GREENWOOD VILLAGE | The pride of the Cherokee Trail defense had been bruised in the first two games of the season to the tune of 111 points scored by opponents.
The unit bounced back with its performance Friday night at Stutler Bowl as it limited a potent Smoky Hill offense to 21 points and scored itself on an interception return from junior Jack Love to help the Cougars pick up their first win of the season.
Senior Jayden Lavigne threw touchdown passes to seniors Nate Burke and Jack Pierce and Love and junior Ciaran Hyslop rushed for scores as well, as coach Joe Johnson’s Cherokee Trail team prevailed 35-21 over coach Tom Thenell’s Buffaloes to move to 1-2 overall and 1-2 in Centennial League play.
Richardson III — who was without one of his top targets in uber-athletic junior Anthony Harris Jr., who was a basketball tournament — still threw for 340 yards and two touchdowns and rushed for one for Smoky Hill (1-2, 0-2). Senior Davien Norman racked up 141 yards receiving and a touchdown and senior Alec Pinkowski scored and had 119 yards receiving.
When the programs last met back in 2013, Cherokee Trail won 49-0, but this time it was a competitive contest from start to finish.
Tied at 7-7 after one quarter after Lavigne’s touchdown toss to Burke and Richardson III’s 15-yard rush for a score, Love’s 1-yard touchdown run put the Cougars in front late in the second quarter.
Lavigne connected with Pierce on a 15-yard strike for a touchdown inside the final minute of the period and nearly had more, but he overthrew standout tight end Sam Hart in the back of the end zone on the final play of the opening half.
Cherokee Trail got the ball coming out of halftime and scored again on Hyslop’s touchdown run early in the third quarter, but the Buffaloes weren’t ready to concede despite the three-touchdown deficit.
Richardson III dropped a pass into the arms of Pinkowski in the end zone from 12 yards out to cut the deficit to 28-14 and the Buffaloes’ defense rode the momentum to get the ball back again for its offense.
Love jumped in front of a pass intended for Norman and took it back to the end zone from 42 yards away to restore Cherokee Trail’s 21-point advantage to finish off the game.
Norman scored on a 58-yard pass from Richardson III earlier in the fourth quarter and the Buffaloes got a fumble recovery from Max Zueger shortly thereafter, but linebacker Gabe Johnson came up with a huge stop on Richardson III as he tried to pick up a yard on fourth down to stop Smoky Hill.
Another Cherokee Trail defensive stop came when Gabe Walker made a tackle on Marvin Jones on a fourth-and-short pass.
Courtney Oakes is Sentinel Colorado Sports Editor. Reach him at 303-750-7555 or [email protected] Twitter: @aurorasports. IG: Sentinel Prep Sports
CHEROKEE TRAIL 35, SMOKY HILL 21
Score by quarter:
Cher. Trail 7 14 14 0 — 35
Smoky Hill 7 0 7 7 — 21
Cherokee Trail — Nate Burke 23 yard pass from Jayden Lavigne (Noah Fischbach kick), 7:03
Smoky Hill – Leslie Richardson III 15 yard run (Elijah Brown kick), 1:08
Cherokee Trail — Jack Love 1 yard run (Fischbach kick), 4:31
Cherokee Trail — Jack Pierce 15 yard pass from Lavigne (Fischbach kick), 0:57
Cherokee Trail — Ciaran Hyslop 8 yard run (Fischbach kick), 10:52
Smoky Hill — Alec Pinkowski 12 yard pass from Richardson III (Brown kick), 7:50
Cherokee Trail — Love 42 yard interception return (Fischbach kick), 2:06
Smoky Hill — Davien Norman 58 yard pass from Richardson III (Brown kick), 11:02
Smoky Hill: Leslie Richardson III 15-40, Marvin Jones 2-12, Kamari Lewis-Stallworth 1-6
Smoky Hill: Richardson III 23-40, 340 yards, 2 touchdowns, 1 interception
Smoky Hill: Davien Norman 7-141, Alec Pinkowski 7-119, Troydell Dixon Jr. 2-37, Ivan Hucalo 2-24, Jones 5-21
AURORA’S WEEK 3 FALL FOOTBALL
Photo gallery: Cherokee Trail vs. Smoky Hill
Photo gallery: Eaglecrest vs. Overland
Photo gallery: Regis Jesuit vs. Legend
Scoreboard: Aurora’s Week 3 football scoreboard