Eagles’ speed too much for Steamboat in 3A title game
AURORA — All season long, the Steamboat Springs High football team had made a living out of using its high-octane offense to pile up the points against overwhelmed defenses.
The Sailors saw the tables turned Saturday afternoon in the Class 3A state championship game at Legacy Stadium. A potent Valor Christian offense was the one lighting up the scoreboard, striking early and often in a 41-14 victory to earn the team’s first state championship.
The Eagles (14-0), who will make the jump to 4A next fall, ran the table this season by sweeping through all 14 opponents. Valor averaged 38.2 points per game, and nearly 40 points a game in the postseason.
“They just had too many horses,” Sailors coach Aaron Finch said. “We had a few horses, but there were just too many spots on the field that we couldn’t get people where we needed them on defense. Offensively, they just had so many guys to throw at you.”
Steamboat Springs (13-1) hadn’t allowed more than 27 points in a game all season, but Valor Christian put up 21 points in the first quarter alone. Senior quarterback Austin Hinder gave the Sailors the lead just more than a minute into the game with a 51-yard touchdown run, but it was all Eagles from that point on.
“This is definitely the fastest team we’ve ever seen,” Hinder said. “They had no weak link at all. We could have kept up with them speed-wise, but they executed better than us and they just came out and they played harder.”
Valor tied the game on a 17-yard touchdown pass from Brock Berglund — who threw four touchdowns and rushed for another — to Braxton Peats. Less than three minutes later Berglund found Sackett Keesen for a 15-yard touchdown, and the junior hooked up with Blake Froistad on a 43-yard scoring strike three minutes after that.
Hinder cut into the deficit with another 51-yard touchdown scamper, but a 60-yard pass play from Berglund to Keesen set up a one-yard scoring run by the quarterback to push the lead back to 14.
Cameron Gray made it a five-touchdown first half for the Eagles with a 64-yard run in the final minutes. In all, Valor Christian had five plays of 20-plus yards in the half.
“It’s a track meet, and we didn’t respond,” said Finch, whose team was missing leading rusher Joe Dover with an ankle injury sustained the previous week. “We had some chances; we had some passes over the top, we just didn’t get them completed.”
Hinder faced heavy pressure all afternoon. He was sacked five times and intercepted twice, and was only 12-of-22 passing for 92 yards. The senior rushed for 95 yards, but eight of his 16 attempts went for negative yards.
“We can definitely throw the ball, it’s just that they were sending blitzes that we didn’t pick up,” Hinder said. “They just executed better.”
Valor kept the ball out of Steamboat’s hands for much of the second half. The Sailors turned the ball over twice, and Berglund capped the scoring with a 20-yard touchdown pass to Froistad. Berglund accounted for 247 yards of total offense and Gray added 107 yards on the ground.
Seniors Bryce Mayo and Cody Harris each posted two sacks for Steamboat Springs. The loss couldn’t completely take away from everything that the Sailors accomplished, including make the title game for the first time since 1979.
“Everybody doubted us. Everybody said we were too small and stuff like that,” Hinder said. “We proved a lot of people wrong. Unfortunately it had to end like this, but Valor’s an unbelievable team.”
DENVER — Mullen High School capped a dominant season with a gritty performance.
Adonis Ameen-Moore ran for 152 yards and a touchdown as the Mustangs rallied to capture their second consecutive Class 5A championship with a 27-24 win over Pomona.
Tyler Pace rushed for 178 yards and two touchdowns for the Panthers, who were playing in their first title game in 17 years.
Mullen (14-0) had to overcome early mistakes and a late Pomona rally to capture the fifth state football championship in school history.
DENVER — Mitch Griebel made sure Heritage High School’s first trip to a state championship game was memorable.
Griebel had 273 yards of offense and five touchdowns and Heritage beat Longmont High School 42-28 at Invesco Field.
Shane Opitz had 121 yards receiving and two touchdown catches for the Eagles, who won their first football title in school history.
The teams combined for 557 yards in the first half and neither squad punted. Heritage looked in control until Longmont scored 10 points in the final 44 seconds to tie the game at 28-28.
AURORA — Faith Christian capped an unbeaten season with a 21-0 victory over Kent Denver at Legacy Stadium.
It was the fourth state title for the school. Faith Christian also won state championships in 1998, 2004 and 2006.
Faith Christian quarterback Micah Twedell was 4-of-7 passing for 43 yards and ran for an additional 136 yards. Richard Rush and Garrett Bundick had touchdown runs for Faith Christian (14-0).