad’s 34 rushing touchdowns speaks to that — but Croell’s eight TD tosses in the past two weeks have had a redeeming quality about them.

In the four prior weeks, Croell had just two touchdown passes against five interceptions. The Eagles managed to win three of the four games, though, and Week 9 and Week 10 featured dominating performances against Brighton and Longmont. The 72-50 win against the Trojans, another playoff team, featured a career-best six touchdown passes — on just 10 completions and 14 total pass attempts.

“It’s been nice to have a good balance in our offense, where if teams are putting extra guys in the box we can make plays out in space, and if they’re dropping back in coverage we know we can run the ball, too,” said Croell, who will be playing his 33rd game as an Eagle on Saturday. “I like being up-pace, after we get a big play to go running down the field and keep pushing. Not letting defenses get set and hopefully catch them off guard sometimes.”

Hubbard reiterated the idea of level-headedness being a mainstay among his group, and Croell has done his best to exemplify that mantra.

“We’ve talked about (emotions) a lot,” Croell said. “Something goes wrong, you just have to be able to move on to the next play and not let one thing ruin more plays or more events after that.”

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