AURORA | Cherokee Trail football coach Monte Thelen hopes his program can reach the consistently elite level as nearby Grandview.
If they aren’t there already, the Cougars seem to be on their way as they beat their fierce neighborhood rivals for the second time in three seasons with a 24-9 victory Thursday night at frigid Legacy Stadium.
Senior Jackson Burrell had a pair of interceptions in the last two minutes of a tight contest — returning one for a 28-yard touchdown — and the Cougars tacked on 14 points to blow open a one-point game as they improved to an Aurora-best 6-1 and 2-1 in the Continental League.
Cameron Smith and Cameron Currington each had rushing touchdowns and Ryan Winke hit a 33-yard field goal as Cherokee Trail avenged a 21-9 loss to Grandview last season.
Weber — who was intercepted four times on the night — had a 1-yard touchdown sneak and a fourth-quarter safety accounted for the rest of the points for Grandview, which finished with a total of five turnovers and dropped to 4-3 overall and 2-1 in the league.
Cherokee Trail turned the ball over only twice and Grandview took advantage of the first miscue, with Hayden Porter’s recovery of a Sherman Thomas fumble putting the Wolves at the Cougars’ 27-yard line less than three minutes into the game. A 26-yard run by Gentry got the ball to the 1 and Weber crashed in on the next play.
Later in the quarter, Cameron Smith caught a 41-yard pass from quarterback Aric Johnson and took it the Grandview 9-yard line, then scored from 9 yards out even
On the subsequent drive, the Wolves rode the legs of Isaiah Jackson (103 yards rushing in the game) to a first-and-goal at the Cherokee Trail 6-yard line, but a holding penalty created a third-and-goal from the 22. Weber scrambled from pressure and lobbed a pass to the back of the end zone for Gentry — who had seven touchdown catches coming into the game — but Thomas Thorvedt timed his leap and picked it off.
Another Grandview turnover, a fumble by Jackson, gave Cherokee Trail possession for the final 1:51 of the first half. The Cougars reached the Wolves’ 16 before they settled for Winke’s 33-yard field goal as time expired.
Trailing by just three points despite the first half turnovers, Grandview tried to regain the momentum with a lengthy drive to start the third quarter. The Wolves went 71 yards on 16 players and chewed 7:20 off the clock, but came up empty when Weber’s pass on fourth-and-7 was incomplete.
Grandview did score on defense to open the fourth quarter, however, with a safety on an bizarre play. Smith was hit in the backfield and fumbled and in the midst of a scramble for the ball by several Grandview defenders, the ball rolled out of the back of the end zone. Officials believed no Grandview play had control of the ball, thus awarding a safety to make it 10-9 Cherokee Trail with 10:20 remaining.
The Wolves couldn’t do anything with the ensuing free kick and neither could the Cougars on their next possession, but Johnson’s quick kick on fourth down pinned Grandview at its own 10-yard line.
The game nearly changed in the blink of an eye, as the electric Gentry took a handoff to the perimeter and went 90 yards to the end zone. The play was called back by a holding flag, which incensed coach John Schultz and the Grandview sideline. Two plays later, Weber again scrambled from pressure and threw up the sideline, where Burrell snagged the ball for Cherokee Trail’s third interception of the night.
The Cougars cashed in with a 9-yard touchdown run by Currington to gain some breathing room and the edge expanded to double digits when Burrell picked off Weber again 11 seconds later and took the ball back to the end zone.
Reach Sports Editor Courtney Oakes at firstname.lastname@example.org or 303-750-7555
CHEROKEE TRAIL 24, GRANDVIEW 9
Score by quarters:
Cherokee Trail 7 3 0 14 — 24
Grandview 7 0 0 2 — 9
Grandview — Reece Weber 1 yard run (Tanner Hubbard kick), 9:00
Cherokee Trail — Cameron Smith 9 yard run (Ryan Winke kick), 2:31
Cherokee Trail — Winke 33 yard field goal, 0:00
Grandview — Safety, ball fumbled out of end zone
Cherokee Trail — Cameron Currington 9 yard run (Winke kick), 1:31
Cherokee Trail — Jackson Burrell 34 yard interception return (Winke kick), 1:20
Cherokee Trail: Sherman Thomas 12-54, Cameron Smith 11-45, Darian Belt 8-23, Cameron Currington 2-16, Aric Johnson 6-6
Grandview: Isaiah Jackson 14-103, Reece Weber 12-56, Tanner Gentry 3-44, Cassius Davis 14-32
Cherokee Trail: Johnson 7-12, 105 yards
Grandview: Weber 5-18, 64 yards, 4 interceptions
Cherokee Trail: Smith 2-59, Jason Thompson 2-25, Thomas 1-8, Evan White 1-8, Thomas Thorvedt 1-5
Grandview: Daijhawn Williams 1-36, Christian Backes 1-13, Jackson 1-9, Gentry 2-7