The first team to emerge from the Class 4A semis was the No. 2 Far Northeast Warriors, who rode their stifling defense to win over No. 3 Vista PEAK. Then on Saturday night, No. 4 Boulder won a low-scoring slugfest against No. 8 Denver East.
Far Northeast and Boulder will go head-to-head for the trophy when the 5A state championship game begins on Saturday at 7 p.m. at CSU-Pueblo’s Neta and Eddie DeRose Thunderbowl Stadium
(2) Far Northeast 23, (3) Vista PEAK 16
What started as an uncertain and confusing school year now has a chance to end in a special and potentially historic football season for the Far Northeast Warriors.
At Evie Dennis Stadium on Friday night, the second-seeded Warriors (5-2) won 23-16 over the No. 3 Vista PEAK Bison (5-3) in the Class 5A state semifinals for the spring Season C campaign. It took an outstanding defensive effort and a late stand against a dangerous Bison offense to get them there, and the Warriors earned a chance to compete for their program’s first state championship on Saturday night in Pueblo.
“I told my guys that this is a weird year,” FNE head coach Tony Lindsay Sr. said. “Montbello has been to the championship a couple times – like in ’81 – but we’ve never taken state. Aside from remembering the pandemic, you’ll remember what you did during the pandemic. So, to top it off with something like that would be special after all the months and months of everything we’ve had to do just to come out and play football.
“It’s just awesome.”
The Warriors’ defense paced their semifinal triumph from start to finish, forcing a sack fumble for a safety on the Bison’s opening drive of the evening and holding Vista PEAK well below its scoring average of 26.75 points per game. The Bison only led briefly in the first quarter when Jaylen Carrizales caught a touchdown pass.
Both teams were playing with significant injuries to key offensive players. But Far Northeast’s Gregory Anderson was able to overcome his bumps and bruises to run for a long touchdown in the second quarter. Later in the frame, the Warriors forced their second of three first-half turnovers, another sack fumble that Daeontez Thomas returned for a touchdown. Warriors senior Abdullahi Mberwa made a spectacular diving touchdown grab late in the second quarter to send Far Northeast into halftime with a 23-6 lead.
In the second half, the Warriors fumbled twice and a 28-yard field goal combined with Carrizales’ second touchdown of the game cut the lead to seven. With 2 minutes, 10 seconds remaining in the game, Vista PEAK’s Nathan Hunholz blocked a punt at midfield to give his team a chance at a game-tying drive. But the Warriors defense held strong one more time to seal the victory and punch their ticket to the title game.
“We’ve worked for this all week and all season,” Warriors senior Emmanuel Nwaneto said. “Our defensive coach got us ready and we came out strong. We came out here with 14 dudes. Other teams have us outnumbered. But it’s just the heart and the coaching staff that we have. We just came out here and showed why we’re the best defense in the state.
“We’re a family and a strong group of individuals, and there’s nothing that can break us.”
In Saturday’s title game at CSU-Pueblo’s Thunderbowl Stadium, Far Northeast will face the winner of Saturday afternoon’s semifinal between No. 4 Boulder and No. 8 Denver East.
(4) Boulder 6, (8) Denver East 3
It has been nearly three decades since the Boulder football team last played for a championship, but that opportunity has finally arrived once again at the end of the Season C campaign.
On Saturday night at Recht Field, the No. 4-seeded Panthers ground out a 6-3 win over No. 8 Denver East in the Class 5A state semifinals to punch their ticket to the spring title game. The Panthers last won the state championship in 1992, and will have a chance to win their program's fourth when they take the field at the CSU-Pueblo Thunderbowl next Saturday night.
“We’ve all had to overcome so much — the community, us personally, with COVID, with everything,” Boulder coach Ryan Bishop told BoCoPreps.com's Brent New. “Words can’t describe it. I lost my mom in September and I know that she is just so proud, so proud. And that’s what this is about. Overcoming adversity, making this community proud, this school proud, the administration proud.”