HIGHLANDS RANCH — Yes, Christian McCaffrey is that good. The Columbine Rebels found that out the hard way in the 5A football state quarterfinals on Nov. 15 at Valor Stadium.
The senior running back slashed his way to 309 total yards and four touchdowns — 272 yards and three scores on the ground — as No. 2 seeded Valor Christian flabbergasted Columbine 49-13 in front of a packed house of 5,200. The Eagles (11-1) will play sixth-seeded Cherokee Trail, a 27-14 winner over Cherry Creek, in the semifinals. The loss ended 5A Super Six Conference champion Columbine’s season at 10-2.
“They’re a great football team. They’re very well coached. They’re the defending state champs for how many number of years for a reason,” Columbine head coach Andy Lowry said. “They do a great job.”
The high-powered Valor Christian offense scored 21 points in each of the first two quarters to lead 42-6 at the intermission. McCaffrey’s 37-yard TD run early in the second half led to a running clock that couldn’t tick away fast enough for Columbine.
“You know Valor’s going to play and put up 40, 50 points every game. You’ve got to stick with them if you want a chance. We didn’t do a good job of sticking with them,” Columbine quarterback Michael Tait said.
A.J. Cecil added a pair of TD runs for Valor Christian and Nathan Whatmore scored on a 3-yard run in the second quarter.
This definitely wasn’t the way Columbine, nor its star running back Bernard McDondle, wanted their season to end. The Rebels had won six straight, averaging 45.3 points per game in those victories. But they struggled to keep up with Valor Christian in this one.
“They’re a good team. We underestimated them,” said McDondle, who rushed for 115 yards, which included a 69-yard first-quarter touchdown.
Valor Christian’s posh stadium, with an almost country club-like atmosphere, and physical line, with lineman weighing in excess of 280 pounds, was almost intimidating for Columbine and its players.
“It’s definitely different playing in front of more people, coming into a stadium like this,” said Tait, who finished 3-of-3 passing for 100 yards, including a 70-yard scoring strike to Austin Norton in the fourth quarter. “I think we all were looking forward to it. We were excited. Everyone seems to want to play Valor. We wanted to play Valor, too. We gave it our best shot.”
Maybe nothing said that more than how the game started. Columbine called a timeout before the first offensive snap because its defense was a man short. Things didn’t get much better after that, either.
For Lowry, the experience was a humbling one. The veteran Columbine coach has never had a team, as far as he can remember, get a running clock against one of his teams.
“I’m proud of the kids. The kids have grown up and surpassed all of the expectations that we could’ve ever had for them,” Lowry said.
Contact Michael Hicks at firstname.lastname@example.org or 303-933-2233, ext. 15.