Big plays, defense lead to Rams’ undoing
Aspen Times Staff Writer
Until the final snap of the first half Saturday in Carbondale, it seemed that whoever made fewer mistakes in the Class 2A state semifinal game between Roaring Fork and Denver Christian would advance to the state championship.
But when Denver Christian quarterback Kenny Katte connected with Adam Hanna for a 32-yard touchdown pass with 10 seconds remaining in the half, it was obvious the game would be decided by a big play.
After all, that was all Denver Christian needed as they shutout the Rams 28-0.
The Crusaders stuck to the ground for most of the game, amassing 164 rushing yards, but it was the sudden deep ball that killed the Rams defense in the end.
And on the first play of the fourth quarter, Katte hit Jacob Vriesman deep down the sidelines for a 65-yard touchdown to go up 14-0.
“We do like to do that,” said Crusaders head coach Mark Swalley, about setting up the pass with the run.
“A couple big plays broke it open.”
Big plays aside, it was the Crusaders defense that stole the show. Denver Christian has not allowed an opponent to score more than eight points all season. On Saturday, they shut down Roaring Fork’s typically prolific offense, holding them to 82 total yards of offense, and 20 yards rushing on 27 attempts.
“I think we tried everything,” said Rams head coach Tory Jensen. “They had an answer for everything ” we couldn’t get anything going.”
Tough defense and sloppy mistakes characterized the first half, as both teams fumbled twice and turned it over once. Passes bounced off fingertips, including a sure interception that the Rams’ Max Green dropped inside the Roaring Fork 10 yard line. And penalties changed the momentum.
In the first quarter, a clipping penalty nullified an 80-yard touchdown reception by Crusaders tight end Luke Denooy. Later, with 24 seconds left in the first half, Roaring Fork was called for pass interference, giving the Crusaders the ball at the Rams 27 yard line, setting up Katte’s touchdown pass to Hanna.
While Hanna’s touchdown, a diving catch in the back of the end zone, threatened to take all of the steam out of Roaring Fork as they headed into the break, the Rams roared back in the third quarter, keeping the Crusaders off the scoreboard in a tight contest.
But Vriesman’s touchdown in the fourth quarter silenced the packed Roaring Fork stands ” about 1,200 people ” and smothered the Rams spirits. When Crusader defensive end Dillon Peters intercepted Roaring Fork quarterback Aaron Markham and returned it 12 yards for a touchdown, the Rams were nearly done with football.
On the ensuing kickoff, the Rams off-season training ” rugby ” came out in full force, as they lateralled the ball from player-to-player (think Stanford-Cal’s legendary 1982 finish) on the return and following drive.
“That was kind of funny,” Jensen said.
Eventually, the excessive lateralling backfired, as the Rams turned the ball over and the Crusaders capitalized on their final drive with G.J. Henry’s 1-yard touchdown run.
And all joking aside, Jensen was disheartened by the loss.
“They worked so hard to get this point,” he said. “It’s unfortunate it had to go out this way.”
Collected in the middle of the field at the end of the game, Jensen addressed his teary-eyed players, telling them how proud he was and to never forget what they accomplished.
“Take what you’ve learned this year,” he told them, “take it on into your lives.”
Denver Christian will face Eaton of eastern Colorado for the Class 2A state title on Saturday.
Swalley expects a tough game.
“They’re just so big and strong,” he said. “Eastern Plains kids scare me to death.”
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After falling through a trapdoor in his Telluride home a couple of weeks ago, Chris Busbee wasn’t sure if he’d be able to keep his streak going. He had run in every New York City Marathon since 1998 and was going to run it virtually this year in Aspen before his spill put all that in jeopardy.