COLORADO SPRINGS — As Pine Creek football won the Class 4A state championship last season, J.C. Coulter wasn't behind center, knowing his chance to lead the Eagles would come soon enough.
A year later, Coulter, a senior, is the signal caller leading Pine Creek into its fourth state championship game in five seasons after the Eagles defeated Pueblo West in convincing fashion, 28-0, at the 4A semifinals at District 20 Stadium Saturday.
"I'm super excited," Coulter said. "It's a really humbling experience for me. These guys around me did all the hard work, I just played a little role in it."
Coulter played more than just a little role Saturday. He went an efficient
13-for-18 for 122 yards with two touchdowns, free of nearly any mistake as the Eagles' offense was firing on all cylinders against the Cyclones.
"He's paid his dues," Pine Creek coach Todd Miller said. "He played wide receiver for us last year, and he told me he wanted to play quarterback, and he's had as good a senior year as anybody we've ever had."
A 12-play, 58-yard drive to close out the first half, with Coulter hitting Max Lofy on a 5-yard touchdown toss with seven seconds left in the half, might have been the back breaker as Pine Creek took a 14-0 lead into halftime.
With sophomore tailback David Moore III absolutely going off, rushing for 212 yards and two touchdowns on 31 carries, and a defense that stopped Pueblo West from scoring inside the Pine Creek 10-yard line on two occasions, the Eagles turned in as perfect a semifinal performance as a team could ask for.
"It isn't hard calling plays we can just hand it off to No. 2," Miller said. "Our line has really come together, especially late in the year, and we have a good group of wide receivers. And the defense holding them back twice inside the 10, that's impressive."
Saturday's game was starkly different to the game played six weeks ago, when Pine Creek held on to beat Pueblo West 21-14.
Both teams committed four turnovers each in that mistake-filled game. But Saturday, as Pine Creek didn't commit a turnover and only had one penalty, they turned in a near perfect performance.
"Everything was clicking offensively," Moore said. "Coach Miller gave us a great game plan, and without that, we wouldn't even be here."
As Pine Creek readies to return to the state championship game, Pueblo West had to swallow its second loss of the season to the Eagles, a bitter pill to swallow for a senior heavy team that led the Cyclones to its first semifinal berth since 2012.
"This game will not define our season," Pueblo West coach Monte Pinkerton said. "A lot of people wouldn't have even given us a chance to get here, even last week (in its quarterfinal win) against Chatfield. That just shows the heart of these guys."
As Pueblo West fell short of creating what would have been an all-Pueblo 4A state championship game against Pueblo South, it is Pine Creek looking to knock off the Colts in the state title game next week.
"It's one game at a time, and you're playing until you can't play no more," Miller said. "We played hard today, and when you play hard, you got a chance."