Defense dominates as Longmont advances to 4A football championship

Longmont Broomfield football

Longmont's Clint Sigg (16) high-steps into the endzone during the CHSAA 4A semifinals. More photos. (Kai Casey/CHSAANow.com)

LONGMONT — A little health, and a big dose of defense. Those were the ingredients that powered the Longmont Trojans to a 21-14 win over the Broomfield Eagles in the Class 4A football semifinals Saturday.

One week after allowing 35 points to Fort Collins high school in the quarterfinals, Longmont head coach Doug Johnson knew his defense was getting healthy just in the nick of time.

“We kind of gutted it out last week, and I was really pleased with our defensive performance,” said Johnson postgame. “We got a little health this week. That made a big difference.”

Longmont Broomfield football

Longmont's David Speidel (7). More photos. (Kai Casey/CHSAANow.com)

Surprisingly, the matchup looked like it could be a shootout to start. Broomfield received the opening kickoff and marched down the field, with quarterback Logan McCormick finding the end-zone on a six-yard scramble for the first points of the game. It was the last time Broomfield would sniff the red zone.

Longmont came right back on their first possession, with McCartney Coyle eventually finding the end-zone on a short dive. Following a missed extra point, it was 7-6 Broomfield, and it looked like a high-scoring affair was in order.

But Longmont held strong in the face of a tough Broomfield rushing attack, stopping the Eagles on fourth down as the first quarter wound to a close. The Trojans made that a theme all game, stuffing Broomfield four different times on fourth down.

“They were awesome. They picked up the pace, picked up the slack,” said Longmont quarterback Clint Sigg of his team’s defensive effort. “We turned the ball over, but they had our back.”

But the Trojans were making mistakes of their own. A strong drive by Longmont ended on an errant pass that was intercepted by Broomfield’s Shane Wetzel on the one-yard line. Still, Broomfield couldn’t get anything going against the stout Trojan’s defense, and Longmont was able to take the lead for good just before halftime on a 17-yard touchdown pass from Sigg to wide receiver Eli Sullivan. After Sigg’s scramble led to a successful two-point conversion, the Trojans carried a 14-7 lead into halftime.

The second half started much as the first ended — with Longmont’s defense holding the Eagles to three-and-outs or forcing turnovers, but with the Trojan’s offense unable to capitalize. As it became increasingly clear that Broomfield wasn’t going to break through Longmont’s stout front four, the Eagles took to the air.

The change didn’t faze Longmont’s defense one bit. The Eagles Barrett Ingvaldsen (who also had a fumble recovery) picked off a pass deep in opposing territory, and Siggs was able to use the good field position to his advantage with a ten-yard touchdown run to make the score 21-7 Longmont after the extra point.

Then the fourth quarter got wacky. Broomfield’s hail-mary with three minutes left was intercepted by Longmont’s Ryan Rulon in the end-zone, and it looked like the game was over. Only Broomfield forced a fumble on the next play to take over on Longmont’s 20. A few plays later Dante Panicucci caught a 21-yard touchdown pass to make it a one-score game.

Longmont Broomfield football

Longmont's Cooper Rothe (1) blocks a pass intended for Broomfield's Dante Panicucci (4). More photos. (Kai Casey/CHSAANow.com)

But Broomfield’s comeback came to a sudden end when an onside kick try failed to travel ten yards. All Sigg’s had to do was take a knee, and suddenly Longmont was headed to the championship game.

“It’s an awesome feeling,” added Sullivan. “None of us have ever been there before, but it’s what we’ve dreamed about since we were little.”

And even after struggling to start the season, Sigg’s said he always knew his team was capable of making a playoff run.

“We didn’t crumble after a 1-3 start. We just kept our heads up,” said Sigg. “I think we knew it. We knew we had some special players, we just had to keep our heads about us.”

Longmont hasn’t won a 4A football title since 1991. It will get a chance against Pine Creek at Sports Authority Field at Mile High on Saturday. Kickoff is set for 11 a.m.