LAKEWOOD — Change is as awkward as it is rewarding.
Thankfully for the Columbine Rebels, no matter how many wrinkles they try to add to their offense, they always have their running game. And that was all the difference in the Rebels’ 41-20 Class 5A nonleague victory over Thomas Jefferson on Sept. 4 at Jefferson County Stadium.
In what was essentially the season-opener for people who didn’t see the Rebels’ Week One victory in Florida, Columbine flexed its usual muscle, gave hints of possible new strengths while reminding everyone that dumb penalties can trump tradition.
“We did some great things, and we did some things that drive us nuts,” said coach Andy Lowry.
First, the great:
The Rebels rushed for 315 yards against a fast Spartans defense, led by 150 yards from quarterback Danny Spond and 136 yards from fullback Kevin Richards.
Tyler Link converted all his extra-point attempts and split the uprights on field goals from 32 and 33 yards.
The defense forced five turnovers and allowed just 49 yards rushing prior to the Spartans last drive deep into garbage time.
“I think we did a good job tonight establishing our fullback, establishing our option,” Lowry said. “I think our defense played really good.”
And the not-so-great:
The burgeoning passing game was erratic until late in the third quarter. Spond was intercepted on his second attempt and began the game 1-for-9 for 0 yards. Passes were off and receivers dropped balls.
The Rebels committed 13 penalties – six in the third quarter.
The Rebels had the ball five times in the second quarter. Their worst starting position was the Spartans’ 47 and they managed a so-so 20 points.
Yards and carries from the running back position were sparse.
Backup quarterback Phillip Romero left the game with an apparent knee injury.
“The offense had a little bit of trouble moving the ball, but once we got hunkered down and we started moving it we started playing as brothers and as a team,” said James Cunningham, who recovered two fumbles.
After their opening drive sputtered, the Rebels came back with a big dose of Richards to grind the Spartans down. The drive went 98 yards and was capped by Spond’s 56-yard run around the left side that completely fooled the visitors.
“We tried to get out of that a little bit, tried to show them some new stuff we’re trying to do, but our bread and butter has always been up the middle,” said Spond, who finished with two touchdowns on the ground and threw for two more.
Link hit both field goals in the second quarter and Richards scored on a 2-yard run as Columbine led 27-0 at halftime.
The Spartans made things interesting with two quick touchdowns from Ben Sprague. Sprague got behind the Rebels’ secondary for a 77-yard touchdown pass and took the ball from Spond and went 26 yards to the end zone on the next drive.
The Rebels answered with touchdown passes to Nathan Wiggins and Jonathan Roberts to go up 41-13 in the third quarter.
Columbine opens up Big 8 League play Sept. 12 at Regis.
Th. Jefferson 0-0-13-7—20
C – Danny Spond 56 run (Tyler Link kick). C – FG Link 32. C – Kevin Richards 2 run (Link kick). C – Spond 1 run (Link kick). C – FG Link 33. TJ – Sprague 77 pass from Baskerville (Moore kick). TJ – Sprague 26 fumble recovery (kick failed). C – Nathan Wiggins 27 pass from Spond (Link kick). C – Jonathan Roberts 16 pass from Spond (Link kick). TJ – Lowe 27 pass from Baskerville (Moore kick).