Quarterfinal heartbreak for Chatfield football

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By Dennis Pleuss

Jeffco Public Schools

LAKEWOOD — The fourth quarter simply belonged to Ponderosa on Nov. 17 in the Class 4A football state quarterfinal game.

The Mustangs scored 21 unanswered points in the span of nine minutes in the final quarter to rally from a seven-point deficit and eventually take a 31-24 victory against Chatfield.

“You learn from them all,” Chatfield coach Bret McGatlin said of playoff losses. “This was a group that we didn’t think would be here in this spot. I absolutely love this group of guys.”

The No. 13-seeded Chargers had graduated most players from their teams that advanced to the semifinals in 2016 and the quarterfinals in 2017. Chatfield looked like a dark horse to make a significant postseason run this year but put itself in position to make it to the semifinals.

“We fought our hardest,” said Chatfield senior running back Hunter Barnes, who had 19 carries for 128 yards and a touchdown in the loss. “No matter what happened, I didn’t want to go down without a fight.”

Chatfield (8-4 record) held a 17-10 leading going to the fourth quarter, but the No. 5 Ponderosa Mustangs’ outburst in the final 12 minutes ended the Chargers’ season.

The Mustangs (10-2 record) turned things around at the beginning of the fourth quarter. Senior quarterback Dylan Hollowell connected with junior Joe Hufford on a 48-yard touchdown pass with 11:15 left in the four quarter.

Ponderosa was going to kick the extra point to tie the game, but when Chatfield jumped offside on the PAT, the Mustangs took advantage and went for a 2-point conversion and the lead. Hollowell bulled his way into the end zone to give the Mustangs an 18-17 lead.

Chatfield fumbled on the ensuing drive at midfield to give the ball back to the Mustangs. Senior running back Koby Kercher carried the ball eight times before back-up quarterback Bode Jensen scored on a 4-yard touchdown run with 2:40 left to extend Ponderosa’s lead to 25-17.

The next play from scrimmage really put the game on ice. Ponderosa junior Mikee Barker intercepted Chatfield senior quarterback Zack Yanda and returned 30 yards for a defensive touchdown.

Chatfield scored on a 20-yard touchdown pass from Yanda to senior Charlie Wildermuth in the final seconds, but it was too late for the Chargers to overcome the fourth-quarter surge by Ponderosa.

“Ponderosa played great, and we weren’t very opportunistic when we had the chances,” McGatlin said. “When we had big breaks, we didn’t capitalize on them. In playoff football, you have to do that.”

Chatfield held a 17-10 lead at halftime thanks to a pair of interceptions.

Chatfield’s four losses during the regular season all came against 4A playoff teams. State quarterfinalists — Fruita Monument and Greeley West — both defeated the Chargers in non-league games. Rival Dakota Ridge tripped up Chatfield during 4A Jeffco conference play. The Eagles and Chargers shared the 4A Jeffco League title.

Dennis Pleuss is a communications specialist with Jeffco Public Schools.