GOLDEN | Some bad breaks and a pretty good opponent brought an end to the Eaglecrest football team’s memorable season Friday night.
The Raptors virtually gift-wrapped 21 points to an undefeated Ralston Valley team that didn’t need much help in a 42-14 Class 5A state quarterfinal victory on the North Area Athletic Complex’s version of the frozen tundra.
Eaglecrest allowed defensive touchdowns via fumble and interception returns to bookend the first half and a bad snap on a punt in the third quarter set up another score fit for the Mustangs, who advanced to a semifinal matchup against a Columbine team that ousted 2018 state champion Valor Christian.
“Ralston Valley is a good football team; we knew that coming in, but they’ve got some great athletes and they are well-coached,” said Eaglecrest coach Shawn Marsh, who guided the Raptors to a 9-4 record — including playoff wins over Legacy and Grandview — in his first season at the helm.
“We came out and they played what we thought they were going to play, but they outmanned us in a few positions. Somebody has to lose and they are a great team.”
Senior quarterback Max Marsh scored on a keeper and senior David Creal had the other touchdown for the Raptors, who appeared in the quarterfinals for the fourth straight season under three different head coaches.
With the footing uncertain on the frozen ground field recently clear of snow from an overnight storm, neither team found much success offensively in the early going. Ralston Valley (12-0) got on the scoreboard when defensive back Zach Friedman scooped up a bad exchange on a handoff and took it back to the end zone.
The Raptors fell into a 21-0 hole, but seemingly got back into it with a drive that culminated in an 8-yard keeper for a touchdown by Marsh to make it a 21-7 game. The score followed a big gain on a catch by junior Ty Robinson.
A roughing penalty on Ralston Valley gave Eaglecrest room to try an onside kick, which they recovered, but junior Langston Williams was deemed to have touched it a yard before it went the mandatory 10 to become a live ball.
The Mustangs converted that drive into a touchdown on a pass from Brickell that found JJ Galbreath, who kept his feet after the catch and scored with 37.2 seconds left in the half.
Pushing to cut into the deficit before halftime backfired on Eaglecrest, as Marsh’s pass got intercepted by Galbreath — who bobbled it after it hit him in the chest — who took it back to the end zone with less than a second left on the clock to send Ralston Valley into halftime with a commanding 35-7 lead.
In a largely quiet second half, Robinson and senior Elijah Hurd had interceptions of Brickell to thwart Mustangs drives.
In the first minute of the fourth quarter, Eaglecrest chose to rekick on a punt after a 5-yard running into the kicker penalty. The snap to the punter went awry and was downed at the Raptors’ 5 yard-line, leading to a Mustangs touchdown from Chase Wilson (his second of the game) on the next play.
Eaglecrest’s ensuing possession concluded in the end zone — despite a 3-and-34 situation at one point — as Marsh hooked up with Robinson on passes of 21 and 49 yards to get to the end zone, then kept it twice to get it to the two before Creal punched it in.
“Max (Marsh) said earlier this year that he had never won a playoff game before,” University of Michigan-bound lineman Reece Atteberry said after the last game of his fourth varsity season.
“Now he’s got two under belt, but I was blessed because I never got knocked out before the quarterfinals,” he added. “It’s an expectation here. Coach Marsh has things going the right way and it’s going to carry on.”
Courtney Oakes is Sentinel Colorado Sports Editor. Reach him at 303-750-7555 or email@example.com. Twitter: @aurorasports. IG: Sentinel Prep Sports
(2) RALSTON VALLEY 42, (10) EAGLECREST 14
Score by quarters:
Eaglecrest 0 7 7 0 — 14
Ralston Valley 7 28 7 0 — 42
Columbine — Zach Friedman 50 yard fumble return (Tyler Faircloth kick), 6:24
Columbine — Chase Wilson 8 yard run (Faircloth kick), 11:21
Columbine — Devin McNearny 59 yard pass from Walker Brickell (Faircloth kick), 3:12
Eaglecrest — Max Marsh 8 yard run (Coby May kick), 1:53
Columbine — JJ Galbreath 30 yard pass from Brickell (Faircloth kick), 37.2
Columbine — Galbreath 50 yard interception return (Faircloth kick), 0.6
Columbine — Wilson 5 yard run (Faircloth kick), 11:43
Eaglecrest — David Creal 2 yard run (May kick), 7:13