Injury-riddled Chargers persevere, down Lobos

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By Craig Harper
For the Courier
LAKEWOOD — After losing senior starting offensive tackle Denis Tsimbalist on the day of Chatfield’s first 5A football playoff game, head coach Bret McGatlin reminded his team about the 2010 Green Bay Packers, who won that season’s Super Bowl as the No. 6 seed in the NFC and with 16 players on injured reserve.
He also mentioned to them the fact the Chargers had not won a postseason game since 2008, going 0-3 in the ensuing four-year stretch, including last year’s 29-7 loss to Eaglecrest.
Messages received.
Chatfield, the No. 9 seed, rode fast starts in each half for a 35-12 first-round win over No. 24 seed Rocky Mountain on Oct. 31 at Jeffco Stadium. The Chargers (8-2) advanced to play eighth-seeded Pomona (8-2), a 49-30 winner over Fountain-Fort Carson in the first first round. The game is Nov. 8 at 7 p.m. at the North Area Athletic Complex in Arvada.
Tsimbalist, a 6-foot-5, 220-pound right tackle who suffered a torn ACL and MCL in an automobile accident earlier in the day, supplied inspiration and received a hearty ovation from his teammates as he hobbled on crutches to the post-game huddle.
“We’ve taken the injury bug,” said McGatlin, whose team also had lost big-play receiving threat Jahrel Olson to a knee injury. “This is a good group of kids. They’ve come together. We’ve lost some huge kids for us.”
Parts of the game were vintage Chatfield. The Chargers covered 80 yards in 10 plays, taking just 1 minute, 57 seconds to score after the opening kickoff. Then they struck again for 90 yards on three plays for a 14-0 lead with 6:25 left in the first quarter. Up 21-6 at halftime, Chatfield scored on its first two possessions of the third quarter for a 35-6 lead.
But, said running back Michael Callahan-Harris, who scored the first two touchdowns and added the second one of the second half, “We actually didn’t do as well as we usually do. We lost our right tackle and it kind of hurt us. We weren’t ready for that, but we pulled through.’’
McGatlin agreed, noting Chatfield’s rapid-fire offense fizzled somewhat after the fast starts in each half. “Sometimes (our style) helps, sometimes it hurts.’’
Callahan-Harris rushed for 181 yards, topping 100 yards for the fifth straight game and giving him 1,121 for the season. Quarterback Kyle Winkler was 19-of-26 for 254 yards passing, including a 22-yard catch-and-run by Brandon Zanier for his 12th TD reception this season. Zanier had six catches for 126 yards, his third game with over 100 yards receiving.
The Chargers defense did its part as well, holding Rocky Mountain (5-5) to 97 yards in the first half (217 total). The Lobos had one long scoring drive in the first half and got their other touchdown after taking over at the Chatfield 34-yard line following a blocked punt and Chargers face-mask penalty.
But Zanier and his teammates were more impressed by participating in Chatfield’s first playoff win since 2008.
“It feels great, getting past the first round,’’ Zanier said. “Last year, we should’ve definitely got past the first round but we just choked. We brought it today.’’