Rebels embrace underdog role

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By Dan Johnson

PARKER - The word underdog rarely has applied to the Columbine football program.

Usually, the Rebels are the big, bad wolf looking to blow down the houses of all the teams that stand in their way of a state championship.

That reputation has been well earned, thanks to more league titles than one can count and four state championships in the past 10 years.

This season, though, the Rebels have been anything but dominant. Columbine had to fight for four quarters to defeat Heritage – a good team but a Class 4A school. A few weeks later, the Rebels lost for the first time in eight years to arch-rival Chatfield on a last-second field goal.

Then came what will be known as “the injury.”

When quarterback Danny Spond went down in the Rebels’ game against Bear Creek (one they lost handily, 34-7), it was thought that Columbine’s state titles chances had gone up in smoke.

Just as we should never bet against 46-year-old Randy Couture when he steps inside the Ultimate Fighting Championship’s octagon, we should’ve known better than to write the Rebels off.

Andy Lowry, coach of the Rebels for more than a decade now, was not going to throw in the towel, and neither were his players, who came to embrace the newfound underdog title after the Spond injury.

On Nov. 14, 10th-seeded Columbine traveled to the newly-constructed Burt.com Stadium to take on No. 7 Chaparral in a Class 5A state playoff second round game. It was a contest most thought the Rebels be competitive in, but ultimately fall short.

After a half, the predictions appeared ready to come to fruition. Columbine had played tough in the first 24 minutes, but trailed 13-7.

Once the second half began, this rag-tag group of Rebels transformed into something their coach hadn’t seen from them in a long time – a confident football team.

The defense forced a pair of turnovers and three times stopped the Wolverines on downs. Offensively, Columbine’s simple-yet-effective running game began to find its footing and when the final gun sounded, Columbine celebrated like it had just won a state title after the 21-13 victory.

“I love being the underdog,” said running back, Phil Romero, who led the Rebels with 112 yards and scored a touchdown. “It shows that it doesn’t matter who is out on the field, it’s all about the heart and will and not about skill.”

Two years ago, many thought Couture was nuts when he came out of retirement at age 44 and stepped back into the octagon to compete at heavyweight, a division he hadn’t competed in since 2002.

With one right hand, Couture silenced his critics and after five dominating rounds against a bigger and younger opponent, went on to win the UFC Heavyweight Championships. Five months later, he defied the odds again in retaining the belt against a much-younger competitor.

Now 46, Couture is still battling the best of the best.

Just this past weekend he dropped down to the light-heavyweight and defeated a man 14 years his junior. While most count Couture out, the old man shows that while he may not have the most skill, you can’t measure his heart or desire.

Like Couture, Columbine will likely hear all week about how they have no chance to beat No. 2 Fairview when they meet Nov. 20 in Boulder.

With its win over Chaparral, Columbine showed it is a team that cannot be taken lightly. The Rebels will play, and play hard. Will that be enough to get them the win? Who knows but what I do know is that this underdog team is only three games away from being the biggest wolf of them all.