Football: Eaglecrest’s last playoff upset bid stalls short

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With two big playoff upsets under its belt already, the Eaglecrest football team was driving on its way to a third one before the wheels finally came off.

Coach Mike Schmitt’s 22nd-seeded Raptors held a four-point lead into the fourth quarter of their Class 5A state quarterfinal contest against Cherokee Trail on Nov. 17, but turnovers and penalties in crucial situations finally derailed them in a 17-14 loss.

Eaglecrest finished the season 7-5 after it knocked out No. 11 Chatfield and No. 6 Chaparral and gave the third-seeded Cougars all they wanted.

“At some point, the gas runs out, but I can’t say enough about the hard work that got them here,” said Schmitt, whose team was the only one not seeded in the top 10 to advance to the quarterfinals.

“It had nothing to do with talent, it was hard work that got us this far,” he added.

The Raptors looked like they might turn in their third upset of the playoffs against a Cherokee Trail team they lost to during Centennial League play, as an opportunistic defense and outstanding special teams play gave them a lead.

Senior Sean Watkins returned a blocked punt 21 yards for a touchdown, then blocked a punt himself that eventually led to quarterback Adan Soto’s 1-yard sneak for a 14-10 Eaglecrest lead at halftime.

The pivotal sequence of the game came late in the third quarter with the Raptors in the red zone and threatening to add to their four-point lead.

Eaglecrest had a first-and-goal from the Cherokee Trail 8 yard-line, but were stuffed on three straight running plays before Soto’s tipped pass on fourth down was intercepted by the Cougars’ Cameron Currington.

The week before, the Raptors made several crucial stops against Chaparral, but couldn’t stop Cherokee Trail on a 90-yard march that took 7 minutes, 43 seconds off the clock.

The Cougars converted four third downs and finally took a 17-14 lead on quarterback Aric Johnson’s 3-yard touchdown run with just 5:44 left on the clock.

“You could feel the pressure on everything; we felt like we needed to make plays and they felt like they needed to make plays on that drive,” said senior safety Xavier Lewis, who was all over the field for Eaglecrest.

“It was a true battle, it was the true definition of football. Those last drives are what you work for in the summertime and all season, that drive right there that gets you to the semifinals. That’s what you play football for.”

The Raptors had a final drive of their own, as a tough Soto run up the sideline set up a 1st-and-10 at the Cherokee Trail 27 with plenty of time left.

Penalties bit Eaglecrest, however, as a false start and holding call marched the Raptors back near midfield and an illegal forward pass created a desperation fourth down. Soto’s deep ball for Watkins was intercepted and the Cougars ran out the clock.

The loss couldn’t diminish Schmitt’s pride in the growth his team made along the way.

“We outworked people; we started the season as a certain type of team and they rewrote the journey of their lives,” Schmitt said.

“They changed who they were, overcame some great obstacles and beat some of the best teams in Colorado this year.”

Reach Sports Editor Courtney Oakes at [email protected] or 303-750-7555

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