Columbine ousts Fruita from playoffs
LAKEWOOD — There’s a reason the Columbine High School football team is seeded fifth in the Class 5A state playoff bracket.
“They’re bigger, faster, stronger,” Fruita Monument coach Bill Moore said Saturday after the Rebels eliminated his Wildcats from the playoffs, 49-14 at Jeffco Stadium.
Columbine (9-1) scored early and often, on the ground and through the air.
Actually, Columbine coach Andy Lowry was just hoping to get his team through the first round and get some of his injured players back for the remainder of the playoffs.
“We (hope to) get three guys back who’ve been out three to six weeks,” Lowry said.
That includes starting quarterback Danny Spond, who was injured in the Rebels’ lone loss this season to Pomona in the last week of the regular season.
Spond didn’t play against the Wildcats, but the three players taking snaps in his place did exactly what Lowry needed of them.
Nathan Wiggins began the game behind center and took the Rebels on a 66-yard opening drive, marching Columbine down the field in 11 plays.
“Our kids took control early,” Lowry said.
Wiggins directed the second drive, moving the Rebels 68 yards in nine plays. Both drives had the same result: running back Kevin Richards scoring a touchdown.
“That’s why they’re a good football team,” Moore said.
Then it was Wiggins’ turn to hand the reins to Phillip Romero.
Wiggins didn’t attempt a pass, instead utilizing the Rebels’ powerful ground game. Romero, a junior left-hander, offered Columbine a passing option. He threw nine times, completing them all for 140 yards and two touchdowns.
Romero also proved elusive when he ran the ball, calling his own number for 52 yards.
“They filled in well,” Lowry said of his trio of quarterbacks, which included senior Andrew Skinner taking snaps in the fourth quarter.
“Actually, in the long run, it helps with depth,” Lowry said of the injuries being a blessing in disguise.
The Rebels scored on their opening drive of the second half to go ahead 42-0. That forced the adoption of the running clock but didn’t daunt Fruita Monument’s desire to finish strong.
The Wildcats struggled to sustain a drive through the first 2½ quarters, but quarterback Brett Nankervis finally found Tyler Daniels open along the sideline.
Daniels leaped for the catch, the outmaneuvered a defensive back to complete a 78-yard reception and put Fruita Monument on the board midway through the third quarter.
Fruita mounted a final scoring drive as the game clock wound down, AJ Meil getting the honors from 1 yard out on the game’s final play.
“They showed some character,” Moore said of his team’s two late scoring drives. “Those are things for us to build on.”
“They didn’t give up at the end of the game,” Wildcats senior tight end Scott Miller said of his team showing some mettle under adverse conditions.
Moore hoped the Columbine program can serve as a barometer for his younger players.
“This is how you have to play when you come to the Front Range,” he said.