DENVER — Make it a perfect 10 for Cherry Creek’s football team.
The Bruins capped an undefeated season – winning the school’s 10th overall title in the process – with a 35-10 victory over Columbine in the Class 5A state championship game Saturday at Empower Field at Mile High before a raucous crowd of 12,789.
It was also a sweet moment of vindication for the players who experienced the other side of the coin last year, losing to Valor Christian 24-14 last December on the same field.
“It’s such a sweet feeling,” Bruins junior wide receiver Chase Penry said. “We worked so hard last year and we came up short. To come out here, run the table and go 14-0 and finish it with a statement like that, it’s an amazing feeling.”
Jayle Stacks rushed for 141 yards and a touchdown and garnered game MVP honors. Despite dealing with a bad ankle, the senior put together a strong second half that included a 51-yard run on the first play of the third quarter.
“He’s a load,” Cherry Creek coach Dave Logan said. “I told him before the playoffs started that we couldn’t win it without him.”
The Bruins came into the 2019 season with some questions after graduating 36 seniors, a number of which came on the offensive side of the ball. The team also lost senior running back Seamus Henderson for the season to an injury before the first game.
The team started strong though and never looked back, winning every game by at least 17 points with the exception of a 14-7 semifinal victory over Pomona.
“I knew we would be pretty good on defense because we had a lot of returning starters in the box,” said Logan, who has now coached eight teams to state championships. “I didn’t know how we’d be offensively, because we lost a lot of seniors. But credit to those kids – they stepped right in and got better every week.”
Julian Hammond III put together a strong junior season at quarterback, and was brilliant in the first half Saturday as Cherry Creek jumped out to a two-touchdown lead. Hammond III capped a 12-play drive with a 15-yard touchdown to James Walker II late in the first quarter, and added a 23-yard touchdown pass to Penry midway through the second quarter.
“We heard a lot of media talk about how we lost a lot of seniors, especially at the quarterback position,” said Penry, who caught six passes for 70 yards. “Julian stepped up big. He was a great player for us all year, especially tonight in the first half.”
Stacks’ 51-yard run to open the second half led to a Myles Purchase 11-yard touchdown run to put Cherry Creek up 21-0. Columbine (11-3) refused to go away, putting together its own big drive that went 10 plays and 80 yards. Tanner Hollens put the Rebels on the board with a 7-yard scoring run, then intercepted Hammond on the last play of the third quarter. That led to a 35-yard field goal by Adam Tasei.
Cherry Creek responded by eating up the clock with runs from Stacks, Walker and Purchase on its next two possessions. Stacks made it a 28-10 game with a 2-yard touchdown run with four minutes, 21 seconds remaining, and Purchase intercepted a pass and returned it 15 yards for another score.
“We were able to bend, and not break. We knew if we had a lot of rubber bands, we could stay together,” Purchase said. “If we play by ourselves, one rubber band is going to snap easily.”
Adam Harrington rushed for 84 yards for Columbine and Hollens added 53 yards. The Rebels were making their first trip to the state title game since 2011.
Cherry Creek will return a number of key pieces from this year’s championship, including Hammond, Purchase and Penry.
Purchase said he believed this group was special from the first day, and being part of the program’s 10th title makes it even more memorable.
“That is a special number,” Purchase said. “I’m so happy for Coach Logan for leading us into this game and this season, and I love my teammates.”