KMTS FOOTBALL: Glenwood Into 2nd Round, 14-13 over Elizabeth

ELIZABETH (11/9/13) – “I knew I was throwing to Cole, and he would get it,” Glenwood’s Travis Lundin said after a pivotal 4th quarter reception by wide receiver Cole Adams helped propel the Demons into the second round of the 3A state football playoffs, 14-13 at Elizabeth Saturday.

Glenwood (8-3), seeded 12th will host 13th seeded Delta (8-3) next Saturday in a rematch as both Western Slope teams upset higher-seeded opponents on the road in first-round action. The Panthers lost 15-7 to Glenwood on September 27 in the second of what has become an 8-game Demon winning streak, but rallied at 4th-seeded Holy Family (8-2) to send the game into overtime before prevailing 42-41. Because of that previous win over Delta and a higher playoff seeding, Glenwood will get at least one more home game for its ten seniors, which makes junior Cristian Gonzalez very happy. “We did it for the seniors, to play with them one more time,” Gonzalez, whose return to the offensive line coincided with the rebirth of Glenwood’s running game after an 0-3 start.

“We gained a lot of experience facing adversity,” Lundin said of that early-season gauntlet through three top-five rated teams. “We believed in each other and just kept going,” said the senior quarterback, who was 8-of-9 passing versus Elizabeth (8-3) and connected with Adams on the key 3rd-and-9 play from midfield, trailing 13-7 with about 4 minutes left in regulation.

Lundin lofted the ball down the left sideline, and a strong wind seemed to carry the ball beyond Adams’ reach. “The ball was in the air, and I just dove for it,” Adams said. Arms totally extended, the senior receiver pulled the ball in, cradling it and landing with such force that he had to leave the game for a play with the wind knocked out of him.

The 31-yard reception gave Glenwood a first down at the Cardinal 15, and Henry Hill hammered at the Elizabeth interior three times but appeared to be just short of a first down when the Cardinals were whistled for a face mask. Given first-and-goal at the three, Glenwood, which gambled and lost on a new play and formation in an earlier opportunity at the five yard line, handed the ball to old reliable, Derrick Chase, who pushed the pile to the one, from where Lundin went in to tie the score at 13 with 3:40 to play.

Elizabeth had taken advantage of a one-hop snap that resulted in a 14 yard punt and possession at the Demon 46 in the third quarter. Quarterback Brody Oliver, who gave the Cardinals a 7-0 first quarter lead with a 59-yard TD pass to Chase Nicholas, scrambled for 38 yards to the 8, and after two tries, Jordan Bucknam went in from the two, breaking a 7-7 halftime tie with 3:35 on the clock. However, Kei Nishimura’s extra point attempt was low and wide left, and that missed kick would prove the ultimate difference in the game.

When Robert Hiles, who had missed a chance to give Glenwood the lead at the half when his 35 yard field goal try hit the right upright as time expired, had a chance for redemption, he did not miss the decisive point after. Evrett Marr’s hold and Hiles’ kick was true, giving the Demons a one-point edge.

The defense, which held the Cardinals 3-pronged running attack to just 88 yards in 27 attempts, would face one more challenge to “keep the dream alive,” as Lundin said in a post-game interview.

In the first half, the Cardinals, who had collectively rushed for 34 touchdowns and more than 2000 yards in going undefeated in the Metro East League, were limited to just 35 yards in 12 attempts. But Oliver hit Bucknam out of the backfield twice for big gains, including a 25-yard screen pass that set up the long pass to Nicholas for the 7-0 lead with 3:25 to go in the first period.

Glenwood answered with an 8-play, 80-yard scoring drive on its first possession of the second quarter, keyed by a 73-yard breakaway around left end by Hill. Other than a similar 29-yard burst in the first quarter, the senior back who went over 1,000 yards for the third straight season, was limited to 55 yards in 17 first-quarter carries.

Elizabeth responded to the Demon drive by gaining three first downs, the last reaching the Glenwood 21. On 3rd and 8 from the 18, Bucknam came out of the backfield again, but this time Gonzalez was right with him, and Oliver threw the ball away. A 4th down pass was defended well by Adams and Zane Lundin, and Glenwood consumed the last 5:31 of the half, picking up four first downs before Hiles’ field goal try just missed.

Nearly halfway through the third quarter, neither team had managed a first down when Glenwood nearly scored a safety, as Garrett Lowe tackled Oliver on the one yard line. It appeared the Demons would have the ball in Cardinal territory following a punt by Julius Antunez, deep in his own endzone. However, Antunez got the punt high into a strong, favorable wind, and it sailed beyond Hill, who scrambled back to fall on it after it carried 61 yards.

When a holding penalty nullified what would’ve been a first down by Hill, Chase Nieslanik had to punt into that same, flag-straightening wind. “The wind was a factor,” Demon coach Rocky Whitworth pointed out afterwards, and Nieslanik’s kick, after a one-hop snap, went out of bounds at the Demon 46. So Elizabeth parlayed the punt exchange into a 13-7 lead prior to an eventful fourth quarter.

Glenwood put a couple of first downs together, but decided to “play the field position game,” Whitworth said and Nieslanik, with the wind at his back this time, punted 48 yards into the Elizabeth end zone. One play later, Lowe separated Oliver from the ball and Colton Vail recovered it at the Cardinal 5 yard line.

The Demons inserted freshman Dante Sparaco at quarterback where he had rushed for touchdowns in each of the last three games, but his first try was stopped for no gain, and he fumbled on the next play, the Cardinals recovering. “We let an opportunity go there, but kept coming back and making the big play when we had to,” Whitworth said.

Sparaco made one of those plays on the next series, stopping Nicholas for no gain on second and long, and when Oliver overthrew his third-down pass, the Cardinals had to punt into the wind. Antunez got a good roll on a poor kick that was downed at midfield. Two plays later, Adams’ catch bailed Glenwood out of a 3rd-and-9 at the Cardinal 46. “Cole’s catch brought us home,” Nieslanik said, but the Demon punter had an equally significant play on defense after Glenwood took its 14-13 lead.

With just over 3 minutes to play, Bucknam gained a first down to the Cardinal 40. Oliver dropped back to pass and had to scramble with Nieslanik closing in on him. He tried to straight-arm the 6-2 junior, but Nieslanik grabbed his arm and slung him to the ground for a 10-yard loss. “I stuck my hands out to see if I could grab him, got ahold of him, and threw him down as hard as I could,” he said.

Facing 2nd-and-20, first Lowe, then Vail pressured Oliver into a scramble for no gain and an incompletion. Fittingly, Adams intercepted the desperation fourth-down heave at midfield with 1:34 remaining in the game. Glenwood ran out the clock and gained revenge for falling 29-10 to Elizabeth in the 2010 state title game. Chris Cline, a former all-state linebacker at Rifle, has coached the Cardinals into the playoffs in all but one of his 14 seasons at Elizabeth. “He is a class coach and has one of the finest 3A programs,” Whitworth said graciously after getting Glenwood back to the post season for the first time since that championship match-up.

The Demons’ side of the 3A playoff bracket featured four higher-seeded, home team upsets as number one Discovery Canyon (9-2) went down 47-13 to number 16 Pueblo East (7-4), defending champ Silver Creek (8-2) won 47-14 at Evergreen (8-3), and Delta set up the second-round rematch with Glenwood via its overtime win at Holy Family (8-2).

The other side of the bracket followed convention as all four higher seeds won. Rifle (8-3) had a 14-0 lead at Coronado (10-1) before falling 34-31. Classical Academy (9-2) edged Conifer (8-3) 14-12; number-two Palisade (11-1) defeated Lutheran (8-4) 35-25, and number-three Roosevelt (8-2) pounded Frederick (6-4), 47-13.

Hill gained 196 hard-earned yards in 32 carries with Chase adding 46, including the tying touchdown in the second quarter. The senior back had scored in five straight games before being sidelined by an injury and returning last week.

Hill summed up the game, saying, “We had our chances, and so did they, but we executed and got the job done. We’re so excited we get to play together again.”