Warriors can’t keep up with No. 2 Chatfield
LAKEWOOD — Shawn Marsh kept his postgame speech to Central’s football team short and to the point Friday night.
The Warriors had just witnessed their season come to an end with a disheartening 58-19 loss to second-seeded Chatfield in the first round of the Class 4A state playoffs at Jeffco Stadium. But Marsh didn’t focus on the game itself — instead he let his players know just how proud he was of all they had accomplished.
It was the team’s first postseason appearance since 2004.
“This group of seniors is a pretty special group of kids,” Marsh said. “They’re the first group that we came in with as a staff, and they really worked their butts off for us and for the team and the school.
“You always end up with a loss in the playoffs unless you’re a state champion. It’s hard, but our kids’ effort was terrific.”
Chatfield (10-1) rushed for 460 yards on the night, led by Dalton Keene’s 115 yards and two touchdowns. The team had 540 yards of total offense.
Still, Central (6-5) gave the Chargers a run for their money in the first half. Anthony Zubiate intercepted a pass on the opening drive and returned it 49 yards for a touchdown to put the Warriors on top.
Even after Chatfield retook the lead on a pair of Keene touchdown runs, the Warriors stuck with their game plan. The two teams traded scores, and Central was knocking on the door again in the closing seconds of the first half when disaster struck.
Senior quarterback EJ Barrera ran the ball to the Chatfield 1, but was forced to leave the game for a play after a hard collision with a Chargers defender. Junior wide receiver Ryan Weller moved under center for a quarterback sneak, but the snap was fumbled and Chatfield recovered.
Marsh took the blame for what transpired.
“I should have stayed in shotgun,” he said. “Changing out quarterbacks right there, I should have done it. That’s not the kid’s fault right there, that’s my fault.”
Central’s offense couldn’t get untracked in the third quarter, while Chatfield’s was clicking on all cylinders. The Chargers found the end zone twice and added a field goal to take a 38-13 lead into the fourth, where junior quarterback Matt Moon opened the final quarter with a 40-yard touchdown run.
“The momentum swung and they were able to capitalize on some mistakes that we made,” Marsh said. “The tale of two halves I guess — we did have a good first half, but weren’t able to come out and play like we did.”
Central’s only second-half success came on special teams, with Darrion Alton returning a kickoff 85 yards for a touchdown. Alton also hauled in a 40-yard touchdown pass from Barrera in the first half and finished with five catches for 83 yards.
Keene had touchdown runs of 2 and 45 yards in the first quarter, the latter of which came one play after a Barrera fumble. The Warriors turned the ball over three times and also committed 11 penalties, a few of which helped extend Chatfield scoring drives.
“We made some untimely mistakes on penalties,” Marsh said. “You definitely can’t do that. We had a couple of turnovers, and it’s tough to win games like this when you do those things.”
Ben Frenette rushed for 89 yards for Chatfield. Moon added 69 yards on only nine carries and scored twice and starting quarterback Colton Arne also had two rushing touchdowns.
Barrera finished 12 of 30 for 155 yards for the Warriors in his final start. Marsh had high praise for all of his seniors, who endured an 0-10 campaign in 2013 in which the team had barely 30 players by the end of the season.
“They definitely started their own chapter. (Former) Coach (Vern) McGee and his staff had a great program and some great teams,” Marsh said. “These kids definitely put their mark on their chapter. These kids that are seniors, they got it all started.”