GREENWOOD VILLAGE | All week long, Grandview football coach Tom Doherty told his team to stay in the moment and not to pay attention to the scoreboard when it faced off with Cherry Creek.
As the final seconds ticked off Friday night at Stutler Bowl, the Wolves — nor anybody in the state — could ignore what ended up on that scoreboard.
Grandview toppled the top-ranked Bruins 24-21 in the final game of the regular season in a result that should make it less of a certainty that Cherry Creek wins a fourth consecutive Class 5A state championship. The Wolves scored the final 10 points of the game — capped by junior quarterback Liam Szarka’s short touchdown run with just under four minutes left in regulation — to deal the Bruins their first loss to a Colorado team this season and earn a share of the 5A League 4 title along with Cherry Creek and Arapahoe.
“Some teams are beaten before they even get to Stutler Bowl, but our kids all week believed they could do it,” said Doherty, whose team finished the regular season 8-2.
“Our mindset all week was not to be worried about anything but the next play, just go to the next play,” he added. “They are going to make their plays, but the theme was stay the course, don’t worry about the scoreboard and go on to the next play. When you play a very good team, you can’t worry about the big picture, you have to live in the moment and just keep on fighting.
Grandview found itself down seven points after just one offensive play for Cherry Creek (8-2, 4-1) and three times were down a score, but responded each time.
Szarka’s 1-yard touchdown run in the first quarter brought the Wolves even the first time and they forged a 14-14 tie on the final play of the first half when sophomore Donavon Vernon exploited a big hole from Grandview’s hard-working offensive line to score.
After a third period that saw just two total possessions, Cherry Creek yet again took the lead on a short touchdown run to open the fourth quarter. Szarka orchestrated a drive that got into the red zone, but resulted in Kyle Chavez’s 29-yard field goal to cut the deficit to four points.
The Wolves chose to pooch the ensuing kickoff — in large part because of how effective the Bruins’ return game was — and they ended up recovering a loose ball near midfield.
A big run by Szarka up the middle got the ball to the 3 yard-line and he pushed into the end zone with a big effort by the line at the point of attack to put Grandview in front for the first time. Chavez’s extra point made it a three-point contest.
The Wolves’ defense dug in on the next possession, which included a big sack from senior Delano Jefferson, and forced a turnover on downs. Vernon then picked up the first down Grandview needed to run out the clock on the huge victory.
Grandview now awaits its seeding in the postseason.
Courtney Oakes is Sentinel Colorado Sports Editor. Reach him at [email protected] Twitter: @aurorasports. IG: Sentinel Prep Sports
GRANDVIEW 24, CHERRY CREEK 21
Score by quarters:
Grandview 7 7 0 10 — 24
Cherry Creek 7 7 0 7 — 21
Cherry Creek — Carlson Tann 61 yard run (Caden Brown kick)
Grandview — Liam Szarka 1 yard run (Kyle Chavez kick)
Cherry Creek — Arion Boyd 5 yard run (Brown kick)
Grandview — Donavon Vernon 1 yard run (Chavez kick)
Cherry Creek — Aurelio Marchiol 1 yard run (Brown kick)
Grandview — Chavez 29 yard field goal
Grandview — Szarka 1 yard run (Chavez kick)