GREENWOOD VILLAGE — "McCaffrey" is a name synonymous with Valor Christian football, and on Thursday night, the youngest McCaffrey began making his own high school legacy.
Luke McCaffrey, a sophomore quarterback, had a very Christian McCaffrey-esque 97-yard kickoff return for his first varsity touchdown in a huge top-10 rivalry matchup between Class 5A's No. 8 Valor Christian and No. 9 Cherry Creek at the Stutler Bowl. And with the help of Luke's clutch TD return and explosive offense from senior QB Dylan McCaffrey, the Eagles took down a young Bruins team 42-26, and now maintain a 3-2 rivalry series lead.
Luke McCaffrey's 97 yards is the longest kickoff return for a TD in Valor history.
"It reminded me two years ago when we played Creek in the state championship and we had a kickoff return for a touchdown," Valor coach Rod Sherman said. "It just showed me a young man who had gotten beat for the touchdown the play before, and then he took the kickoff, took it the distance, and it just shows what kind of competitor he is and how we have to get him on the field."
This rivalry series never gets old, and was full of back-and-forth action.
Dylan McCaffrey got the passing started very early on for Valor, lobbing an 80-yard touchdown pass to senior Christian Elliss in the first quarter, giving the Eagles an early 7-0 edge over the Bruins and previewing what kind of passing damage he was about to do.
"We've been working on our passing and offense all practice and last week (vs. Pomona) I thought we played a pretty good game, except at the end, we just couldn't finish," McCaffrey said. "We practiced that so much this week and it really paid off tonight."
Cherry Creek, now 2-3, went into this game with QB woes after starting sophomore Alex Padilla injured his thumb in a game against Grandview and is slated to be out the rest of the season. He will undergo thumb surgery on Monday. The Bruins' backup QB was also in a walking boot with turf toe, so senior running back Trey Windham got the start.
Windham, who played QB a little last season, played like a veteran and connected with junior wide receiver Dimitri Stanley for three TD passes: 22, 59 and 7 yards.
"My sophomore year when Dimitri was a freshman, we played JV together and we just had a special connection," Windham said.
After the second-quarter 59-yard go-ahead TD pass, Valor senior Jack Walley blocked the extra point attempt. On the next possession, Walley transitioned to offense and caught a 21-yard TD pass from McCaffrey with 34 seconds left in the half, bringing the Eagles back in the lead 14-13 and giving them a lot of momentum at the half.
"We knew this was a really young Creek team and I thought they really, really battled us in the first half," Sherman said. "We had that stop right before halftime on our two-minute drive. Dylan completing a corner post route to Jack was a really important play in that game, just to give us a little energy. We easily should have been down 13-7 at halftime."
Then it was the McCaffrey show from there, between Dylan's gunslinging and Luke's game-changing kickoff return.
"That was one of the most exciting times I've had playing football," Dylan McCaffrey said of Luke's TD return. "He had a rough play before but I walked up to him and told him he was going to get a TD, and just like he always does, he proved me right. It was an awesome play and I'm really proud of him."
Valor had 336 passing yards for the game, just shy of the 380-yard single game passing record set in 2009 against Glenwood Springs in a playoff game. McCaffrey threw for 332 yards and four touchdowns, and ran in a one-yard TD for the 2-3 Eagles. His other two TD passes were 12 yards to senior wide receiver Curtis Chiaverini and eight yards to junior wide receiver Ryan Thibault.
Brian Brogan hit all five extra point attempts for Valor, and Creek's Mac Willis was blocked on one and the Bruins failed on a two-point conversion attempt.
Bruins stud defensive lineman Jonathon Van Diest was a monster against the Eagles, and McCaffrey said they had to scout him hard before going into the game. He had seven tackles
Windham threw like a QB, showed off his rushing skills and was lethal on the QB keepers. He ran in an 8-yard TD in the waning minutes of the game, but it wasn't enough to catch the Eagles.