MEAD – With Longmont's football team potentially poised to put the game out of reach early Saturday afternoon, Drake Engelking had an "oh, no" moment.
With the Trojans inside Mead’s 20-yard line in the second quarter, the senior running back was stripped of the ball. The Mavericks recovered and promptly went on a nine-play drive that got the team on the scoreboard and swung the momentum the other way.
So when Engelking got his chance in the same spot on the field late in the Class 3A quarterfinal, he wasn’t about to let his team down. After the defense made a huge fourth-down stop, Engelking capped a 16-play drive with a 2-yard touchdown run with 16 seconds remaining to help send eighth-seeded Longmont to a 30-26 victory over top-seeded and previously undefeated Mead at Mead High School.
“The whole offense knew that this was going to be the last drive we could have,” said Engelking, who rushed for 71 yards and scored three touchdowns. “It was going to be the drive of our life, and we were always going to remember it.”
Danny Nichols came up with an interception at the goal line to preserve the victory. The Trojans (9-3) advanced to next weekend’s semifinals where they will face No. 5 Erie.
“I’m just proud of our effort. I’m proud that our guys stepped up and played with tremendous courage,” Longmont coach Doug Johnson said. “Mead played an excellent ballgame. They do so many things well. It was probably the most momentum swings I’ve ever seen in a game – I knew playoff games were like that, but it went back-and-forth.”
Mead (11-1) had dominated opponents all season, including a 38-14 victory over Longmont back on Sept. 22. But the Trojans didn’t waver, and scored a pair of first-quarter touchdowns to take the early 15-0 lead.
Quarterback Oakley Dehning went deep early, with completions of 45, 26 and 44 yards on the first two drives. Dehning hooked up with Jaydon Elkins on a 12-yard touchdown and Engelking scored from one yard out.
“We came in here and Mead’s undefeated, so we knew they were going to give us their best game,” Nichols said. “We knew that coming in, we just had to match the intensity. I think we did a really good job, and I wouldn’t rather have anyone else by my side doing it.”
Longmont was on a nine-play drive midway through the second quarter when Engelking fumbled the ball at the Mead 8-yardline. A 57-yard run from Mavericks quarterback Tyler Keys – who carried the ball 32 times for 165 yards – helped set up a 2-yard Nathan Mackey touchdown run.
Engelking took the blame for the turnover, but Johnson said his senior wasn’t focused on needing redemption.
“I’m happy for him,” Johnson said. “I think he’d take a win however we get it. I know he felt terrible about that.”
Mead’s Easton Willyard blocked a punt late in the first half and returned it 16 yards for a touchdown to make it 15-13. The Mavericks then took the lead on the first drive of the second half on a 1-yard Mackey score.
A long kickoff return from Nichols helped set up a 1-yard Engelking touchdown run, but Mead answered with a 16-play drive that culminated in a 2-yard Keys score.
“I told the guys I was going to keep three timeouts and we were going to see how that panned out. We were going to try and use them to stop them,” Johnson said. “They made some plays and got the job done.”
After Dehning was intercepted, Mead had the ball deep in Longmont territory with a little more than six minutes remaining. The Mavericks, who had been 5-for-5 on fourth-down attempts, were stopped short. Longmont took over with six minutes, 20 seconds remaining at its own 24 and overcame an offensive pass interference call and needing a fourth-and-long conversion to keep its hopes alive and set Engelking up for the game-winning score.
“That touchdown, I’m still (pumped) about it,” Engelking said. “Thanks to the linemen for getting me that.”
Keys returned the ensuing kickoff 45 yards, and a facemask penalty gave the Mavericks the ball at the Longmont 20 with 6.7 seconds remaining. Keys’ first pass was knocked down, and Nichols secured the interception on the final play.
“It was pretty awesome,” Nichols said. “It was just a great feeling.”
The victory marked the third time this season that Longmont knocked off the No. 1-ranked squad. The Trojans defeated three-time defending state champion Pueblo East in their opener, and also handed Holy Family its first loss.
“We feel like we can play to their level,” Engelking said. “I think it’s like kind of a redemption thing, but it’s also just the game of football.”