AURORA | The past month has been extremely stressful on the health of Grandview football coach Tom Doherty and those around him, but he wouldn’t have it any other way.
Of course, he would like to have some lopsided decision in his team’s favor, but Doherty’s group has a growing comfort in close games, which is a definite positive as they go deeper in the Class 5A state playoffs.
Three of the last four games Grandview has played in have been decided by seven points or fewer and the one that wasn’t — a 45-22 loss to top-seeded Cherry Creek — was a close game in the early stages of the fourth quarter. The 11th-seeded Wolves are 2-2 in those contests, but they’ve won the last two, a 28-21 victory over No. 22 Douglas County in the first round and a dramatic 25-23 road win at No. 6 Regis Jesuit in the second round.
“We’re becoming the cardiac kids, I guess,” Doherty said. “I think we’ve had some big wins and we’ll see how that helps us down the stretch. Do we draw on those moments in other critical situations and does it give us confidence? I think they did.”
The best surprise Doherty and his team got was that it would get a home game in the quarterfinals, as 14th-seeded Chatfield knocked out the other single-digit seed in that quadrant of the 5A bracket with a 28-21 overtime defeat of No. 3 Arapahoe.
That puts the Wolves back at Legacy Stadium, which should at least give them some sort of comfort as they try to reach the semifinals for the second time in the past three seasons.
“It’s a shorter bus ride, but in the end, it doesn’t really matter,” Doherty said. “It makes it easier for the community, but we still have to play a really, really good team.”
Indeed, Grandview is understandably wary of a Chatfield team that has a 7-5 record, but that includes three early games that it had to forfeit after the fact due to the use of an ineligible player.
Since then, the Chargers have won seven of the nine games they’ve played and they’ve defeated two Centennial League programs in a row in the postseason in No. 19 Cherokee Trail (42-7 in the first round) and No. 3 Arapahoe.
Both of those teams were able to defeat Grandview in league play, so Doherty knows what his team is in for.
“They’ve been in some battles, so they are really tested, just like we are,” he said. “By this point in the playoffs, the lucky teams have been phased out and there are only really good teams left. They are right up there. They have a really good quarterback (senior Jake Jones), a really good offensive line and a great back end on defense. They are sound, well-coached and we really don’t know much about them, even though we scrimmaged them over the summer.”
Indeed Jones has been a major cause for concern for opponents and he has accounted for seven touchdowns in two postseason games, the same as Grandview senior quarterback Liam Szarka. Jones engineered Chatfield’s upset of Arapahoe, while Szarka’s touchdown pass to junior Donavan Vernon in the closing seconds of regulation pushed Grandview past Regis Jesuit.
— A capsule preview of the Chatfield vs. Grandview game, here
Courtney Oakes is Aurora Sentinel Sports Editor. Reach him at email@example.com. Twitter/X: @aurorasports. IG: Sentinel Prep Sports