WESTMINSTER — Westminster football is 3-0 for the first time since the 2011 season following a 34-28 win against Denver East on Friday night.
The Wolves, who have now outscored their opponents 130-52 in the three weeks, set out to run. And run. And run. By game's end, the Wolves had run the ball 42 times, and attempted just three passes.
"We thought we could run the ball on them," said Westminster coach Kerry Denison. "We knew they had some team speed, but we thought we could run it and practiced all week with it."
Westminster jumped out to a 20-0 lead early in the second quarter. Senior fullback Brandon Dickerson had a 15-yard touchdown run on the team's first drive, Spencer Gilven found Christian Rosales for a score later in the first quarter, and Dickerson's second touchdown midway through the second quarter built the large lead.
The Angels quickly responded with a Holden Nicoletti touchdown pass to Connell Maxwell Jr. and the comeback was on.
By halftime, it was 20-14. Gilvin was 2-for-2 with minus-two yards — and one touchdown.
"It's all about the win, you have to do whatever it takes to get the win. Doesn't matter about stats at all," Gilvin said.
Leave the stats for the Westminster backfield. Senior running back Dillon Pace ran for 149 yards and one touchdown, averaging just under eight yards per carry.
"You just gotta go hard every play, every practice, get that conditioning in during the week and in the game it'll show," Pace said.
What looked like a blowout shaped up to be a nail-biter. On 4th-and-5 from the Westminster 6-yard-line, Nicoletti scrambled to tie the game at 20 with 25 seconds left in the third quarter.
"Their team speed is unbelievable," Denison said. "I think we underestimated their team speed, we knew they were fast but didn't expect them to be that fast."
Westminster punched right back with Gilvin's second touchdown of the night, a 65-yard catch-and-run by senior wide receiver Brian Hogan, to make it 28-20 heading into the fourth.
Pace's final touchdown gave the Wolves a 34-20 cushion and the momentum was all on Westminster's side. A fluke play on the ensuing kickoff saw Hassani Moore pick up teammate Terrell Pearson's fumble and take it all the way to the house for a Denver East touchdown.
Coach Denison took the opportunity with 4:45 left in the game to calm his team down.
"All we told the kids at the end was we gotta just drive the ball, we'll just pound it out and try to run the clock out and get these first downs," he said.
Nicoletti kept Denver East in the game with his dual threat ability, throwing for 177 yards and picking up an additional 59 on the ground for three total touchdowns. But the running attack from the Wolves was too much in the 5A Flatirons league matchup.
The Wolves turned to Pace and the run game one last time to bleed the clock out and end any hope of a second comeback from the Angels.
"We had to dig down deep," Denison said, "but we shouldn't have had to dig that deep."
Westminster's 3-0 start is its first time since 2011, a season in which the Wolves ended with a 6-4 record. As for Denver East, the loss drops the Angels to 0-3.
The Wolves hope to continue their success against Thornton (0-3) next week, while the Angels will look to right the ship on the road at Brighton (0-3).