PARKER — Lutheran head coach Blair Hubbard and Platte Valley head coach Troy Hoffman have history.
In fact, their history involves a showdown for last year's Class 2A state championship. Hoffman's Broncos defeated Blair in what would be his final season at Faith Christian to claim that championship.
After that game, Hoffman wanted nothing to do with Hubbard and his spread offense, so when Faith Christian called Platte Valley and asked about a non-league game, Hoffman passed and opted to play a game against 3A Lutheran.
Then Hubbard left Faith Christian and took the head coach position at Lutheran, setting up the showdown that Hoffman didn't necessarily want. This time it was Hubbard who came out on top as his Lions beat the Broncos 28-26 Friday night at Sports Authority Stadium.
The outcome of the game was every bit the battle that score indicated. Both offenses struggled early in the game, ending the first quarter with a scoreless tie. It was Lutheran, top-ranked in 3A, who would strike first blood as senior Alex Nemmers broke the middle of the defensive line for a two-yard touchdown run.
"The coaches prepared us all week, offensively and defensively," Nemmers said. "(The coaches) said that (Platte Valley's) inside line was kind of weak on their defense so we just pounded it up the middle."
The end of the first half belonged to Nemmers as he took the field on defense and picked off Broncos quarterback Daniel Frantz with under two minutes to go before the break. Lions quarterback James Willis was able to dink and dive his team to within striking distance before finding Nemmers for a seven-yard touchdown pass to give the Lions a 14-0 halftime lead.
But the defending 2A champions, now No. 5 in 2A, refused to go quietly. Hoffman settled his team down in the locker room and they came out ready to for a fight. And they landed a blow earlier than anyone could have anticipated when Frantz took the opening kick of the half over 70 yards for the Broncos first score of the game.
"We made a few adjustments but it wasn't on the kick-off return, trust me," Hoffman said. "We want that ball to go through and it got into the athlete's hands and the front seven did their job. That energizes everything."
They kept that momentum going with a huge turnover on the ensuing drive by the Lions. A strip-sack gave Frantz's offense the ball on their own 35-yard line where lightning would strike once again. Frantz took the ball on a quarterback keeper and broke through the Lions defense for a 65-yard touchdown run, tying the game at 14.
But Lutheran refused to roll over. Willis constructed an impressive drive that included a laser-beam of a pass down the seam to running back E.J. Colter, gaining more rhythm with each and every play. Running back Jamil Bond punched it into the endzone, giving the Lions a 21-14 lead.
"Our helmets are silver and we talk about staying silver the whole time," Hubbard said. "We want to keep our heads, stay composed and keep fighting regardless of what the score is."
And they weren't the only ones. Frantz, who entered Friday's game with a short leash at quarterback, continued to will his team into a position to win the game. He hit wide receiver Kolt McDaniel on a swing pass and McDaniel, following the lead of his quarterback, fought his way into the endzone to make the score 21-20 and give the Broncos a chance to tie. But the extra point failed and the Broncos still trailed by one.
Willis and his unit went back it, chewing clock and driving down the field looking to put the game away. Bond eventually punched the ball in for his second touchdown of the night to increase the lead to 28-20.
It was once again up to Frantz to answer the call, but this time he had less than four minutes to work with. Like a man on a mission, he drove the Broncos into scoring position, finally getting into the endzone on a quarterback sweep, his third touchdown on the night.
Trailing by two, the Broncos called timeout to set up the two-point conversion. Despite a solid rushing game, Hoffman opted for a passing play that broke down and fell incomplete, giving Lutheran a hard fought 28-26 win.
"Their offense just spreads you out so much and when you have a trigger man like (Frantz), it's difficult to defend a team like that," Hubbard said. "You hope that when you get on him, you can wrap him up and bring him down. We definitely dodged a bullet."
The Broncos will be off on a bye week next week before hosting Eaton in their first Patriot League game of the year. Lutheran is in the same boat as it now enters league play with their first game coming Friday when they travel to Fort Lupton.