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Dakota Ridge rallies to beat Golden, gets help to win league title

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By Devin Robb

LAKEWOOD — The old saying, “It’s not how you start, it’s how you finish,” is a perfect way to sum up the season for the Dakota Ridge football team as well as its game against Golden on Thursday night at Trailblazer Stadium.
The Eagles fell behind 14-0 and then came back to win 34-17. The victory gave Dakota Ridge a final regular-season record of 6-4 after starting the year 1-3. It also, coupled with Chatfield’s win over Bear Creek one night later, gave Dakota Ridge the 4A Jeffco League championship.
“Our motto all year has been ‘don’t flinch’ from day one,” Dakota Ridge coach Ron Woitalewicz said. “They had every reason in the world to flinch here and they didn’t. Down 14-0, a lot of teams would have packed it in and quit, but we didn’t.”
Golden jumped out to a 7-0 lead on its first drive, which was capped off by a 1-yard quarterback sneak for a touchdown by Demons’ senior quarterback David O’Connell.
On the very first offensive play for Dakota Ridge, Golden senior Jack Walters intercepted a pass and returned it 35 yards for a touchdown to give Golden a commanding 14-0 advantage.
The Eagles held tough and only trailed 17-14 with seven seconds left in the first half when they had the ball inside the Golden 10-yard line. Eagles’ senior quarterback Ben Biffinger ran a quarterback draw and was tackled inside the 5-yard line. With no time outs, the clock ran out on Dakota Ridge, and the Eagles went to the locker room at halftime trailing by three points.
Dakota Ridge didn’t panic and took the lead for the first time at 21-17 late in the third quarter on 1-yard touchdown run by Eagles’ senior running back Jered Garcia.
“There were no real nerves going into halftime,” Garcia said. “I’ve had faith in my boys all year. Multiple times we’ve been down at halftime this year, and we’ve bounced back.”
After a Golden punt early in the fourth quarter, Dakota Ridge had the ball on its own 48-yard line when Garcia broke off a 47-yard run to put the Eagles at the Golden 5-yard line. Biffinger finished the drive two plays later with a 5-yard touchdown run to extend the Dakota Ridge lead to 27-17.
“As soon as I got the ball in my hands, I saw my boys had opened a hole for me,” Garcia said. “I hit the hole as fast as I could, and I took it to the sidelines before the last safety tripped me out of bounds. At least I got us down there, and we were able to extend the lead.”
An interception by Dakota Ridge senior Ryan Kissinger with six minutes remaining sealed the deal for Dakota Ridge.
It’s been a year of adversity for Dakota Ridge, starting back in June when the Eagles’ lost team leader Christian Friedrichsen to cancer. Dakota Ridge battled through the tragic death of Friedrichsen as well as a 1-3 start to finish an impressive 6-4.
“I feel like when we lost Friedrichsen, he himself told us ‘don’t flinch,’” Garcia said. “Don’t let it get to you. You’ve got to fight adversity, and that’s what we’ve done all season. I’m so proud to be a Dakota Ridge Eagle.”