DENVER — Mullen football's motto for its running backs is "go out and get dirty yards."
And that's exactly what senior Shamond Hamilton did for this week's No. 2-ranked Mustangs in their thrilling 28-27 overtime victory against No. 3 Columbine on Friday night at Brother Bernard Kinneavy de La Salle Stadium.
Hamilton not only scored the equalizing touchdown in overtime for the Mustangs, he also ran in the equalizing 2-point conversion that ultimately sent the game to OT.
"Our 'dirty yards' motto means to fight for the extra yards," Hamilton said. "It just started this season with our new running backs coach. He told us to fight for the extra yards — plus one, plus two — just go for the dirty yards."
Mullen, now 5-2, started off the night struggling on the passing game, but quickly switched up the method of attack.
"We got in a huddle and said we should just pound the ball, pound the ball, pound the ball, and we started running it and kept getting first down after first down, which eventually set up our winning touchdown," Hamilton said.
Mustangs senior quarterback Jovan Tafoya lobbed a couple bombs to get Mullen within the red zone, and then just let the running backs do their thing. Hamilton got Mullen on the board first for an early 7-0 lead with a 1-yard TD run. The second Mustangs TD came on another 1-yard TD run, this one from senior running back Marcus McElroy.
But Mullen still struggled a bit during the game and had three costly turnovers, two of which the Rebels capitalized on.
Columbine (5-2) took advantage of the first Mullen fumble in the first quarter by recovering the ball and quickly turning it into a 12-yard TD pass from senior QB Mikey Griebel to senior tight end Buck Ramming. The second turnover came in the third quarter, and Griebel scored a TD on a QB keeper, and after the extra point was good, the Rebels were up 21-13 on the Mustangs.
Griebel is always a dangerous player for opponents. He threw exceptional passes to his teammates and also ran the ball well and beat the Mustangs on quite a few passes. But Mullen's defense shut down the Rebels on the ground and rendered Columbine's run game ineffective.
"They were a very, very, very good football team. Everybody knows that — it's Columbine," Mullen coach Tom Thenell said. "We knew that to accomplish the goals that we've set, we have to play with Pomona, Columbine and Valor."
Mullen must have had these goals in mind starting the fourth quarter down 21-13, because less than ten seconds in, Tafoya lobbed a superb 77-yard TD pass to sophomore wide receiver Wind Henderson, and then Hamilton picked up some dirty yards for a 2-point conversion, tying the game with Columbine at 21.
The Mustangs attempted a 29-yard field goal in the waning six seconds of regulation, but didn't make it.
On the Rebels' first play of OT possession, junior running back Conner Snow ran in a TD, but Mullen blocked the extra point attempt.
Now it was the Mustangs' turn. They knew the O-Line was dominating, and knew just the guy to dish it out to.
"We had a hot running back in Shamond Hamilton and felt like our O-Line had already started taking control in the fourth quarter," Thenell said. "We knew we needed to score once, so we put it in No. 5's hands and the O-Line did its job."
After Hamilton ran in the equalizing TD, Vincent Saurini booted the extra point to seal the 28-27 victory for the Mustangs.
"To be honest, my hamstring was hurting so I just wanted to get in there and make it one play and get out so I can rest my hamstring," Hamilton said in the midst of being mobbed by Mullen fans for photos.
Mullen goes into another Class 5A top-10 matchup next week against a very good, most likely ranked Fairview team, then closes out the season hosting ThunderRidge, then traveling to Northglenn.
"We've established we can compete with the powerhouses," Thenell said. "Now it's time to go to the playoff run and win one game at a time."
Columbine's season closes with Northglenn, Mountain Range, and then ThunderRidge.