GREENWOOD VILLAGE — It was the classic three yards and a cloud of dust.
It started late, it wasn't pretty on offense, but at the end of the day, the No. 2 Cherry Creek Bruins (2-0 overall) capitalized on the upset of top-ranked Valor Christian by taking care of business against No. 4 Regis Jesuit (0-1) by a final score of 17-3.
"No excuses, just two good defensive teams," Bruins coach Dave Logan said. "Regis is a big, physical team and they always have been. You know what kind of game you're going to get and you have to take the opportunities that the defense gives you."
The defenses weren't giving much for either team, and the two teams both struggled with their timing.
The two teams appeared evenly matched early on, with both defenses swarming the ball well and taking advantage of early season jitters and timing problems of their offensive counterparts.
After an early exchange of turnovers handed the Bruins the ball inside the red zone, Logan's offense was able to force it into the endzone on a steady diet of Ashton Riley up the middle, culminating in a one-yard dive into the endzone.
"Tonight we came out and executed — well the defense executed, and the line played well too," Riley said after the game with a smile. "But we gotta get better on both sides of the ball. For now I just gotta give it up to my coaches, and Regis, too. They're a physical team. I'll definitely feel the after-effects tomorrow."
On the ensuing possession, Regis quarterback Michael Pavlakovich suffered another 12-yard sack before the Raiders went conservative, rushing their way up the field in five-yard chunks at a time.
The drive stalled out, however, on another turnover and the two teams settled into a grind-it-out style on the ground until halftime, exchanging possessions through the middle of the field before eventually succumbing to the others' stifling defense.
With just under two minutes remaining in the half, the Bruins would add a field goal to make it 10-0, and that would be the mark as the two teams departed for halftime.
The second half began much as the first, with the two teams exchanging turnovers on consecutive plays in the first two minutes. First, Regis's Drew Schlegel picked off a Joe Caplis pass through the middle, setting up the Raiders at the Bruins' 32-yard line.
But the success was short-lived, as the Raiders would fumble the very next play, and Cherry Creek then proceeded to march down the field. The drive ended on a 42-yard touchdown run by J.C. Chery on a 4th-and-1 inside run that the senior running back bounced outside right tackle and was off to the races.
Regis would finally get on the board in the third quarter however, when Drew Schlegel blocked a Cherry Creek punt and picked up the ensuing fumble, rumbling down to the 12-yard-line. The Raiders offense would not get going in the right direction after that, and the team would settle for a short field goal at 1:37 of the quarter.
The fourth quarter presented very little fanfare for either team, with the game once again getting bogged down in the middle of the field amidst the two schools' stifling defenses. With just over five minutes remaining, Cherry Creek orchestrated their most methodical drive of the night, slowly driving down the field and killing the clock before taking a knee at the end to seal it.
The final drive was not without its costs for the Bruins. Chery was helped off the field after a tough run down to the Raiders' 21-yard line. His status immediately following the game was unknown. After that, Cherry Creek took the victory formation and it was all over.
"It's early in the season and defenses are ahead of the offenses right now, and that's just the way it is in football," said Regis head coach Danny Filleman. "They just held on to the ball better and we had our turnovers and you can't do that against a great team like (Cherry Creek)."
Neither team could boast much success through the air, but Chery was able to generate 111 yards on the ground over 14 carries for the Bruins, including one of the two rushing touchdowns. But Logan dismissed any bravado, insisting his team has to be much better.
"We still have a lot of work to do," Logan said. "We will get back to it on Monday. ... You don't get many opportunities against good teams and we have to take advantage better when we do."
Filleman too, stressed the need to improve, but insisted they are just taking it one game at a time.
"I've never even seen Mullen play," he said, when asked about his team's rivalry game next week. "we'll just have to look at the film and see what adjustments have to be made."