AURORA | With a fairly light workload during the regular season, Ben Marshall is fresh and ready to run.
Many football teams would be sunk if their star running back went down after just one series of a Class 5A state quarterfinal game, but Grandview merely turned to Marshall — and Austin Quarles — when Chukwuma Obinnah exited Saturday’s contest against Fountain-Fort Carson with an injury.
On a frigid, snowy day at Legacy Stadium when running the football was the only way to go, Marshall carried the ball 20 times — after just 65 carries in the previous 11 games — and racked up 145 yards and a touchdown and Quarles ran for 57 yards and a score as top-seeded Grandview prevailed 28-7 to win Quadrant 1.
“I don’t get that many carries in the games, so I stay pretty healthy, but it’s always good to get the ball,” said Marshall, who turned in his highest rushing total since going for 245 yards on Sept. 19, 2013. “I’m always ready to step up and do whatever I can for my team when they call my number. It was one of those games where you just keep running the ball until something breaks.”
Senior quarterback Cody Summers rushed for a touchdown as well and threw one to tight end Morgan Smith as coach John Schultz’s Grandview team moved to 12-0 and advanced to the 5A semifinals for the first time since 2011. The Wolves lost in the quarterfinals in each of the past two seasons, including a heartbreaker to ThunderRidge in 2013.
In the fifth semifinal appearance in program history, Grandview plays host to Valor Christian — the winner of Quadrant 2 — at 1 p.m. Nov. 22 at Legacy Stadium for the chance to play in the Nov. 29 5A state title game at Sports Authority Field at Mile High.
A third Centennial League team, Cherry Creek — winner of Quadrant 4 — plays Quadrant 4 winner Ralston Valley in the other semifinal.
Schultz was pleased with how his offensive line played against the massive defensive front of Fountain-Fort Carson (9-3) and how Marshall and Quarles performed in place of Obinnah, who had 1,491 yards and 20 touchdowns coming into the game, but left after two carries against the Trojans with a hip injury.
“We knew going this was a basic kind of game; it was a 7-iron kind of game, you have to play the golf course with one club,” Schultz said. “The offensive line did a great job and Ben and Austin did a great job carrying the ball today. Every running back wants the ball and they want it as much as No. 7 (Obinnah) does. They’ve seized their opportunity.”
Grandview had to come from behind in this one, however, as Fountain-Fort Carson drew first blood on a stunning 91-yard touchdown run from workhorse running back Drue Harris.
Pinned inside the 10-yard line, Harris broke through the line and beat a host of pursuers up the left sideline to the end zone.
Grandview’s defense picked it up from there and bottled up Harris — who gained just seven more yards on nine carries — and made things uncomfortable all game long for Trojans’ quarterback Stock Chinault, who passed for just 112 yards.
“That was a wake up call after a mental letdown,” Schultz said of the opening touchdown. “We saw film of Fountain-Fort Carson five or six times and we knew they were a very resilient team. They weren’t going to quit and they have a bunch of running backs. I’m proud of our kids, we tackled well. In weather like this, it comes down to who runs and tackles and blocks better and we did.”
The Wolves didn’t trail for long, as they took advantage of good field position on a three-play scoring drive just before the end of the first quarter. After a 25-yard run by Marshall, Smith tipped a pass from Summers in the end zone before hauling it in for a touchdown.
Marshall capped a 52-yard drive with a five-yard score with just 1:07 left in the first half to send Grandview into the lockerroom with a 14-7 lead.
The Wolves piled on 14 more points in the third quarter, with Summers bulling into the end zone on a fourth-and-goal from the 1 and Quarles scoring from 2 yards out after a Nick Meyer fumble recovery set Grandview up at the Trojans’ 13.
A holding call negated a Fountain-Fort Carson touchdown in the fourth quarter and the Wolves got three sacks in four plays to for a turnover on downs that essentially ended the game.
Now, Grandview can turn its attention to a rematch with Valor Christian, which it beat 24-21 in the final week of the regular season to sew up the Centennial League championship. The defending 5A state champion Eagles have won three playoff games after a two-game losing streak and remain undefeated in 25 postseason contests in program history.
“It’s whoever gets better this week,” Wolves senior Keifer Glau said. “It’s been Valor for the past five years, but it’s time to shut them down.”
Note: Obinnah believed he would be able to play in the semifinal contest. …Grandview is 1-3 in its previous two semifinal appearances, with a victory over Bear Creek in 2007 — the season the Wolves went on to win the state championship — plus losses to Douglas County in 2005, Mullen in 2010 and Columbine in 2011.
Courtney Oakes is Sports Editor of the Aurora Sentinel. Reach him at 303-750-7555 or email@example.com. Twitter: @aurorasports. FB: Aurora Prep Sentinel
(1) GRANDVIEW 28, (3) FOUNTAIN-FORT CARSON 7
Score by quarters:
Ftn.-Fort Carson 7 0 0 0 — 7
Grandview 7 7 14 0 — 28
Fountain-Fort Carson — Drue Harris 91 yard run (Eric Rivera kick), 7:22
Grandview — Morgan Smith 9 yard pass from Cody Summers (Aiden Pirrin kick), 1:12
Grandview — Ben Marshall 5 yard run (Pirrin kick), 1:07
Grandview — Summers 1 yard run (Pirrin kick), 2:40
Grandview — Austin Quarles 2 yard run (Pirrin kick), 1:54
Fountain-Fort Carson: Drue Harris 10-98, Charles Tigner 5-16, Demario Leonard 4-10, Stock Chenault 11-10, Tevin Donnell 4-6
Grandview: Ben Marshall 20-145, Austin Quarles 16-57, DeAndre Shorts 2-8, Cody Summers 7-4, Chukwuma Obinnah 2-3
Fountain-Fort Carson: Chenault 5-13, 112 yards
Grandview: Summers 2-8, 22 yards, 1 touchdown
Fountain-Fort Carson: D’Jimon O’Neil 2-83, Donnell 1-17, Anthony Schmidt 1-10, Harris 1-2
Grandview: Morgan Smith 2-22