AURORA (12-4-10) – “Elizabeth is the best football team we’ve seen all year,” Glenwood football coach Rocky Whitworth said BEFORE the Cardinals stopped the Demons’ 11-game winning streak, 29-6. to win the 3A state championship at Legacy Stadium Saturday.
It’s been a season-long pre-game mantra for Whitworth, who coached Glenwood to an undefeated state championship in 2008, to predict his team would have to play its best game, and facing Elizabeth, 13-0 and ranked number-one into its first-ever state title game, the Demon coach insisted, “We’ll have to make it our finest hour.” And despite never leading in the contest, in some ways a case could be made Glenwood reached that goal.
Not on the scoreboard, as Elizabeth took the opening kickoff and drove 75 yards on the ground — the last 47 on a breakaway down the right sideline by quarterback Dalton Taylor — and then a penalty preceding the conversion kick convinced Cardinal coach Chris Cline to go for two. The run by Brad Goldsberry was successful, giving Elizabeth an 8-0 lead just 2:16 into the game.
The Demon offense answered with a 10-play, 71-yard drive, but managed just 12 yards total in a scoreless third quarter, and senior QB Luke Jacob — who put together back-to-back 1,000 yard seasons passing and running the last two years — was intercepted three times.
And yet the Demons trailed just 15-6 going into the fourth quarter, as an embattled defense was up to nearly every Elizabeth challenge though playing most of the game on its half of the field.
Drew Halsch, who left the semi-final win over Canon City last week with a hip-pointer, “was cleared to play and did everything he could,” Whitworth said, but obviously wasn’t the workhorse who gained 335 yards on 55 carries with 7 touchdowns in the first three rounds of the playoffs.
He ran only twice on the Demons’ opening drive, breaking free for 25 yards after Jacob did most of the work to the 30, before the senior running back punched it in from the one for the 22nd touchown in his first year of varsity football, cutting the Cardinal lead to 8-6 (the two-point conversion pass failed) with 6 minutes to go in the first quarter. It seemed a shootout was on, but Halsch would carry the ball only three times each in the second and third quarters, and not at all in the final 12 minutes.
So Jacob went to the air in an effort to stay with the Cardinals, who took advantage of a short field when Chad Montover could manage just a 17-yard punt into the wind, Biery scoring the first of two 30-yard touchdowns to give Elizabeth a 15-6 lead early in the second quarter.
Jacob completed 7 of 8 passes (four to Cam Avery) in moving the Demons from their own 22 to the Cardinal 20, but Glenwood was penalized for an illegal substitution, a screen went nowhere, and Goldsberry intercepted Jacob with 35 seconds to go in the half.
Glenwood gained just one first down in the third quarter, and had to punt into the wind on all three possessions, the last one from its own end zone, giving Elizabeth the ball at the Demon 40. Taylor carried to the 30 as the quarter ended, and Biery’s explosion on the first play of the final period extended the Cardinal lead to 22-6.
John Weber’s 40-yard return of an interception to the Demon two-yard line set up the final score by Zach Butler with 7:15 left in the 13 Glenwood seniors’ final game.
“I’m very proud of our guys,” Whitworth said afterwards. “This was a great group of seniors,” nine of whom played for the championship team of 08. Cline (former Rifle All-state linebacker and later athletic director at RHS) , who has taken his Elizabeth team to the playoffs in all his 11 seasons there without getting past the second round until this year (and losing to Glenwood 24-3 in last year’s first round), was gracious in victory, adding, “I don’t know how we contained Jacob,” who rushed for 104 yards in 19 carries and completed 15 of 29 passes for 99 yards, but clearly missed his running buddy, as the Cardinal defense was able to mostly ignore the other half of the Demons’ potent one-two punch.
Halsch carried 10 times for 48 yards and Avery caught 8 passes for 64 yards. Biery led the 295-yard Cardinal ground game with 151 yards in 22 attempts.
With a championship ring, a state runner-up trophy and a 19-7 record the last two seasons, the 2011 senior class may not feel this was their finest hour, but Whitworth said, “They battled, and all year long did everything we asked. It was my pleasure to work with those players.”
The Demon senior class included Jacob, Halsch, Chris Ayala, Yas Tribble, Montover, Emmanuel Cervantes, Collin Thornton, Nick Ciani, Erick Gonzalez, Mike Moreno, Blaze Barham, Willy Pelland, JD Weeden and managers Allie Brown (who also sang the National Anthem before the game) and Breanna Benson.