DENVER – Loveland’s decision to defer on the opening kickoff was just the first in a number of big moments Saturday.
The Indians gave the ball to Skyline to start the Class 4A state championship game. A squib kick got away from the Falcons, and Loveland recovered. One play later, quarterback Riley Kinney found the end zone, sparking a first-half scoring outburst that sent Loveland to an eventual 62-14 victory over Skyline at Broncos Stadium at Mile High.
“We saw an opening, and we knew that my squibs are kind of hard to handle,” Rakoswky said. “I think it showed and it worked out perfect in the end.”
It was the Indians’ first state championship since 2003 and put the exclamation point on an undefeated season. The title comes three years after Loveland lost to Windsor in the 4A championship game, and two years after they missed out on the postseason despite having a 9-1 record.
Last fall the team was undefeated during the regular season but was upset by Broomfield in the state quarterfinals.
“We were all freshmen the last trip we came here, and we saw what was happening,” said Loveland senior Zach Weinmaster, who led the team with 117 yards Saturday and scored two touchdowns. “We knew that we wanted it more than anybody else by the time we were juniors and seniors, and I think we showed that well today.”
The Indians (14-0) rushed for more than 300 yards on the day. Kinney had 108 of those yards and scored five touchdowns on runs of 25, 17, 1, 1 and 22 yards.
One play after recovering the opening kickoff, the Loveland quarterback put the Indians up to stay with a 25-yard touchdown run, faking the pitch and taking the ball up the right sideline.
Rakoswky intercepted Skyline’s Chase Silva on the Falcons’ second play from scrimmage and returned it to the Skyline 17. One play later it was Kinney again faking the pitch and keeping the ball for the touchdown.
The Indians intercepted Silva four times on the day. Isaiah Meyers returned one of those picks 22 yards for a touchdown.
“We knew when they kind of get close to the sticks they were going to try those curls and we had it in our gameplan,” Rakowsky said. “Me and Isaiah were playing those hard on the outside. I was just in the right place at the right time.”
Skyline (10-4) used a 12-play drive, capped by a 10-yard pass from Silva to Nate McGregor, to get back into the game. But the Indians put together three consecutive scoring drives that ended in the end zone. Weinmaster and Kinney scored on one-yard runs, and Rakowsky followed up a 32-yard catch with a nine-yard scoring run.
“That was the biggest thing … (Skyline) came back and scored, and they could have changed it,” Loveland coach Wayne McGinn said. “I was thinking our guys need to stand up and not let that happen, and that’s what they did.”
After Jeremy Hollingsworth – who rushed for 68 yards – scored midway through the second quarter, Weinmaster answered with a 7-yard run to make it 48-14 at the half. A Collin Morrison interception early in the third quarter led to Kinney’s fourth touchdown and enforced the running clock, and the quarterback added a 22-yard run early in the fourth quarter.
“Coach always told us to envision it,” Kinney said. “Envision it the night before, the week before, just making plays, and then it will happen.”
Skyline was making its first championship game appearance since 1999. The Falcons, who lost leading wide receiver Kyle West to an injury on the opening kickoff, got big games from Jack Wathen (71 yards) and McGregor (42 yards and a touchdown).
The Longs Peak League teams had played not quite a month before in the regular-season finale, a game Loveland won 42-14. The 62 points scored by Loveland on Saturday was a season high, and put the Indians above 600 points for the season.
It also tied Hinkley’s 1997 championship team for the second-most points scored in a 4A title game.
“I knew our kids were ready to play. They’re great students of the game and have great character,” McGinn said. “I was more confident than I’ve ever been, but to come out and do what they just did, I didn’t expect that.”