GLENWOOD SPRINGS — Henry Hill was wet and cold late Saturday afternoon. To go with it, he was distraught.
“We were just two yards away from ... getting to play another game,” the Glenwood Springs High School senior said through tears after the Delta Panthers held on for a 13-9 victory in the quarterfinal round of the Class 3A state playoffs.
The 12th-seeded Demons were just six feet from advancing into the 3A semifinals in the final seconds of Saturday’s game at a cold, wet and snow-soaked Stubler Memorial Field after trailing the 13th-seeded Panthers for the duration. They started their final drive of the game at Delta’s 38-yard line with 3 minutes, 59 seconds remaining in the game and drove to the Panthers’ 2 before Delta forced them to turn the ball over on downs.
It was a bitter end to the season for the Demons (8-4), who had won eight consecutive games coming into Saturday’s matchup following an 0-3 start that had Glenwood on the brink of obscurity from that point on.
“I’ll remember their ability to come from the depths to come back to such a competitive position,” Glenwood coach Rocky Whitworth said. “I’m so proud of these seniors for their leadership. We were all but lost, but we came back to become one of the top eight teams in the state.”
Jonny Pounce, Delta’s sophomore running back, whose return from a high-ankle sprain was questionable coming into Saturday’s game, finished with a game-high 147 rushing yards on 23 carries. His two first-quarter rushing touchdowns, which came on runs of 37 and 59 yards, proved to be the difference in the game.
The Panthers (9-3), the fourth-place finisher in the Western Slope League, will host the Class 3A semifinals later this week. They’ll play Silver Creek (9-2), the defending state champion, which defeated Pueblo East, 34-14, in another quarterfinal on Saturday.
Hill finished with 125 rushing yards and 147 yards of total offense, including a 22-yard TD reception in the third quarter that brought Glenwood within four points. The Demons, however, weren’t able to get into much of an offensive rhythm until the second half.
“Our defense played very well today,” Delta coach Ben Johnson said. “To be able to limit a team like that, especially at the end, is just tremendous.”
Delta was the team that struck first, though.
The Panthers — aided by a pair of Glenwood penalties that resulted in first downs, took their opening drive to the Demons’ 37. On the next play, Ponce broke free off the left tackle and ran untouched into the end zone for a 6-0 lead after Abraham Ontiveros’ point-after kick went wide left with just 2:09 gone in the game.
Glenwood countered with a 30-yard field goal from Robert Hiles on their second drive, but Pounce broke free again on Delta’s next possession for his 59-yard TD run that resulted in a 13-3 halftime lead after the point-after kick from Ontiveros went through the uprights.
The Demons pulled within four points with 1:46 left in the third quarter when Travis Lundin hit Hill for the 22-yard TD pass that capped a seven-play, 75-yard drive. Neither team could put an offensive drive together again until Hill’s 14-yard punt return set Glenwood up for their final possession.
An 11-yard pass from Lundin to Derrick Chase, followed by Chase’s 2-yard run on a third-and-1 at the 12, gave Glenwood a first-and-10 on the 10 1/2 yard line with exactly 1 minute remaining. Hill ran for 7 on first down, but Chase only got one yard on his next two carries to set up fourth down with 18 seconds left.
Glenwood called a power run and handed the ball off to Hill, but the senior was tackled at the line of scrimmage by Delta’s Cordell Stroud.
“If we score there, it’s game over,” Whitworth said.
Delta quarterback Cade Gafford kneeled on the ball twice to end the game, sparking the Panthers’ celebration while ending the season for the distraught Demons.
“Just being able to be with my teammates and play for the Glenwood Demons,” Hill said when asked what his favorite memory of the 2013 season was. “I’m so proud of them. I’m so happy I got to be with them.”