GREENWOOD VILLAGE — John Adams put the finishing touches on a great night for the Cherry Creek defense, one that ended with the Bruins headed to play for the Class 5A football championship.
Adams' interception with 1:22 to play sealed a 14-7 win for Cherry Creek over Pomona in a tough semifinal battle on Saturday night at the Stutler Bowl.
"I thought Pomona outplayed us in the first half," said Cherry Creek coach Dave Logan. "But we talked about it all week long: To beat a team like that, it's a 48-minute game. It's a rock 'em, sock 'em sort of old-fashioned hard-nosed football game."
It will be a second consecutive title-game appearance for Cherry Creek, and third under the tenure of coach Logan, who arrived in 2012.
Cherry Creek's defense forced four turnovers, allowed just 240 yards, and held a Pomona offense which entered averaging 28 points per game to just 3-of-10 on third down.
Cherry Creek also stopped Pomona on 4th-and-1 from the 4-yard-line during a crucial stretch in the second quarter. Two plays later, star defensive back Myles Purchase took a direct snap and dashed 90 yards for a touchdown, giving his team a 7-0 lead with 5:23 to play in the half.
"I had a lane, I cut off one guy and I was just gone," Purchase said. "Free from there."
It was just his second carry of the season — the first also went for a touchdown — and he had two key touchdowns in last week's quarterfinal win over Fairview: an interception return and a punt return both went for scores.
The Bruins added a new wrinkle to their offense on Saturday, and used a number of designed runs for quarterback Julian Hammond III. He had a season-high 58 yards rushing.
"We hadn't really shown anything like that all summer and all fall," Hammond said.
They also inserted Purchase in at running back, Wildcat and wide receiver for a spark. He finished with 94 yards rushing.
"I just had to execute when I got in, and I did my job," Purchase said.
Up 7-0 in the third quarter, a 95-yard drive, which included three conversions on third down, chewed up a lot of clock and also gave Cherry Creek a 14-0 lead. It was capped by a 19-yard touchdown from Hammond to Gunnar Helm.
"It was probably the most important drive of the game," Hammond said.
Added Logan: "We had that 95-yard drive against that defense, which is tough to do."
Pomona had a big answer drive in the fourth quarter, sparked by a 44-yard pass from Brady Ritzmann to Chase Lopez, which resulted in a Ritzmann touchdown throw to Jack Pospisil. It was 14-7, and 4:31 remained.
Pomona got the ball back after a punt with 2:44 to play, and drove down to the Cherry Creek 34-yard-line. But there, Cherry Creek's Adams sealed the game with an interception off a tipped pass, setting off a celebration on the Bruins' sideline.
"This is the kind of game we expected," Logan said. "They're a big, physical team. They came right at us. And we just hung in there."
The game was a rematch of a 31-17 Cherry Creek win on Sept. 20, but the two storied programs hadn't met in the postseason since the semifinals in 1998, when Cherry Creek won 47-22. They also met in the semis in 1992 and 1987.
Now, Cherry Creek will face Columbine for the state championship. The Rebels beat Ralston Valley in the semifinals on Friday.
"It's no mystery: We're going to be in a for a dog fight," Logan said. "They're a big physical team, and anytime you play Columbine, you're in for a physical battle. We'll have to lick our wounds this weekend and come back and have a good week of preparation."
The game is set for 2:30 p.m. Saturday at Empower Field at Mile High.
"I'm excited to have the chance to play down there as a starter," Hammond said. "It's a chance that not a lot of kids get, and I'm just excited to play there."