GREENWOOD VILLAGE | Two weeks into the pandemic-shortened regular season, the Cherokee Trail football team sat 0-2 and the thought of a berth in the Class 5A state playoffs seemed very far away.
Four consecutive wins later — punctuated by a 34-0 victory against Overland Friday night at Stutler Bowl — coach Joe Johnson’s Cougars sit poised for the postseason.
Cherokee Trail made its final case to be part of the eight-team 5A state playoff field that will be announced by the Colorado High School Activities Association on Sunday with another solid performance that saw senior quarterback Jayden Lavigne throw three touchdown passes — all in the second quarter — and junior Nate Gaye Jr. rush for two scores of more than 50 yards apiece.
While the Cougars finished the regular season 4-2 overall and 3-2 in Centennial League play and await their possible postseason fate, Overland finished 0-6 and will finish off the season with a Week 7 non-qualifier game against Doherty.
The Cherokee Trail defense continued to improve from a difficult first two weeks and ended up with a shut out for the first time while generating four turnovers, including two fumble recoveries by sophomore Kadin Porter.
A 65-yard touchdown run by Gaye Jr. broke a scoreless tie in the late stages of the opening quarter and the lead grew in the second quarter as Lavigne connected with junior Jack Pierce on back-to-back touchdown passes, with the second sprung with the help of a block by fellow wide receiver Alex Stirbis.
Minutes later, Stirbis slipped behind the defense and hauled in a 56-yard touchdown pass that made it 25-0 at halftime.
Gaye Jr. scored from 51 yards away early in the final quarter and a safety rounded out Cherokee Trail’s scoring.
Senior Jaheim Roper had an interception for Overland.
Courtney Oakes is Sentinel Colorado Sports Editor. Reach him at 303-750-7555 or [email protected] Twitter: @aurorasports. IG: Sentinel Prep Sports
CHEROKEE TRAIL 34, OVERLAND 0
Score by quarters:
Cher. Trail 6 19 0 9 — 34
Overland 0 0 0 0 — 0
Cherokee Trail — Nate Gaye Jr. 65 yard run (run failed), 2:21
Cherokee Trail — Jack Pierce 41 yard pass from Jayden Lavigne (pass failed), 9:49
Cherokee Trail — Pierce 35 yard pass from Lavigne (kick failed), 4:58
Cherokee Trail — Alex Stirbis 56 yard pass from Lavigne (Noah Fischbach kick), 1:42
Cherokee Trail — Gaye Jr. 51 yard run (Fischbach kick), 10:51
Cherokee Trail — Safety, snap covered in end zone, 3:34
Cherokee Trail: Nathan Gaye Jr. 27-219
Cherokee Trail: Jayden Lavigne 13-26, 238 yards, 3 touchdowns, 1 interception
Cherokee Trail: Jack Pierce 5-107, Nathan Burke 3-39