AURORA — Things didn’t go exactly as planned for the Cherry Creek Bruins as they kicked off their 2014 football season against Regis Jesuit Friday night at Lou Kellogg Stadium — but they ended up happy with the results anyway.
The Bruins (1-0), ranked second in CHSAANow.com's Class 5A football rankings to start the year, finished off a convincing 27-14 win over the defending Continental League Champion Raiders in a highly anticipated and well attended matchup that — eventually — lived up to the hype.
Things didn’t start smoothly for either squad. The No. 7 Raiders (0-1) started the game with a quick three and out, highlighted by an illegal substitution penalty. Cherry Creek would give the ball quickly back courtesy of a fumbled snap.
That was the way things went for most of the first quarter as defense ruled almost by default. Both teams tried to establish the run game early, but Regis couldn’t break free of the Bruins’ suffocating defensive line. Cherry Creek, while it had more success on the ground, couldn’t get out of its own way long enough to sustain a drive.
The only highlight early was Bruins’ senior wide receiver Tyus Carter, who broke a number of potential tacklers after catching a pass over the middle to get into Regis territory. Back-to-back sacks by an attacking Raiders’ defense wiped those gains away.
After the game, Bruins’ coach Dave Logan acknowledged that there were some definite nerves to start.
“When you play a really good team in Week 1, it’s tough, and Regis is a really good team,” said Logan. “There were plenty of errors. We had some first game jitters.”
Creek would finish the first half with seven penalties that cost them 71 yards. Senior running back D.J. attributed some of the early game nerves to having a young squad on the field.
“We got a lot of young guys. We’ve got a sophomore center, a junior quarterback, so we just had to get settled,” said Luke postgame. “Once we got settled, we got going.”
With both teams still shaking off the rust early, it was Creek that was able settle down first. After two straight illegal procedure penalties put the Bruins in a fourth and 27 situation, Creek was forced to punt.
Regis fumbled on the return, and all of sudden Creek’s nerves were calmed. Luke would draw first blood, plowing into the end-zone after 17-yard run and to take a 7-0 lead.
“Good. Real good. Been working hard all summer,” said Luke when asked about scoring the first touchdown of the season. “Grinding. Playing F and H so it’s a grind, but I’m doing it.”
F and H are different running back positions in Creek’s system.
After another Regis three and out, the Bruins turned to another senior for a spark. Wide receiver Joseph Parker caught Regis’ punt and streaked 56 yards down the sideline to set the Bruins up deep in Raiders’ territory. Senior running back Milo Hall, part of a dangerous tandem ground attack along with Luke, would finish the drive off with a 15-yard scamper to put the Bruins up two touchdowns at halftime.
The second half didn’t start much better for the Raiders. After the opening kickoff rolled out of bounds, giving the Bruins excellent field position to start, Hall broke off a 51-yard run down the sideline for his second touchdown of the night. Cherry Creek was in control, 21-0.
And while things looked bleak for the Raiders at the start of the fourth quarter, they didn’t wilt. Cheered on by a raucous home crowd that adopted the “I believe that we will win!” chant, Regis opened up the offense and started airing things out.
A 51-yard bomb from quarterback Matt Houghtaling to wide receiver Trevor Williams got Regis on the board. A quick defensive stop followed, and Regis suddenly had life.
Two quick first downs courtesy of running back Alec Barnes later, and Regis was staring at first down on the Cherry Creek 31. Barnes would finish off what he started, storming into the end-zone for a seven-yard score that put Regis within one score with five minutes left.
Cherry Creek would continue to lean on their running game to wind out the clock. After securing one first down, a holding penalty had the Bruins looking at second and 17. One more first down, and Regis would almost surely be out of time.
So the Bruins again turned to Parker, who busted his second long run of the game, sprinting 51-yards before stumbling out of bounds. Luke would ice the game two plays later with his second touchdown run of the evening.
Despite the 27-14 win, like most head coaches, Logan saw plenty of things that need improvement. But he says he was happy to get in and out with a win against a tough opponent in Regis.
“Regis is a really talented team. I don’t think you’ll be seeing them do much except win this season,” said Logan. “I like the fact that we hung in there physically.
“You get out here with the win you feel pretty good. There a lot of things we have to improve upon, and we will. It’s the first game against a quality opponent, and we feel fortunate to get one.”
Cherry Creek will look to improve on their impressive win by welcoming Pomona at home next week. Regis will try and bounce-back against Mullen on road.