LAKEWOOD — Cherry Creek is headed to Mile High following a close win over Columbine in a tough Class 5A football semifinal on Friday night.
The Bruins got a key fumble recovery from Gus Zilinskas late in the fourth quarter, and Seamus Henderson picked up a crucial first down that allowed them to run out the clock and beat Columbine 10-7.
“I knew we needed one first down," said Henderson, who had 25 carries for 109 yards. "I was thinking I can get this.”
On the final drive of the game, Cherry Creek faced a third down and 13 from their own 47. Henderson took a pitch around the left side for a 28-yard gain. With Columbine out of timeouts, Cherry Creek took a knee twice to seal the win at Jeffco Stadium.
“He is a tough little joker,” Cherry Creek coach Dave Logan said of Henderson. “He is 170 pounds, but he thinks he is about 195. I thought he made some big runs in the second half.”
Columbine was marching late in the fourth quarter, and drove all the way down to Cherry Creek's 25-yard-line, but the Bruins' defense, led by Marcus Miller, got to Rebels star quarterback Logan DeArment in the backfield, and forced a fumble. Zilinskas recovered, giving Cherry Creek the ball with three minutes remaining.
“I though our defense made some key stops and that critical turnover at the end was the difference,” Logan said. “(DeArment) is such a great player we thought when the game was on the line he was going to have the ball.”
Columbine's lone scoring drive came late in the first half. The Rebels (12-1 record) had a 13-play, 79-yard drive that was capped by a 3-yard touchdown run by DeArment with less than a minute remaining in the opening half. It gave Columbine a 7-3 halftime lead.
“We knew coming into it we were both heavy run teams. We knew it would be a dogfight," Columbine junior running back Adam Harrington said after the season-ending loss. "Every yard and every inch counts. We fought, but unfortunately it didn’t go our way.”
Cherry Creek's lone touchdown drive came on a monster 14-play drive that covered 58 yards. Henderson carried the ball eight times on the eventual game-winning driving, including the 6-yard touchdown run with 10:46 left in the fourth quarter.
The Bruins (12-1) took a 10-7 victory with the score.
“I just wanted to get into the end zone for my team,” Henderson said of the Bruins’ go-ahead touchdown run. “Jayle (Stacks) was right there. He put on a stellar block and all I had to do was get into the end zone. He set it up for me.”
The only other score was Cherry Creek striking first with a 37-yard field goal from Mac Willis midway through he second quarter.
It will be the 17th championship game appearance in program history for the Bruins, and first since 2014. They have won nine championships.
“What I told my team is we beat a great team," Logan said. "That is a hellacious Columbine team. I’m proud of my kids for hanging in there.”
An interesting fact coming into Friday night’s game was it was the first regular or postseason meeting between Cherry Creek and Columbine in more than a decade. The Bruins and Rebels hadn’t played each other since a 5A state semifinal game Nov. 22, 2008 at Stutler Bowl. Creek won that meeting 27-25 to advance to the state title game where Mullen, coached by Logan, came away with a 20-16 victory.
Columbine coach Andy Lowry and Logan are the top two active career winningest football coaches in the largest classification in Colorado. Lowry has 261 wins to ago along with his five state titles he has coaching the Rebels.
Logan has piled up 268 victories over the span of 26 careers coaching at Arvada West, Chatfield, Mullen and Cherry Creek. The Wheat Ridge High School and University of Colorado graduate is the only prep coach in Colorado to win 5A state titles at four different schools.
“We played 48 minutes and that’s a characteristic of this team all year long,” Logan said of his current team. “You need an effort like that to beat really good teams.”
That 5A title matchup is scheduled for Saturday (Dec. 1) afternoon at Broncos Stadium at Mile High. Cherry Creek will face the winner of tomorrow's semifinal between Valor Christian and Grandview.