AURORA | On the frozen tundra of Legacy Stadium, the Grandview and Eaglecrest football teams wrote another memorable chapter in a rivalry that gets better with age.
The fifth-seeded Wolves and fourth-seeded Raptors pushed, pulled, slipped and slid their way through a quarterfinal contest in the Class 5A state playoffs — their first postseason meeting — until only one Aurora team remained standing.
It turned out to be Grandview, which scored 13 unanswered points in the fourth quarter on a pair of touchdowns by senior Jordan Billingsley and held on for a 26-22 victory.
“The toughness on both teams was outstanding and both teams fought great under the adverse conditions,” said Grandview coach John Schultz, whose team snapped a three-game losing streak to Eaglecrest.
“This one was a bit opposite of the first one but our kids fought through it,” he added. “Every Eaglecrest game seems to come down to the wire and that’s because of the great tradition we both have going on here.”
The Wolves’ tradition of postseason success continues as they earned a spot in the semifinals for a second straight season.
Grandview (11-1) will play host to top-seeded Valor Christian (12-0) — which it knocked off in last season’s quarterfinals — at 1 p.m. Nov. 24 with a chance to return to the state title game for the first time since the program’s only state championship back in 2007.
To do so, the Wolves had to erase the memory of a 36-35 loss to Eaglecrest (10-2) on the same field six weeks earlier.
In that contest, Grandview got up three scores in the second half, then watched senior quarterback Dylan James and the Raptors come all the way back to go ahead in the final seconds.
This time, it was James and coach Garrett Looney’s Eaglecrest team that earned a two-score advantage going into the final period.
On the Raptors’ first play from scrimmage, James broke lose for an 84-yard touchdown — which countered Billingsley’s short score less than a minute into the game — then senior Isaiah Emechecta scored a pair of touchdowns, including his second with 33 seconds left in the third quarter for a 22-13 edge.
That’s when Grandview had to dig in.
“I think they took up the entire third quarter running the ball, but you just have to fight every down on the field, no matter what it is and where you are at,” Wolves senior defensive lineman Hayden Isenhart said.
Grandview fought plenty in the fourth quarter, which opened when sophomore quarterback Jacob Burr hit a wide-open Billingsley with a 22-yard touchdown pass to cut the deficit to two.
Looking to milk the clock and put the game away, a holding call marched Eaglecrest back on the opening play of the drive and the Raptors were forced to punt it away.
In a game in which passing was almost non-existent in the conditions, Grandview needed the biggest completion of the game from Burr to keep the drive going. Burr found senior wide receiver Dayne Prim across the middle for a gain down to the 2-yard line and Billingsley squirted through a hole on the right side of the line for the go-ahead touchdown.
“I knew it was going to be there and I got great blocking up front, so I have to give credit to my teammates,” Billingsley said.
Then it was up to a Wolves defense still haunted by the three-score lead it surrendered in the previous meeting between the teams and across from a desperate and explosive offensive unit.
“We came out with as much fire as we played with the entire year,” senior linebacker Jack Rogers said. “We weren’t going to be beaten like that again.”
Indeed Grandview was equal to the task, as senior Trevor Greenlee came up with an interception to blunt one drive and the Wolves forced a turnover on downs with just over a minute left in the game to seal it.
The Raptors — whose challenges from the start of the season are well documented — fell short of their goal of making it back to the semifinals for a shot at a second straight final.
“The only time we had doubt was when they were taking the knee (at the end),” Eaglecrest junior lineman Reece Atteberry said. “We trusted each other and we worked so hard all year. We overcame so many things, it never seemed like we could get our stride or catch a break. But we loved each other and trusted each other all the way, that’s for sure.”
Grandview now takes the mantle as Aurora’s last representative in the hunt for the state championship and is one of the precious few —No. 1 Valor Christian, No. 2 Columbine and No. 3 Cherry Creek are the others — that get to practice for real on Thanksgiving Day.
“It will be another great game, they have a new coaching staff over there (former Broncos great Ed McCaffrey) and it’ll be another game just like this,” Isenhart said. “A battle the entire time.”
Courtney Oakes is Sentinel Sports Editor. Reach him at 303-750-7555 or [email protected] Twitter: @aurorasports. FB: Sentinel Prep Sports
(5) GRANDVIEW 26, (4) EAGLECREST 22
Score by quarters:
Grandview 7 6 0 13 — 26
Eaglecrest 7 8 7 0 — 22
Grandview — Jordan Billingsley 7 yard run (Cobi Wood), 11:17
Eaglecrest — Dylan James 84 yard run (Taylor Gomez kick), 10:56
Eaglecrest — Isaiah Emecheta 1 yard run (Emecheta run), 6:03
Grandview — Noah Schmidt 5 yard run (pass failed), 1:07
Eaglecrest — Emecheta 1 yard run (Gomez kick), 33.9
Grandview — Billingsley 22 yard pass from Jacob Burr (Wood kick), 11:52
Grandview — Billingsley 2 yard run (pass failed), 6:21
Grandview: Jordan Billingsley 24-121, Noah Schmidt 7-50, Jordan Smith 1-10, Jacob Burr 6-9, Cade Bruckman 1-0
Grandview: Burr 4-8, 69 yards, 1 touchdown
Grandview: Dayne Prim 1-27, Billingsley 1-22, Bruckman 1-17, Smith 1-3