LAKEWOOD — If anyone wasn't fully locked in on Pine Creek as a favorite to repeat as the Class 4A football champion already, well, their eyes are open now.
The Eagles, ranked No. 1 in 4A, made a very loud statement on Thursday, one that echoed throughout the entire classification, as they beat No. 3 Dakota Ridge 44-7 on the road.
"It's a Thursday night game, there's probably some Denver coaches that come and want to see us, and we want to show that we can play and hustle and fly around," said Pine Creek coach Todd Miller.
The win was Pine Creek's 28th consecutive dating back to the 2013 season. Thursday night, the Eagles looked like they might win 100 in a row. Their offense scored on seven of its first eight possessions, and the defense held Dakota Ridge to just 2-of-10 on third down attempts.
"With our defense causing them to punt almost every single time, and our offense capitalizing on it, we're going to be hard to beat if we do that," said Pine Creek's senior star JoJo Domann. "Any team is hard to beat if they do that."
The game itself was highly-anticipated, being that it matched two top-5 teams in 4A, both with high expectations. One question lingered all week: Would someone finally knock the Eagles off their perch?
Pine Creek only led 7-0 after the first quarter, thanks in large part to an 85-yard scoring drive that chewed up much of the frame, but its offense piled up points in the second quarter. Within the first four minutes of the second, it was 17-0. Then 24-0. Before anyone knew it, Pine Creek led 38-0 at the half.
"Every time we get on the field, it's a statement," Domann said. "And today, we capitalized on it. I hope everyone realizes what Pine Creek football is about."
Added quarterback Brock Domann, JoJo's brother: "It is a statement — who's on top of 4A — and we're coming after whoever is next."
Both Domann brothers stood out on Thursday, with each accounting for three touchdowns. JoJo rushed for two and caught another, while Brock threw three scores, a career high.
JoJo Domann, a Nebraska commit, flew around the field on both sides of the ball. He made a leaping one-handed touchdown catch — something he's becoming known for — in which it appeared he got one foot inbounds, but the play was ruled incomplete.
"You throw it up to 12 (JoJo Domann) and let him get it,"Miller said. "You look pretty smart. But he's a special kid. ... Sometimes when your guy just may be the best guy on the field, it makes you look good as a coach.
"He does things that you can't coach. Glad he's on our side."
Dakota Ridge actually came out looking very good on defense, stopping a long Pine Creek drive just before the red zone in the first quarter. But Pine Creek had an ineligible man downfield on that third down, Dakota Ridge accepted the penalty, and then Pine Creek converted 3rd-and-22. The Eagles scored two plays later.
Pine Creek's next drive was forced to punt, but then Dakota Ridge fumbled away the return. The Eagles turned that into a field goal.
Then, on its next drive, Pine Creek scored a touchdown on 3rd-and-goal from the 18-yard-line.
Later, a touchdown came on 3rd-and-8 from midfield. In the second half, the Eagles added a touchdown on 4th-and-1 from the 44-yard-line.
"We have weapons," JoJo Domann said. "If it's 3rd-and-20, we can still make plays. If it's 4th-and-1, we can still makes plays."
"The pulse of the huddle, it wasn't panic," Miller said. "That wasn't the case (against Falcon two weeks ago). For whatever reason, I don't know, they felt pretty good and they were confident."
Pine Creek, now 3-0, benefited from having a week off prior to this game. Dakota Ridge (2-1), by contrast, played last Friday, making for a short week.
"I definitely think we had an advantage there, just getting our kids healthy," Miller said. "I know they were looking forward to this game. And they're a lot better team than this scoreboard tonight. But things got rolling and sometimes it gets out of control."
It didn't hurt that all involved say last week was the best week of practice Pine Creek has had this season.
"We really challenged them," Miller said. "We didn't think we played very well against Falcon."
Before last week, "We were kind of just going through the motions a little bit in practice," Brock Domann said. "And coach Miller, he got on our butt. He's like, 'Just because we're 2-0, doesn't mean anything.' ... And so we picked up the intensity Monday, and we just had a great week in practice and it showed up tonight."