LAKEWOOD — Chatfield football had an unlikely group cheering on the Chargers during Friday night’s regular-season finale at Jeffco Stadium.
Despite being rivals schools separated by 2.4 miles, a number of Dakota Ridge players and coaches were on hand rooting for Chatfield to come away with a victory against Bear Creek.
The Chargers delivered with a 44-11 victory over the Bears to likely send the Chatfield and Dakota Ridge to the postseason.
“I texted (Dakota Ridge coach Ron Woitalewicz) after last night and told him we were going to go get this one for him,” Chatfield coach Bret McGatlin said. “We were confident about this one.”
A Chatfield win concluded what was a wild race for the Class 4A Jeffco League title.
Chatfield (7-3, 4-1) and Dakota Ridge (6-4, 4-1) finished tied for the conference title. However, Dakota Ridge’s head-to-head victory over Chatfield gives the Eagles the tiebreaker and automatic bid to the 16-team state tournament that begins next week.
“We just had to take care of our own part and make sure we made the playoffs,” Chatfield senior quarterback Zack Yanda said. “We didn’t mind what happens outside of us.”
The Chargers are likely safe to make the postseason field too. Chatfield was No. 12 in the RPI standings heading into Friday’s action.
“We are in a good place,” said McGatlin, who will now wait until the 4A state tournament bracket is released on CHSAANow.com on Sunday. “We are in the playoffs and I believe we’ll have a decent seed.”
Chatfield held a 20-3 lead at halftime against Bear Creek. The Chargers turned a pair of Bear Creek turnovers on special teams into 10 points in the first half. The Bears fumbled a kickoff and punt return.
“Our special teams played a big role in tonight’s game in getting the momentum,” Chatfield junior linebacker Colin Simcox said.
Chatfield senior Garrett Martin scored on a 1-yard touchdown run to open up the scoring and cap off a 15-play drive that chewed up half of the first quarter. Martin’s mother passed away earlier in the week and McGatlin wanted to get the senior linebacker the chance to get in the end zone to honor his mother.
“The first thought was we’ll get him in the end zone,” McGatlin said. “Right away it was able to happen with us getting down to the 1-yard line. It was like his mother was looking down on us. We really feel for his family.”
While getting the victory was on the mind of the Chargers. The biggest sign of emotion for Chatfield was teammates greeting Martin after his touchdown.
“That was the best part of the night,” Yanda said of Martin finishing out the Chargers’ opening drive with his first career touchdown. “He is our brother. We all have his back. We love him. That is what made our day today.”
Chatfield’s second touchdown was an 18-yard touchdown pass from Yanda to senior Carson Lucas. It looked like Yanda would be out for the season after suffering a shoulder injury, but the senior has been back for a couple of weeks now. The Chargers have scored 82 points the past two games after their loss to Dakota Ridge on Oct. 18.
Senior Charlie Wildermuth ended up kicking a trio of field goals for the Chargers. Back-up quarterback Jack Wells and junior running back Daniel Nickels both had long touchdown runs in the fourth quarter to seal the victory.
“We got in, that’s all that matters and we’ll make the most of it,” Yanda said about the postseason.
The lone scores for Bear Creek was a 32-yard field goal by senior Axel Gonzalez in the first half and a 22-yard touchdown pass from senior Nate Madrid to senior George Martinez in the fourth quarter.
Bear Creek (4-6, 3-2) needed a win to get into the big dance. The Bears were No. 24 in RPI, but if they finished tied with Dakota Ridge for the 4A Jeffco League title Bear Creek would have the tiebreaker thanks to a head-to-head victory over the Eagles to take the automatic bid.
The Bears started the season 0-4, but won 4-of-5 games to make their case for the postseason bid. Bear Creek coach Zach Morris had his team overcome the loss of starting quarterback Isaiah Romero in Week 7, along with missing Martinez for a handful of games.
“Proud of the boys,” Morris said. “They battled to the end.”