LAKEWOOD — There is no question that junior running back Bernard McDondle and senior quarterback Michael Burns make Columbine’s offense go behind a proficient offensive line. But it was Columbine’s defense that set the table for the Rebels in the first round of the 5A state playoffs on Nov. 2.
Columbine forced four turnovers — scoring 18 points off the first three of those miscues — en route to a 37-20 victory over 23rd-seeded Grand Junction at Jeffco Stadium. The win sends the 10th-seeded Rebels (7-3) into the second round against No. 7 Pomona, a 42-21 winner over Mountain Vista. Game time is set for 2:30 p.m. on Nov. 10 at Arvada’s North Area Athletic Complex.
“I thought we did a great job. We were definitely smash-mouth. We played smash-mouth,” said senior defensive back Daniel Schmidt, who recovered the second of three Grand Junction fumbles. The turnover turned into a 23-yard Billy Ramsey field goal. “I’m really excited looking forward. As long as we’re tough like we (were) today we’ll go really far.”
The Columbine-Grand Junction match-up was an interesting one considering the team’s were pegged as the top two in the state entering the 2011 5A playoffs. That showdown never materialized, however, after the Tigers were upended in the quarterfinals by eventual state runner-up Lakewood. And though Grand Junction, which never led, pulled within 23-20 early in the fourth quarter on the second of two TD runs by quarterback Tyler Heinsma, Columbine maintained control throughout by winning the turnover battle.
“Turnovers are a big thing. When we get that it feeds us. It gives us more motivation,” said McDondle, who finished with 204 yards rushing and three touchdowns of 5, 69 and 31 yards.
Grand Junction’s Austin Lewis gutted the Rebels’ defense for 213 yards rushing. But the Tigers’ offense shot itself in the foot more than just with the turnovers.
Grand Junction (6-4) trailed 10-0 early in the second quarter when Theron Verna, who later rushed for the Tigers’ first touchdown, was stuffed on 4th-and-1 at the Columbine 10. Then to end the first half, Grand Junction’s Ridge Droskin had his 25-yard field goal attempt blocked. The play was inadvertently blown dead by game officials as Columbine was returning the loose ball for another score. But, thankfully for the Rebels, they wouldn’t need the points in the long run. Columbine’s other two touchdowns came on scampers of 54 and 16 yards by Burns.