BOULDER — Henry Blackburn backed up the talk he gave pregame to his teammates before their second-round playoff game with Cherokee Trail, catching 18 passes for 236 yards unofficially and five touchdowns while recording eight tackles on defense. But it was his foot that kicked the Fairview Knights to the next round of the Class 5A bracket.
Fairview drove down the field to attempt a 37-yard field goal with less than 15 seconds remaining and trailing 34-33. It was Blackburn who stepped in to attempt the kick, and he got just enough of it to clear the crossbar and put the Knights in front 36-34. They would get a sack shortly after to win by the same score and move on to next week’s quarterfinals.
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“I just love this team so much,” Blackburn said. “I love coach (McCartney) with all my heart. This whole year we’ve been saying do it for Mac. We just kept fighting. I give all my respect to Cherokee Trail. Those guys gave us such a good game.”
Blackburn caught short and deep passes all over the field and was able to find running room and the end zone all night. His two touchdowns in the first half put the Knights up 13-7 at the break, and he kept Fairview at pace with Cherokee Trail in a second-half shootout with three more touchdowns of 16, 21 and 35 yards.
His performance almost looked like it would not be enough, however, as Cherokee Trail scored with 6:44 remaining and then recovered an onside kick and drove down the field in 11 plays, killing more than five minutes of time before Julian Williams scored his fourth rushing touchdown for the Cougars.
Fairview’s go-ahead drive started at its own 20-yard line with 75 seconds remaining. Blackburn was only able to catch one pass as Cherokee Trail focused on taking him away with double coverage. So it was up to other receivers — Jalen Page, Grant Page and David Howlett — to catch five passes on the drive that helped them get into scoring range.
“I told them before the game and all season that they would be the ones to make the plays in the playoffs,” Blackburn said. “They would be the ones to take over the game, and that’s exactly what they did. They’ve been waiting for their moment all year.”
With Blackburn’s kick, it was time for the Fairview defense to get a stop after struggling to slow down the Cherokee Trail rushing attack in the second half. That stop came from edge rusher Brayden Wood, the team leader in tackles Friday, with a sack of quarterback Jayden Lavigne, leading him to throw his helmet in the air in celebration with his teammates storming him on the field when the clock ran out.
“My coach came up to me and said we need a play out of you, so I said no worries,” Wood said. “I got a good rush with my first step off the ball. I was able to long-arm (the tackle), then the quarterback stepped up in the pocket and it was just a perfect play.”
Aidan Atkinson threw for 461 yards and five touchdowns for Fairview in the win. Cherokee Trail was led on offense by Julian Williams running the ball for 200 yards and his four scores.
The dramatic win is one that Fairview will enjoy for a brief period before turning its focus to Cherry Creek, the No. 1 seed in the Class 5A state tournament who defeated ThunderRidge 31-14 Friday night.
“Going against an offense like this will help us with Cherry Creek,” Wood said. “They both play similar offenses. It will come down to us playing our game, playing sound and do what we do.”