PUEBLO — Not even a bum ankle was going to stop Kory Tacah on Limon's first drive of the day. The senior running back and 2019 Class 1A player of the year broke for a 77-yard score, running somewhat gingerly at the end.
No matter. It put the Badgers up early and they never looked back, getting a 28-0 win over Strasburg to claim the 1A football championship for the third year in a row and a state-record 20th time overall.
All three championship wins came over the Indians and Tacha has shined in each one of those games.
He kept his annual tradition going by breaking for that first score and running for 109 yards in the first half alone, even with pain shooting through his ankle.
"I haven't run that far in over a month," Tacha said. "It took some work and (my ankle) held up so it was good."
The Badgers (7-0 overall) controlled the ball with a heavy dose its standard ground game. Jeremiah Leeper and Trey Hines were also factors to help the champs rush for 254 yards in the first two quarters. Hines broke for a 28-yard rushing touchdown on his first carry of the game.
The Limon defense was every bit as impressive, holding the Indians (8-1) scoreless and allowing just 80 yards of total offense in the first half.
"I thought we did a great job with our scheme," Limon coach Mike O'Dwyer said. "We did a great job putting our defensive backs in position, but in order for that to work you have to stop the run. Our front seven guys were tremendous."
Leeper added a four-yard touchdown run late in the third quarter to push the lead to 21-0. And he was helped out on the defensive side. Each time Strasburg got into scoring range, the defense made big plays to end any scoring hopes.
On top of Hines' spectacular day under center, he hauled in a pair of interceptions with the goal of maintaining the shutout.
"The minute we scored early in the first quarter we were playing it like a 0-0 game," Hines said. "There's no let up. You always have to think that you have to play as hard as you can and put it all out there."
Tacha finished the day with 149 rushing yards and a touchdown to claim Most Outstanding Player honors.
Indians quarterback Collin Russell did his best to make something happen for his offense, but getting stopped on a crucial 4th and 1 late in the third quarter demonstrated how unyielding hte Limon defense was all day.
"I wish we could've gotten more pressure on that quarterback," O'Dwyer said. "That kid's a great athlete so you have to hand it to him."
This is now the fourth time in the program's history that Limon has claimed three consecutive championships. The Badgers last accomplished this feat from 2003-05. While three titles has turned into a semi-regular occurrence, it'll take a long time for 20 overall championships to be matched by any other program.
And in the year 2020 when nothing has been a certainty, a 20th state title is something that O'Dwyer will always remember.
"I never put that together; 20 in 2020," O'Dwyer said. "I don't know how to write that script. I didn't know how to write the script for last year when it was our 100th year and we lost to two teams, Holyoke and Strasburg, and had to beat them in the playoffs. And now this year, it was just a crazy year."
Like a seasoned championship veteran, O'Dwyer did his best to avoid the traditional water bucket bath before letting his boys have their fun. In his 19 years as coach, he's had plenty of them. He's learned that each one comes with the joy of claiming a championship but no matter how many times it happens, they still have a way of feeling special all on their own.