Rebels tune up for Valor with rout

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Aparicio leads charge over GJ

By Craig Harper
For the Courier
LAKEWOOD — Tradition — five big-school state championships since 1999, including 2011 — favors Columbine. Recent history — four straight titles in three different classifications, including last year’s 5A crown — suggests Valor Christian. It’s one of the components that makes the Nov. 15 game between seventh-seeded Columbine (10-1) and No. 2 Valor Christian perhaps the most intriguing of the 5A quarterfinals.
Want more? It’s the inaugural game between these two powerhouses and one that features arguably the state’s two best running backs.
“I’m looking forward to playing Valor,’’ Columbine’s Austin Norton said after scoring a pair of touchdowns in the Rebels’ 41-6 second-round blowout of No. 10 Grand Junction on Nov. 8 at Jeffco Stadium. “I’ve always watched them and they’re such a big, hyped-up team. They won state last year, so it’ll be a great, very tough game. We’re going to have to have a great week of practice and just show up and play Rebel ball.’’
Columbine fans hope “Rebel ball” this week means more Bernard McDondle. The star running back was ailing entering the Grand Junction game and came away a little bit worse for the wear when he turned an ankle on his eighth carry early in the third quarter and did not return. A healthy McDondle would greatly enhance Columbine’s chances of an upset, not to mention the marquee individual match-up with Valor’s Christian McCaffrey.
But the encouraging news for the Rebels against Grand Junction was the play of McDondle’s supporting cast on offense, coupled with a standout defensive effort that kept the Tigers off the scoreboard until late in the fourth quarter with a running clock against Columbine’s reserves.
Jeremy Aparicio rushed for a career-high 141 yards and three touchdowns on 20 carries as the Rebels built a 41-0 lead with 8 minutes, 42 seconds left in the third quarter. Norton, who missed the first-round win over Hinkley with a broken left hand, had a 29-yard run for Columbine’s first score and capped a 28-point second quarter with a 28-yard touchdown catch. Quarterback Michael Tait added a 27-yard scoring run to go with the TD toss to Norton on his only pass attempt of the game.
McDondle rushed eight times for 44 yards, giving him 1,637 for the season.
Coach Andy Lowry and the rest of the Rebels expected a tougher test from Grand Junction (8-3), which was 4-1 against 5A qualifiers, including a first-round 32-8 win over Westminster.
“We were going to do whatever it took to win,’’ Lowry said. “(McDondle) was a little banged up this week, so I told (Aparicio) he might carry it 30 times tonight. He would’ve been pretty close to it (if the game were closer). He had a good night and our kids blocked well up front.’’
Aparicio, who topped 100 yards for the sixth time and is 20 yards shy of 1,000 for the season, scored on runs of 1, 58 and 4 yards.
Columbine’s defense turned in one of its best performances of the season. The Rebels held Grand Junction to 51 yards total offense in the first half with an interception by Tanner Degutis that set up a touchdown.