LAKEWOOD — Columbine and Arvada West each learned an important lesson Nov. 8.
The Rebels learned that they must always take responsibility for their actions – both on and off the field – following the suspension of eight players who were cited for underage possession of alcohol while attending a party last weekend.
Arvada West learned that Columbine is still Columbine, regardless of who is – and isn’t – in uniform.
Led by a disruptive defense and the return of junior quarterback Danny Spond, No. 5 Columbine rolled up No. 12 Arvada West 28-7 in a Class 5A state playoff second round game at Jefferson County Stadium.
The win by the 10-1 Rebels sets up a quarterfinal rematch with No. 4 Pomona, which looked equally as impressive as Columbine in its 28-3 destruction of Chatfield later in the afternoon. Pomona won the first encounter 21-6 over a shorthanded Columbine squad that played without Spond for most of the game, as well as backup quarterback Phillip Romero.
“We did what we did best, which is run the football,” said Spond, who ran for 134 yards and threw for 70 more. “Our offensive line dominated out there and deserve all the credit.”
All the talk prior to kickoff Nov. 8 centered around the suspension of eight Rebel football players by coach Andy Lowry for violating team rules. The suspensions left the Rebels without their top three running backs, but Romero, Spond and Zane Norris filled the void nicely.
Norris, in particular, had a big day and carried the bulk of the load for Columbine. On one scoring drive in the third quarter, Norris (126 yards on 29 carries) carried the ball eight straight times and on 13 of the 17 plays, including the final one, a 1-yard plunge that put Columbine up 21-0 with 3 minutes, 24 seconds remaining in the third.
“Zane has been one of our best players all year,” Lowry said of Norris, who also plays linebacker. “He’s a great linebacker and a tough kid. He’s got ice on his shoulders every single week after a game. He’s just a warrior and a tough kid. I had all the confidence in the world he’d be ready to step up, and he might be our best back.
“It’s just better when kids don’t have to play both ways.”
The Wildcats, which for three quarters could generate little offense against Columbine’s defense, broke free on the second play of the fourth quarter when Joe Altman ripped off an 81-yard run to bring Arvada West back within two scores at 21-7. A fumble recovery deep in Columbine territory appeared to swing momentum firmly in Arvada West’s favor, but just two yards shy of drawing within a score, Arvada West quarterback Gavin Glanz fumbled the center-quarterback exchange and Columbine recovered.
“Our coaches tell us all the time that you never have to give (a touchdown) up,” senior linebacker Jacob Wright said. “It’s a saying, but we really take it to heart; it really matters. We can bend but don’t break, that’s what defense is supposed to do. Those turnovers were huge because they sealed our victory.”
Eleven plays and 96 yards later, Columbine sealed victory as Spond hit Norris on an 11-yard pass for the game’s final points.
Columbine’s defense dominated from the outset, allowing Arvada West just three first downs in the first half. The Rebels forced three turnovers (two fumbles, one interception) and aside from Altman’s big run, only allowed four other plays by the Wildcats to go for more than 10 yards.
“We watch film all the time. We tried to really find out their tendencies, really watched what they did and then adjusted our formations to fit it,” Wright said. “But most of all, we had to get pressure on the quarterback. We worked pass rush all week and it was real important that it worked out for us.”
Arvada West 0-0-0-7—7
C—Gary Miller 1 run (kick failed), 10:02
C—Norris 3 run (Spond pass to Norris), :23
C—Norris 1 run (Tyler Link kick), 3:24
AW—Altman 81 run (Justin Castor kick), 11:34
C—Norris 11 pass from Spond (Link kick), 3:29