Football: Fourth quarter touchdown lifts Cherokee Trail over Eaglecrest into 5A semifinals

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AURORA | The Cherokee Trail football team is once again on the doorstep of Sports Authority Field at Mile High.

For the third time in the past six seasons — now twice in Class 5A and once in 4A — the Cougars are a victory away from playing in the Denver Broncos stadium with a state championship on the line, thanks to a hard-fought 17-14 victory over Eaglecrest in a 5A state quarterfinal playoff contest Saturday at Legacy Stadium.

Junior quarterback Aric Johnson rushed for a 3-yard touchdown with 5 minutes, 44 seconds, remaining in the fourth quarter for the only points in the second half and third-seeded Cherokee Trail (11-1) held on in the closing minutes to set up a semifinal meeting with No. 2 Ralston Valley, a 22-20 winner in overtime against No. 7 Pomona on Friday night.

Coach Monte Thelen’s Cougar will be the home team against the Mustangs as they seek their first semifinal victory.

Brandon Barry caught a 61-yard touchdown pass in the first quarter to open the scoring for Cherokee Trail, which also got a 34-yard field goal from Ryan Winke in the closing seconds of the first half.

Sean Watkins returned a blocked punt for a touchdown and set up Adan Soto’s 1-yard touchdown with a blocked punt of his own for Eaglecrest, which had a crucial turnover in the red zone late in the third quarter while looking to add to the lead when Cherokee Trail’s Cameron Currington intercepted a tipped pass from Soto.

The Raptors looked like they might turn in their third upset of the playoffs — following wins over No. 11 Chatfield and No. 6 Chaparral — until the Cougars’ go-ahead drive, a 17-play drive that went 90 yards in 7:39. Eaglecrest’s last drive reached the Cherokee Trail 27 yard-line, but successive penalties moved the Raptors back 20 yards and Soto’s Hail Mary pass intended for Watkins was intercepted by Evan White.

The Cougars ran out the clock with help of a penalty.

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

(3) CHEROKEE TRAIL 17, (22) EAGLECREST 14

Score by quarters:

Cherokee Trail  7  3  0  7 — 17

Eaglecrest          7  7  0  0 — 14

SCORING

First quarter

Cherokee Trail — Brandon Barry 61 yard pass from Aric Johnson (Ryan Winke kick), 6:42; Eaglecrest — Sean Watkins 20 yard blocked punt return (Daniel Silva kick), 21.9

Second quarter

Eaglecrest — Adan Soto 1 yard run (Silva kick), 5:37; Cherokee Trail — Winke 34 yard field goal, 28.5

Fourth quarter

Cherokee Trail — Johnson 3 yard run (Winke kick) 5:44

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[…] Football: Fourth quarter touchdown lifts Cherokee Trail over Eaglecrest into 5A semifinals – AURORA | The Cherokee Trail football team is once again on the doorstep of Sports Authority Field at Mile High. For the third time in the past six seasons — now twice in Class 5A and once in 4A — the Cougars are a victory away from playing in the … […]