LAKEWOOD — It would be hard-pressed to find a prep football team in Colorado that is off to the same dominating start as Columbine.
The Rebels — No. 1 in the CHSAANow.com Class 5A rankings since after Week 2 — have outscored their four opponents 191-10. Columbine improved to 4-0 on the season Thursday night at Jeffco Stadium with a 44-7 victory over Highlands Ranch (0-4 record).
“We can’t read a lot into that right now,” Columbine coach Andy Lowry said of the four blowout non-conference wins against Denver East, Ponderosa, Fountain-Fort Carson and Highlands Ranch. “Our league is a gauntlet we know that.”
The first half turned into the Tanner Hollens and Justin Lohrenz Show for the Rebels. Hollens had 10 carries for 150 yards and five touchdowns. On the season already, the University of Northern Colorado commit has over 500 yards rushing and 10 touchdowns while averaging 15 yards per carry.
“Tanner (Hollens) was just relentless tonight. He didn’t want to go down for anything tonight,” Lowry said. “I’m not sure we blocked everybody, but he sure made everyone miss.”
Hollens opened the scoring with a 49-yard touchdown run on Columbine’s second offensive play from scrimmage.
A great punt return by junior Carson Goodwin gave the Rebels good field position again. Hollens had a 19-yard touchdown run on the sixth offensive play from scrimmage of the game for the Rebels to push the lead to 14-0 midway through the first quarter.
“I knew we had to step it up this game because (Highlands Ranch) is always a rivalry,” Hollens said. “We’ve ended their season three years in a row.”
Highlands Ranch went for it on fourth-and-9 from its own 21-yard line on the next possession. Columbine senior Stephen Hughes sacked Highlands Ranch quarterback Jake Rubley to give the Rebels the ball on the Falcons’ 11-yard line.
Hollens scored on the next play to give Columbine a 21-0 lead with 4:04 left in the first quarter. Another good punt return by senior Adam Harrington gave Columbine the ball inside the Falcons’ 20-yard line. Harrington would score on a 17-yard touchdown.
Through the first eight offensive plays from scrimmage in the first quarter for Columbine, the Rebels scored touchdown on half of those plays to cruise to a 28-0 lead after eight minutes of play.
Hollens capped off the half with touchdown runs of 10 and 3 yards in the final three minutes before halftime to give the Rebels a 41-0 lead at halftime and induce a running clock for the entire second half.
Lohrenz was just as an impressive force on the defensive side in the first half. The senior defensive end had four sacks to increase his total to eight on the season.
“This is probably the best half I’ve ever had sack wise and rushing the passer,” Lohrenz said. “We knew they were going to pass a lot, so this week during practice I just worked on pass rush, pass rush, pass rush.”
Lohrenz’s final two sacks helped turn the ball over on down to Columbine’s offense that started drives five times in Highlands Ranch territory in the first half.
“Justin (Lohrenz) has been dominate all season,” Lowry said. “He is one of the best players in the state. I’m proud of him and our defense has been playing great.”
Columbine junior Adam Tasei kicked a 23-yard field goal as the Rebels played the second half with their starters on the sidelines. He nearly kicked a 51-yard field goal late in the fourth quarter. The line drive kick hit the goal post about midway up.
However, it was going to happen sooner or later … Columbine gave up its first touchdown of the season when Rubley connected with junior Andrew Marlin for a score with under five minutes to play.
“It’s a mentality,” Lohrenz said of the Rebels’ defense. “When we get on this field our goal is to shut everyone out.”
Columbine heads to Kansas before starting up its 5A Metro West conference schedule on Oct. 4 against Mullen. The Rebels face Olathe North next Friday night at Olathe, KS. The Eagles (2-0) did put up 68 points last week in victory over North (Shawnee Mission, KS).
“Next week is going to be a tough one,” Lohrenz said of facing Olathe North that the Rebels defeated 48-12 last year at Jeffco Stadium. “They well be ready for us on their home field. I’m excited.”