LAKEWOOD — One of the most overused phrases in sports just happens to fit the Columbine Rebels to a T.
It’s playoff time. And that means it’s a whole new season.
For a team that began the season ranked No. 2 in Class 5A, only to get upset by arch rival Chatfield and then lose standout do-everything senior Danny Spond (concussion) amidst a meltdown to secondary rival Bear Creek, the Rebels are hoping to forget the past and salvage something this week.
Losing 35-7 to Pomona on Halloween only made the Rebels all the more eager to scrub away a hard-luck 6-3 record and concentrate on the 0-0 fresh start the playoffs bring.
“It’s definitely weird,” running back Demetrius McDondle said of the new-look Rebels, who are 1-1 without Spond under center, in the secondary, kicking and punting. “No one is going to ever replace Danny Spond.”
Seeded favorably at No. 10 in the final 32-team playoff bracket, the Rebels will host their preliminary-round game against the 23rd-seeded George Washington Patriots (5-4) at 4 p.m. on Nov. 6 at Jeffco Stadium.
Even with Spond on Oct. 31, the regular-season finale against a tough Pomona team might have had a similar end result.
McDondle, junior quarterback Aaron Torres and slot back Phillip Romero saw little daylight and few openings as the Panthers (8-1) dominated the line of scrimmage.
Had it not been for a standout effort from the Columbine defense, the Rebels should have been blown out by halftime. Yet, despite running 13 plays for a total of 20 yards and picking up zero first downs, the Rebels went into halftime trailing just 7-0, and had the benefit of receiving the ball to start the third quarter.
“Our defense played hard,” coach Andy Lowry said. “They just had to play too much.”
Two costly turnovers eventually broke the back of the defense.
A bad snap gave Pomona the ball on the Columbine 12 three plays into the second half. The Panthers redeemed the gift card for a touchdown two plays later to go up 14-0.
The Rebels finally found traction on the subsequent drive, and McDondle picked up their first first down with 8:02 left in the third quarter on a 35-yard run down the right sideline. The Rebels would march 80 yards for McDondle’s 2-yard touchdown plunge to cut the deficit to 14-7.
Said McDondle: “We knew it was going to be a physical game … We were definitely in it.”
The Rebels’ defense provided another key stop to hand the ball back to the offense on the Columbine 40.
Torres’ first play resulted in an interception, which Pomona converted into a touchdown one play later to go up 21-7 and seemingly break the Rebels’ resolve.
McDondle ran for a team-high 74 yards for the Rebels.