COLORADO SPRINGS — There's only one word that can accurately describe Fountain-Fort Carson's 43-42 quadruple-overtime win over the No. 8 Doherty Spartans: emotional.
As the Spartans (6-1 overall, 2-1 Continental South League) ran on to the field just before kick-off, senior running back — and former Fountain-Fort Carson (6-1, 3-0) standout Justice Littrell was greeted by the sight of his brother Jordan, an Army medic who returned to Colorado Springs while on leave.
"I'm a little emotionally and physically drained," Trojans coach Mitch Johnson said. "(Justice is a phenomenal player and his older brother was a great player, too. It says a lot about him going out and defending this country."
The match-up at Garry Berry Stadium was highly anticipated as a meeting of the two top 5A teams in Colorado Springs. With both sides feeling like they had something to prove, they came out fighting in a physical defensive battle early in the contest.
Neither defense yielded a point in the first quarter and it wasn't until Spartans running back Tequan Baker finally found running room were they able to march down the field and get into the end zone.
Doherty took a 7-0 lead into halftime, carrying all the momentum. But it would sustain as Baker suffered a lower leg injury in the third quarter. With Baker on the sideline, the Spartans' offense became less effective.
The Trojans responded by driving down to 19-yard line and converting a 4th and 9 pass from quarterback Stock Chenault to wide receiver Anthony Schmidt to tie the game.
"We're used to battling through adversity and being successful in the end," Trojans running back Drue Harris said. "We prepared great and Doherty is a great team so you have to prepare well against them."
The Trojans struck again early in the fourth quarter as Chenault found running back Demario Leonard in the back of the endzone to give Fountain-Fort Carson a 14-7 lead.
But the Spartans were far from done. With Baker out of the game, Doherty put the load on the shoulders of Littrell, who helped his team march down to Trojans territory. After losing his helmet, he was forced to the sideline for a play and it was Baker, returning from injury for one play, to punch it in the end zone with less than three minutes remaining to tie the game.
"I looked at him and saw (the desire to enter the game) in his eyes," Spartans coach Jeff Krumlauf said. "He needed that touchdown."
Both teams traded touchdowns as overtime began. The Spartans began on defense, only to allow a touchdown to Harris on the second play of the series. They countered with a touchdown from Littrell who wouldn't let his team wither away in the extra time.
"I was just playing for (Jordan), the fans and my team," Littrell said. "It was a good night."
It was in the second overtime that chatter on both sidelines starting picking up about going for the two-point conversion. After the Trojans scored in the second overtime, Johnson called timeout to talk with his team, but ultimately decided to play for the extra point and a third overtime.
On the Doherty sideline, the third extra series seemed to be the time to go for it, at least in the players' eyes.
"I told coach in the third one that we should go for two and that I would get us in the end zone," Littrell said. "We were playing it safe and I think it cost us in the end."
The loss is the first blemish on an otherwise outstanding season for the Spartans. They'll use the tough battle from Friday night to improve as a team and move forward as the playoffs approach.
"Tomorrow morning, that's how we move forward," Littrell said. "Our motto is we get better at everything. Progress is not perfection."