So much for the underdog role. Defending state champion Cherry Creek took down Denver South 26-22 on Friday at University of Colorado’s Folsom Field to secure an undefeated regular season and a spot in the Class 5A state championship game, which will be held at 2:30 p.m. on Saturday against Valor Christian.
Denver South’s Isaiah Strickland’s 25-yard field goal attempt fell short at the buzzer to give the Bruins the victory.
“It feels awesome,” Cherry Creek coach Dana Hein said. “We said we were going to work hard every day and play our best, and we’ve been doing that the whole way through. Our whole plan is that we’re going to have to play our best for us to win a championship.”
The Bruins, who ran for 328 yards and two touchdowns and held South to 90 yards of total offense, started off fast with a 54-yard touchdown drive, capped by LaQuintus Scott’s 2-yard touchdown run with 8:55 left in the first quarter.
South answered on the ensuing drive with Austin Russell’s 14-yard touchdown run. But the Bruins then turned the ball over for the second time in the quarter, and the Rebels’ defense responded by forcing a three-and-out.
With 4:54 left in the first half, the Rebels regained possession for the final time, and rode Russell to a touchdown pass to Drew McGaughey with 1:54 remaining.
That lead held until Scott scored again in the second half for Cherry Creek, which took an 18-10 lead at the end of the third quarter with a 12-yard touchdown run from Ty Odim.
The Rebels answered with a short touchdown drive late in the fourth quarter to lead 22-18, but the Bruins answered with another touchdown drive and another failed extra point, and that’s when Strickland’s field goal attempt fell short.
“When they’re prepared to go, I think they’re one of the best teams,” South coach Reggie Wyatt said. “We matched them physically. I thought we were going to be able to get off the field on them, but we gave it away. I’m going to tip my hat to them. I think they’re the best team, and when you go against a state champion, you better be ready to go.”
South: Russell 5-10 9-13 23 TD, Russell 4-9 0-0 12 TD, McGaughey 2-8 0-0 11 TD, Strickland 6-7 0-0 14 FG
Cherry Creek: Scott 8-9 6-13 25 TD, Odim 4-8 0-0 8 TD, Davis 3-4 0-0 3 TD
Player of the game: Austin Russell, Jr., RB, South
Next for the Rebels: