LAKEWOOD — Zane Norris.
Perhaps no one else on the current Columbine roster reflects why the Rebels have been the state’s elite football program over the past decade better than he.
After all, how many other teams can throw a linebacker into its starting backfield and have him rush for over 100 yards and score three touchdowns?
For Columbine, the shuffling of players has always been an Andy Lowry tradition, but this year it’s become a necessity.
Norris was a fresh face in the Rebel backfield Nov. 8 as No. 5 Columbine took on No. 12 Arvada West in a Class 5A state playoff second round game at Jefferson County Stadium. The 190-pound senior was thrust into the starting role when the team’s two starting backs were both hit with a suspension (six other Columbine players were also suspended for their involvement in a party where underage drinking was present) for violating team rules.
I’ll admit, before the game started, I had no idea who Zane Norris was.
Now, he might just very well be the best back Lowry and the Rebels have as they make a push for the school’s fifth state championship.
Norris toted the rock 29 times for 126 yards – including carrying the ball 13 plays in a 17-play, 80-yard textbook Columbine drive that ended with a Norris 1-yard touchdown run, giving the Rebels a comfortable 21-0 lead.
After the Rebel defense snuffed out an Arvada West drive, coming up with a crucial fumble recovery near their own goal line, Norris slammed the door shut on the Wildcats in the fourth quarter after hauling in an 11-yard pass from quarterback Danny Spond with 3 minutes, 29 seconds to play.
Speaking of Spond, the junior clearly makes the Rebels a much more dangerous team. Spond, who has missed three games this year (including last week’s playoff opener against Fruita Monument) due to a nagging shoulder injury, could be the difference-maker when Columbine gears up for its rematch with Pomona in the quarterfinals. Spond was injured in the first quarter of Columbine’s 21-6 loss to the Panthers on Oct. 24.
“We’ve had guys play more than they usually do, but they are all good football players,” Lowry said. “Take Zane; he hadn’t played fullback all year and I gave him the ball, I think, 14 times in a row on one drive. I said, ‘If you want the ball, I’ll give you the ball.’ Our kids did a great job with it.”
Upon initial glance, the injuries and suspensions may have left Columbine vulnerable, it’s now readily apparent that the setbacks have only made the Rebels stronger.
And, we all know what usually happens when the Columbine train gets rolling.