LAKEWOOD — Chatfield football coach Bret McGatlin received a cold shower after the Chargers won its first conference title during McGatlin’s tenure as head coach.
Chatfield (9-1, 5-0 in Class 4A Plains League) wrapped up an undefeated record in conference play in late Friday afternoon showdown against Heritage at Jeffco Stadium. The Chargers, No. 2 in the final CHSAANow.com 4A football poll, defeated Heritage 27-10 to win the conference title.
More importantly, Chatfield clinched an automatic berth into the 16-team state tournament field.
“It means a lot. It’s been 11 years,” McGatlin said after getting doused with the team’s water bucket after the win. “We’ve been second a few times. It’s kind of like the monkey off our back.”
It’s only the second conference football title in the school’s history. Chatfield High School opened its doors in 1985.
“It means everything for us. It was our main first goal — a league championship, now a state championship,” Chatfield junior Keland Rumsey said. “We’ll do it one game at a time.”
A punishing ground game and stifling defense paved the way against Heritage. Chatfield put up nearly 300 yards on the ground with seniors Tylor Rowles and Dalton Keene leading the way. Rowles had 18 carries for 132 yards and Keene finished with 25 carries for 107 yards.
“Honestly, we weren’t looking to get a certain amount of yards or touchdowns,” Rowles said. “We were just looking to come out here to get the W.”
Rowles, who also plays receiver, has been pressed into running the ball more with junior tailback Ben Frenette out the past few weeks with a knee injury. Frenette had nearly 500 yards rushing this season through the first eight games. The junior said he hopes to be back for the playoffs.
With the Chargers a little shorthanded, Heritage cut Chatfield’s lead to 13-10 with 3:51 left in the third quarter with a 48-yard field goal by senior Henry Hemphill, but it was all Chargers after that.
“It’s scary,” McGatlin said after the Eagles cut Chatfield’s once 13-0 lead to just three points. “We told guys at halftime that we though we had the advantage in the game upfront and running the football. We put it on their shoulders.”
Chatfield’s ground game responded with touchdown drives of 80 yards on 14 plays and 70 yards on 13 plays to run over nine minutes off the clock in the second half. The Chargers extended their lead to 27-10.
The quarterback tandem of juniors Colton Arne and Matt Moon finished off both key touchdowns drives with 1-yard touchdown runs each.
“We pulled some Columbine stuff out and just ran the football,” McGatlin said. “We moved the clock and that is what we put it in for. When you have a lead in a big game you can just wear teams out.”
Chatfield’s defense held Heritage in check for the majority of the game. The Eagles had just 30 yards of total offense at halftime. Heritage senior quarterback Chase Hansen was intercepted three times. Rumsey, Chandler Callejo and Jared Ridl all picked off Hansen.
“All season he (Rumsey) has been on fire. He is probably one of the most reliable players we have,” Keene said. “Rumsey and Chandler Callejo are irreplaceable. They made the plays tonight.”
The road did get a little rocky for the Chargers last week on the way to a league title. Area-rival Dakota Ridge gave Chatfield a major scare Oct. 28 at Jeffco Stadium. The Chargers needed to score 19 unanswered points to escape with a 36-29 victory over the Eagles. If Dakota Ridge (6-4, 4-1) defeated Chatfield, the Eagles would have taken the league title and automatic playoff bid.
Chatfield had outscored its previous four opponents 206-12 prior to the close call against Dakota Ridge. The Chargers lone loss this season was to 5A’s No. 6 Columbine.
Heritage (6-4, 3-2) will have to wait until Sunday, when the postseason brackets are released to see if it makes the field. The Eagles were No. 16 in the RPI rankings heading into the final week of the regular season.
“It’s all out of our control right now,” McGatlin said. “All we know is we did what we had to do here tonight. That is what matters the most.”