LAKEWOOD -- Junior Keenan O’Hearn was thrust into the role of starting quarterback for Class 3A’s No. 7-ranked Evergreen Cougars on Saturday and he proved up to the task.
Evergreen edged rival D’Evelyn for the first time since 2004 with a 20-14 victory at Trailblazer Stadium. O’Hearn replaced senior Jack Curtis under center after the Cougars’ starting quarterback suffered a concussion last week against Lutheran.
O’Hearn completed just one pass Saturday afternoon, but it came in a critical situation. With the game tied at 14, Evergreen faced third-and-10 from D’Evelyn’s 45-yard line. O’Hearn connected with junior Marcus Cassin for a 24-yard gain.
“God bless Keenan O’Hearn,” Evergreen coach Rob Molholm said. “He got put into a tough spot. Keenan came in and all we asked him to do was facilitate the offense. That first complete pass was a big gain.”
Seven plays later, Evergreen senior Jake Lankutis capped off the go-ahead scoring drive with a 1-yard touchdown on fourth down.
D’Evelyn had two more possessions to attempt a fourth-quarter comeback, but both drives ended in Jaguars’ quarterback Connor Mateer being intercepted. O’Hearn came up big on the defensive end with one of the late picks. Junior Brian Reed sealed the victory with an interception with a minute to play.
The win moved the Cougars (6-1, 4-0 in league) one step closer to claiming the 3A Metro-West League title. It was also the fifth straight win for Evergreen in another close game. Four of the Cougars’ past five wins have been games decided by seven points or less.
“(D’Evelyn) is a very good football team,” Molholm said. “They are very well coached and another very good football team. We’ve played a lot of those this year.”
Evergreen’s ground attack pounded out 213 yards on the ground. Senior Joe Danni led the way with 10 carries for 78 yards and a touchdown. Senior Kipp Nilson added 37 yards and a touchdown. Junior Tanner Cassin racked up 39 yards on the ground. On top of scoring the eventual game-winning touchdown, Lankutis ended with 57 yards rushing.
“Coming off a big win last week (23-20 win against Lutheran) and to come out and pretty much clinch league is great,” Danni said.
Evergreen has a non-league game at Glenwood Springs next Friday night before closing the regular season with back-to-back conference games against Alameda and Summit. One win in their final two games will officially wrap up a league championship for the Cougars.
Curtis said he plans on being back on the field for the Cougars before the start of the playoffs. He also has full confidence in O’Hearn as he keeps the quarterback position warm for him.
“I had no doubt in my mind (O’Hearn) could do it,” Curtis said. “He is a great quarterback and next year he can take over and do a great job.”
D’Evelyn (5-3, 2-2) will need to close strong to earn a postseason berth after its second straight setback.
Mateer finished the game 13-for-32 passing for 251 yards and a touchdown. His 58-yard touchdown pass to senior Ty McGee gave the Jaguars an early 7-0 lead in the first quarter. McGee ended with seven catches for 128 yards on the afternoon.
D’Evelyn’s next game is against Lutheran (5-2, 2-2) in a conference game at 11 a.m. Saturday, Oct. 26, at Trailblazer Stadium.