Demons’ dream season falls short
Special to the Post Independent
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
AURORA, Colorado – If it wasn’t the perfect game, it was close to a perfect second half and the result was an end to a perfect season for the Elizabeth Cardinals.
Early in the week, Elizabeth coach Chris Cline said his team would have to grind it out, play solid defense and limit the number of big plays from the Glenwood Springs offense.
Elizabeth accomplished everything on their pregame check list and capped a 14-0 season with a 29-6 victory over Glenwood to win the Class 3A title.
Like all title games, field position and strategy come into play.
All season, Glenwood has been a running team, but coach Rocky Whitworth’s plan against Elizabeth was to try and throw the ball more than normal.
“We knew that we would have to throw the ball to have a chance. They have an outstanding set of linebackers that we felt like we would have trouble with in the inside running game,” he said.
Besides throwing the ball, Whitworth said the keys to victory going in were to not turn the ball over and limit Elizabeth’s big plays. The Demons turned the ball over three times and Elizabeth scored on a run from 47 yards out and twice from 30 yards away.
Glenwood’s big plays were limited to a pair of 24-yard runs by quarterback Luke Jacob and a 25-yard run by Drew Halsch.
After falling behind 15-6 at halftime, Glenwood found itself camped out in their end of the field most of the second half.
With second half drives starting at the 14-, 20-, 4- and 22-yard lines, Glenwood continually found it difficult to move the ball against the physical Elizabeth defense.
Jacob threw 27 times in the game, completing 15 for 91 yards. The Elizabeth defense picked off three passes. Junior Cam Avery had 8 catches for 64 yards.
“We were trying to find a rhythm [in the passing game] and it was working for a while, then the breaks didn’t go our way,” Avery said.
Even with poor field position, Glenwood’s defense answered every challenge in the third quarter and they grabbed the momentum with a big fourth down stop.
Stops by Chris Ayala, Alberto Ramirez and Chad Montover forced Elizabeth to go for it on fourth down. That’s when Nick Ciani made a crucial stop to get the Demons’ offense back on the field.
After one first down, Glenwood was forced to punt into the tormenting headwind.
Stops by Montover and Ciani again halted the Elizabeth drive but this time a punt spelled doom for Glenwood.
The punting game was critical for both teams. Battling a gusty headwind through the third quarter made punting difficult for Glenwood and a breeze for Elizabeth. A perfect 36-yard punt by Matt Biery with the wind pinned the Demons at their own 4-yard line. After a 3-and-out by Glenwood, Elizabeth finally capitalized on its good field position.
On the first play of the fourth quarter, Biery busted through a hole and dashed 30 yards for the score, pushing the Cardinals’ lead to 22-6.
Cline said their entire strategy was to control field possession and clock management with its ground game.
“We knew that we needed to hold onto the football as much as possible,” Cline said. “They are such a quick strike team, we didn’t want to get into a racehorse game with them. We knew we needed to grind it out and hold onto the ball and not give the ball back to Glenwood, their offense is too good.”
The Cardinals’ only attempted four passes in the game, completing one. Biery finished with 162 yards on the ground and the Cardinals finished with 310 rushing yards overall.
Jacob finished with 104 yards on 17 carries but the poor field position made it tough for the Demons to find any rhythm.
“We had some tough field position and were unable to get out. It was a tough situation for us,” Whitworth said.
In the end, Elizabeth turned in an unbeatable performance.
“They did everything they needed to do,” Whitworth said. “They took advantage of some of our turnovers and made big plays. We knew that if we had turnovers and they had big plays on top of that, it was going to be a struggle.”
For Cline, who has led Elizabeth to 11 straight playoff appearances, it was the perfect game for his 14-0 team.
“That was as close to perfect as we can play against that team,” he said. “They have some great kids and we kept them contained, we’d bend at times but we didn’t break.
This is Elizabeth’s first-ever state football title, while the Demons are now 3-1 in title games.
For the Glenwood seniors who gathered one last time as teammates after the game, it was a bitter defeat and a sad way to end their high school careers.
But it was also a special accomplishment to make it to the title game.
“It was awesome to get this far,” said a teary-eyed Willy Pelland. “I love my team and I’m proud of them and I’m proud of what we accomplished this year.
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