ARVADA — The recipe for success has always been simple for Columbine.
Run the ball with power.
Play lights-out defense.
The Rebels did both Nov. 14 in their rematch with Pomona in the Class 5A quarterfinals, grinding out a 23-8 victory in the process. The No. 5 Rebels (11-1) advance to the semifinals and will face No. 9 Cherry Creek (10-2) Nov. 22 at 1 p.m. at the Stutler Bowl.
The quarterfinal rematch between the two Jefferson County rivals was, at least for Columbine, a stark contrast to the initial encounter.
For one, the Rebels were granted the full services of junior quarterback Danny Spond this time, and he certainly made a difference.
Spond, who only played two series in Columbine’s 21-6 loss to the Panthers on Oct. 24 before exiting with a shoulder injury, rushed for 75 yards, including a 31-yard touchdown run in the third quarter that saw the 6-foot-3, 220-pounder break a handful of tackles and leap over a defender before reaching the end zone.
“The coaches called the play and the linemen made the blocks,” said the rather modest Spond, whose score gave the Rebels a 23-8 lead with 2 minutes, 58 seconds to play in the third quarter. “I just tried to make a play.”
Columbine did a much better job with ball security this time as well, as they didn’t turn the ball over once. Last game, Columbine fumbled eight times, losing two, and both fumbles led to Pomona points.
After Spond’s big run, Columbine’s defense sealed the victory with a pair of fourth quarter turnovers as linebacker Jacob Wright recovered a fumble deep in Rebel territory and cornerback Nathan Wiggins made a fantastic one-handed interception on a Nathan Grimes pass at the Columbine 7-yard-line.
“Our defense played outstanding,” said junior running back Phillip Romero, who scored Columbine’s first touchdown on a 5-yard run in the second quarter to put the Rebels up 10-0. “Everybody stepped up (Nov. 14) and made plays. We all wanted this game real bad, especially because of what happened the first time.”
The Rebels were also back to full strength following the suspension of eight players a week prior. Demetrius McDondle moved into the fullback spot and had a huge game, rushing for 124 yards, including a 38-yard scamper that gave Columbine a 16-0 lead late in the first half.
The Panthers were held scoreless thanks to a pair of interceptions by Kevin Osborne and Sean Neu.
Pomona finally tacked some points on the board, capping off an 11-play, 83-yard drive with a 6-yard run by Grimes. The ensuing 2-point conversion run by Grimes was good, drawing Pomona (10-2) within 16-8.
Spond, though, broke the Panthers’ spirit with his run and the defense sealed the deal with the turnovers.
“Jay (Madden, Pomona’s coach) is probably the best defensive coach in the state,” Columbine coach Andy Lowry said. “You’re not going to get anything easy off of his teams. I thought we executed well and the defense stepped up and made big plays for us when we needed them.”