DENVER — Dominant prep football programs from the past and present collided Saturday at Sports Authority Field at Mile High to determine the 2014 Class 5A football champion.
Cherry Creek conquered 1980s and 1990s winning eight titles (1982, 1983, 1986, 1990, 1991, 1994, 1995 and 1996) in the largest classification. Valor Christian burst onto the championship stage in 2009 and have staked claim to five straight football titles entering Saturday’s showdown with Creek.
In the end, a 24-yard touchdown run by Cherry Creek’s dynamic running back Milo Hall and 2-point conversion run by DJ Luke with 5:09 left in the fourth quarter was the game-deciding moment.
“It’s a great accomplishment,” Hall said after the Bruins took a 25-24 victory to etch a ninth state football title into their deep resume.
“We’re going to be remembered at that school forever. I’m really proud we brought back that tradition of winning.”
Luke bulled his way into the end zone on the 2-point conversion to send the Bruins’ fans into frenzy.
“I was a little bit surprised, but he just gave it to me and I knew I could do it,” Luke said of Creek going for the 2-point conversion and the lead instead of the tie. “I just wanted to help my team win. It’s the greatest feeling ever.”
Hall, who battled a wrist injury for the majority of the game, had his facemask grabbed on his fourth-quarter touchdown run. The penalty moved the ball inside the 2-yardline for the extra point. Creek coach Dave Logan, who coached his fourth different
program to another 5A state title, admitted the 2-point try was a risk.
“Half the distance to the goal and we had been getting the running game going a little bit,” said Logan, who coached Arvada West (1997), Chatfield (2001) and Mullen (2004, 2008, 2009 and 2010) to state championships. “It was a gamble and the kids made it work.”
Hall, who finished with 214 yards rushing on 28 carries, wasn’t even on the field for the 2-point conversion.
“We had to dig deep,” said Hall, who admitted he watched the eventual-game winning conversion on the video screen. “DJ is a tremendous running back. He is just as good as me.”
Valor coach Rod Sherman wasn’t shocked Creek for the lead instead of kicking the extra point.
“I think the way they had been running the ball it made sense,” Sherman said. “I thought it was a good call.”
Creek had to respond after Valor senior Danny Rambo had a 89-yard kickoff return for a touchdown to give the five-time state champion Eagles a 24-17 lead with 5:38 left in the fourth quarter.
A solid kickoff return from Hall was followed up by a 31-run by senior Joseph Parker. Hall scored on the next play.
“They made a couple more plays then we did, but there is nothing for us to hang our heads about here,” Sherman said after the Eagles’ first postseason loss in the program’s history.
Valor was 26-0 in the playoffs over six seasons going into the game. The Eagles had leads of 17-10 and 24-17 in the fourth quarter only to see the Bruins respond.
“That’s a great high school football game,” Sherman said. “If you are scared to lose a football game you probably shouldn’t be playing sports. My hat goes off to Creek.”
Valor was forced to punt with just under five minutes to play trailing by a point. Creek managed one first down before punting the ball back to the Eagles with less than 10 seconds left.
Creek sophomore Jonathan Van Diest snagged a backward pass on the final play to end the game.
“It means everything. We’ve worked so hard for it. It’s been since 1996 when I was born actually,” Creek senior captain Michael Morean said. “It feels awesome to bring it back. A year ago nobody thought we could win it.”
Hall was held in check for the majority of the first half, but broke loose for back-to-back carries of 30 and 35 yards midway through the second quarter. Hall’s carry of 35 yards with 6:26 left before halftime went for the lone touchdown of the opening half.
Hall had just 33 yards on his first 10 carries before his monster runs that gave Creek a 7-3 lead. The Bruins’ extended their lead to 10-3 in the final seconds before halftime on a 38-yard field goal by senior Henry Lyon.
Valor tied the game at 10-10 on a 61-yard touchdown pass from sophomore quarterback Dylan McCaffery to junior Ben Waters late in the third quarter. McCaffery gave the Eagles’ their first lead on a 15-yard pass to Rambo with 10:15 left in the fourth quarter.
“A good offense like Valor is going to get some yards and even get some touchdowns, but you have to keep bring it,” Morean said.
McCaffery finished 16-for-30 passing for 233 yards and two touchdowns. He was also Valor’s leading rusher with 29 yards on the ground. The Eagles were held to just 47 yards rushing while Creek put up 368 yards on the ground.