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Pine Creek downs Monarch 20-0 in 4A semifinal
Will face powerful Valor Christian in final next week at Mile High
Monarch hoarded the ball like an unruly Thanksgiving guest hogs the remote control.
But Pine Creek’s offense made the most of a rare chance to switch the channel, then the defense simply yanked the plug out of the wall.
Ryan Warner’s 24-yard touchdown pass to Riley Whitmore with 21 seconds left in the first half negated two quarters of clock-munching for No. 2 Monarch, and No. 3 Pine Creek used the momentum to post a 20-0 victory Saturday at District 20 Stadium. It secured the school’s first trip to the 4A football championship game next week at Sports Authority Field at Mile High.
“It was huge,” said Warner, who scored the game’s final touchdown on a 1-yard plunge in the fourth quarter. “We knew what their defense was doing, but their offense was running out the clock. So we knew we had to score. And we did.”
Take away that first touchdown and there’s no telling which of these teams would be lining up against No. 1 Valor Christian (13-0) next week. Of course, that could also be said of three defensive stops on fourth down that helped the Eagles (13-0) earn their third shutout in as many playoff games.
The defense stiffened on fourth down after Monarch (12-1) had driven 64 yards and taken out the final 9 minutes of the first quarter. Then it made another play after a 6-minute drive in the second quarter.
It was a demoralizing turn of events for the Coyotes, who knew they would eventually lose some steam without leading rusher Jared Meschke – lost to a knee injury in the quarterfinals.
The final stop was the biggest.
Monarch’s Geoff Clary intercepted a Warner pass on the second play of the fourth quarter and returned it to the Monarch 46. Still trailing by just a touchdown, the Coyotes were very much in the game.
After one Monarch first down, Pine Creek's defense again stiffened and gave the ball back to the offense after holding on a fourth and short.
“That’s their type of football is fourth and 2, third and 4 – that’s what they want,” Pine Creek coach Todd Miller said. “Our guys just stepped up and made plays.
“We had our fingernails dug into the wood and we were hanging on.”
A few plays later, Josh Beacham broke loose for a 45-yard touchdown that gave the Eagles breathing room.
“I felt a lot of people trying to tackle me, but nobody was wrapping up,” said Beacham, who ran for a game-high 145 yards on 21 carries. “So I just kept on trying to run my legs. Then I had an escort to the end zone with all my players. It felt great.”
The Pine Creek’s defense didn’t let up. The Coyotes gained just 79 of their 174 yards in the second half, even as they were trying to overcome a deficit. They didn’t complete a pass in the game.
“That’s not a come-from-behind offense,” said Miller, whose team has outscored its three playoff foes 96-0. “With the way they play, we thought two scores would be hard for them.”
The third score, Warner’s short keeper set up by a 37-yard run from JT Travis was the final blow and set off a raucous celebration.
Up next is the same Valor Christian team that eliminated Pine Creek in the quarterfinals with a 41-15 victory last year. The Bulldogs routed Castle View 54-7 in the other semifinal.
Game time is 11 a.m. Saturday on the home field of the Denver Broncos.
This is what Pine Creek has been gunning for, and it enjoyed the heck out it.
“It was the best day I’ve had so far, I’ll tell you that,” Beacham said. “But we’ve still got one more.”
In other words, stay tuned …