Trailing Valor Christian by just three points, the Grandview football team appeared to where it needed to be at halftime of its Class 5A state playoff quarterfinal contest Nov. 18.
By the end of the third quarter, however, the Wolves found themselves perplexed at how they were down by 31 points to their former Centennial League rivals and with the end of their season in sight.
Third-seeded Valor Christian scored 35 straight points in the second half and went on for a 66-35 victory over sixth-seeded Grandview at Eagles Stadium to move into the state semifinals for the fifth time in five seasons since it moved to the 5A classification. The Eagles travel to Stutler Bowl at 1 p.m. Nov. 26 to play seventh-seeded Cherry Creek, which upset No. 2 Mullen 34-17.
Coach John Schultz’s Grandview team came into the game looking to even its all-time record against Valor Christian at 3-3 and managed to put up 30 or more points for the seventh straight game thanks to an 148-yard, three-touchdown performance from senior running back Hayden Blubaugh, but saw its season come to an end at 10-2.
The Wolves had been in the hunt for their fourth semifinal appearance in seven seasons.
Junior linebacker Luke LaFlam put the Wolves on the scoreboard with a fumble return for a touchdown and junior Tanner Gentry caught a 65-yard touchdown pass from junior backup quarterback Kyle Smith (who came on for injured starter Gunnar Lamphere) in the first half.
Blubaugh scored twice in the second quarter as Grandview matched Valor Christian blow for blow and he sent the game into halftime with the Wolves behind just 31-28 after a 64-yard touchdown run in the final minute.
The Wolves continued with momentum to open the second half by pushing deep into Eagles territory, but were then waylaid by a series of eye-raising penalties tha perplexed the Grandview faithful. It pushed the Wolves well back into their own end and forced them to punt.
Valor Christian sensed the shift and struck immediately on a 35-yard touchdown pass from Dylan McCaffrey to Ryan Thibault to push its lead to 10 points. The game snowballed from there.
The Eagles hit a few more big plays in the third quarter against a Grandview team trying to dig in against the momentum and the quarter ended with the Wolves facing a 59-28 deficit. Blubaugh’s fourth-quarter touchdown capped the scoring.
It was a very disappointing end to a season in which Schultz had what he called one of the top one or two offensive units he’d ever had at Grandview, vying with the 2007 squad (the team that won the program’s long state championship) for the best.
That season, the Wolves averaged 33.6 points per game and had a dominating running game behind Bo Bolen, who racked up 2,262 yards and 29 touchdowns. Those numbers were approximated this season by Blubaugh, who finished as the state’s leading rusher with 1,911 yards and the most points in the state thanks to 30 touchdowns.
Grandview’s defense yielded 15.9 points per game in its championship season and this season’s unit allowed 21 per contest, though the 66 (maybe the most points ever scored against the Wolves) by Valor Christian and the 49 ceded in a 50-49 victory at Murrieta, Calif., inflated the average.
The Wolves return a significant number of players on the defense — including its top six leading tacklers in Thomas Jenkins, LaFlam, Jordan Knapke, Darius Tucker, Kevin Clark and Julius Carter Jr. — while the offense will see significantly more changes.
Blubaugh will be tough to replace after rushing for a stunning 4,297 yards (186.8 per contest) and 51 touchdowns over the past two seasons, while Lamphere’s experience and versatility under center will also be missed.
A veteran offensive line losses several key pieces including Robert Moss, Kohltin Lund and Alex Schultz, who missed most of the season with an injury. Gentry — who caught 46 passes for 823 yards and 10 touchdowns — should be a key piece in 2017.
Courtney Oakes is Aurora Sentinel Sports Editor. Reach him at 303-750-7555 or [email protected] Twitter: @aurorasports. FB: Aurora Prep Sentinel
(3) VALOR CHRISTIAN 66, (6) GRANDVIEW 35
Score by quarters:
Grandview 14 14 0 7 — 35
Valor Christian 17 14 28 7 — 66
Valor Christian — Luke McCaffrey 70 yard pass from Dylan McCaffrey (Brian Brogan kick), 11:37
Grandview — Luke LaFlam 48 yard fumble return touchdown (Ben Montgomery kick), 7:56
Valor Christian — Easton Cecil run (Brogan kick), 5:41
Grandview — Gunner Gentry 65 yard pass from Kyle Smith (Montgomery kick), 4:44
Valor Christian — Brogan 35 yard field goal, 2:06
Grandview — Hayden Blubaugh 3 yard run (Montgomery kick), 7:53
Valor Christian — Cecil 14 yard run (Brogan kick), 4:54
Valor Christian — Ryan Thibault 33 yard pass from Dylan McCaffrey (Brogan kick), 4:47
Grandview — Blubaugh 64 yard run (Montgomery kick), 0:32
Valor Christian — Thibault 35 yard pass from Dylan McCaffrey (Brogan kick), 9:28
Valor Christian — Josiah Davis 29 yard run (Brogan kick), 6:30
Valor Christian — Dylan McCaffrey 51 yard run (Brogan kick), 1:23
Valor Christian — Davis 6 yard run (Brogan kick), 0:22
Valor Christian — Jadin Watson 30 yard run (Brogan kick), 5:23
Grandview — Blubaugh 37 yard run (Montgomery kick), 3:26
Grandview: Hayden Blubaugh 16-148, Micah Chavez 5-20, Gunnar Lamphere 4-15, Aaron Harris 2-11, Kyle Smith 8-3, Robert Woods 2-2
Valor Christian: Dylan McCaffrey 6-98, Joshia Davis 13-80, Easton Cecil 5-42, Jadin Watson 2-31, Christian Elliss 1-25, Blake Stenstrom 1-3
Grandview: Smith 9-15, 148 yards, 1 touchdown, 1 interception; Lamphere 3-4, 20 yards
Valor Christian: Dylan McCaffrey 13-16, 238 yards, 3 touchdowns; Stenstrom 2-2, 38 yards
Grandview: Gunner Gentry 4-96, Chavez 1-38, Amaris Duggan 3-19, Blubaugh 3-15
Valor Christian: Luke McCaffrey 6-130, Ryan Thibault 4-98, Ben Anderson 2-22, Curtis Chiaverini 1-10, Jack Walley 1-10, Elliss 1-6