AURORA — Jake Heimlicher was responsible for a lot on Friday night. He was responsible for creating the first turnover of the game for Regis Jesuit. He was responsible for the game’s first touchdown. And most importantly, he was responsible for making sure Mullen couldn’t come all the way back for a second time this year.
Regis Jesuit battled to a 17-10 win over the Mustangs in the first round of the Class 5A state playoffs. Even though the game was low-scoring, it almost had the feel that Mullen would once against snatch victory from the jaws of defeat.
But not if Heimlicher had anything to say about it. On Mullen’s final drive, he finally got to quarterback Kyle Remington. He connected on a solid hit that jarred the ball loose and into the hands of the Raiders (10-1 overall).
“There are no easy teams left,” Heimlicher said. “It’s all down to the bone. Mullen is a great team, we lost to them earlier.”
It was tough for either team to get anything going early. The Raiders tried to move the ball through the air early, but had to punt it away on their first drive. The Mustangs (5-6) were doing an efficient job of mixing up runs to A’Jon Vivens and Damien Cearns before Heimlicher picked off Remington on the sophomore’s first pass of the game.
Regis would fumble the ball back to the Mustangs and so the story went for much of the first half. The only points to show for either team was a 33-yard field goal from Pierce Thrasher that sent the Raiders into the locker room with a 3-0 edge.
The high level of talent for both teams was preventing either from taking a firm hold in a win-or-go-home atmosphere.
“They’re a great team,” Regis coach Danny Filleman said. “They’re big up front and they have athletes. We told them we were going to be in a dog fight for four quarters.”
Toward the end of the third quarter, Regis was facing a 4th and short situation. Quarterback Justin Lamb lined up in the shotgun, but rather than run a play, booted the ball down the field and pinned Mullen inside the five-yard line.
The Mustangs offense continued to stall, so a punt gave the Raiders field position that they were finally able to take advantage up. They worked their way inside the 20 and Lamb connected with Heimlicher for a 14-yard touchdown pass to make it a 10-0 game. But that score was powered by Lamb’s punt.
“It was a great punt,” Lamb said. “It was great for field position. I was happy about it.”
Filleman pointed out that Lamb enjoys practicing that play. There was no doubt the quarterback was going to point out its success to his coach.
“I know I’m going to hear about that one,” Filleman said.
The Raiders were still hoping to get a spark that could help them pad their lead and actually got as a result of the Mustangs scoring. After a field goal cut the lead to 10-3, Kiahn Chiku-Martinez returned the ensuing kick back 90 yards for a touchdown.
As time ticked away and with urgency now at the forefront, Mullen found some offensive rhythm and Remington struck on a 33-yard touchdown pass to once again put the Mustangs within a field goal.
After the Regis offense ran some time off the clock, it was forced to punt the ball away. Remington stood poised in the pocket and started making throws to move the Mustangs down the field. But Heimlicher ended any hopes with the forced fumble, it the Raiders will be one of eight teams playing next week.
“We’ve gotten a lot better from what we were at the beginning of the season,” Lamb said. “The main thing is we have to be gritty. We have to be willing to go out, put it in the dirty and play better than any team.”
They’ll have a chance to do that next week when they head to Columbine for a quarterfinal showdown.