BY FREDA MIKLIN
When the 2021 5A state championship football game ended on December 4, the score was exactly the same as it was a year earlier in the 2020 5A state championship, Cherry Creek Bruins 21, Valor Christian Eagles zero. The 2020 game was played in Pueblo. The 2021 game was played at Empower Field at Mile High. It was Creek’s third consecutive 5A state championship, having defeated Columbine High School 35–10 in 2019. The Eagles came into the game as the number one seed with a perfect record. Creek was number two, having lost two games during the season, including one to Arapahoe High School.
Valor possessed the ball first, starting on their 19 yard-line. Running back Gavin Sawchuck, who will play for Oklahoma in the fall and holds the rushing record at Valor (with more yards than Christian McCaffrey), gained 16 yards on the first two plays of the game before Creek’s defense slowed Valor down. After Bruins defensive end junior Blake Purchase tipped QB Colton Allen’s pass, Valor had to punt.
On their first possession from scrimmage, Creek’s Arion Boyd ran the ball for a first down, followed by a six-yard pass from Creek QB Christian Hammond to wide receiver Ky Oday. On a third and four, Hammond handed off to Carlson “Bubba” Tann for another first down on Creek’s 45-yard line. With no one open for a pass, Hammond ran the ball four yards himself. After a penalty, it was Creek’s turn to punt.
Following a touchback, Valor started the next series at their 20-yard line but didn’t get far. After another Valor punt, Creek started at their 45-yard line with just under five minutes left in the first quarter. On the first play, Hammond ran the ball ten yards. A pass play to junior wide receiver Cooper Pollard accounted for another first down. Then Hammond kept the ball and ran for a first down, this time to Valor’s 21-yard line. After Coach Logan called a time out, Hammond passed the ball to junior tight end Max Rodriguez, who ran it into the end zone for the first score of the game. After the PAT by Boden Page, it was 7-0 Creek with four minutes left in the first quarter.
Another touchback put Valor on their 20-yard line to start the next series. As Eagles’ QB Allen began to pass, Creek left tackle George Fitzpatrick, an Ohio State commit who is 6’6”, swatted the ball down. Allen next tried a long pass that landed incomplete. Another attempted pass to wide receiver Grant Simmons, covered by Creek sophomore linebacker Angelo Petrides, fell to the ground and Valor punted again. Creek wide receiver Remington Larson fielded the ball and returned it to the Creek 45-yard line but a holding penalty moved it back to the 30. Creek tcouldn’t make any progress and with two minutes left in the first quarter, punted the ball 58 yards to the Valor 10-yard line.
On Valor’s next series, Creek linebacker Henry Lamar dropped back in coverage and picked off Allen on the 21-yard line, then ran the ball into the end zone for a pick-six. With just over one minute to go in the first quarter, it was Creek 14, Valor zero.
With a third and nine and less than a minute left in the quarter, Allen completed a pass to sophomore Asher Weiner on Valor’s 32-yard line for a first down, but on the next play Creek linebacker Logan Brantley hit the ball out of Sawchuck’s hands and Ez Rice recovered it for the Bruins but they were unable to capitalize on the turnover.
Valor started their first series of the second quarter at their 15-yard line. Allen ran it himself for five yards on the first play. It was third and four yards to go when Sawchuck broke free and ran to the 37-yard line. Then Allen hit wide receiver Colby Reynolds with a pass to the 43-yard-line with nine minutes left in the half. On the next play, Creek stopped Valor on a fourth and one play with the help of linebacker Blake Purchase. Creek got the ball on Valor’s 47-yard-line after the turnover on downs. After a quick pass from Hammond to wide receiver Ismael Cisse and a short run by junior Arion Boyd, Creek got penalized twice, leading to a punt by Bowden Page that Creek downed at the Valor two-yard line.
After almost being brought down in the end zone, Allen connected with Sawchuck for a short pass, then wide receiver Grant Simmons for a long one, and Valor had a first down at their 29-yard-line. After two run plays, Allen connected with Simmons on a pass that he ran to the 45-yard-line for a first down. With under five minutes to play in the half, Allen made a perfect pass to a wide-open Simmons but Creek’s Logan Brantley came up and stopped Simmons cold at the 48-yard line. After younger brother Gabe Sawchuck got Valor to a fourth and one, Creek’s Brantley tackled the younger Sawchuck for the second consecutive play causing Valor turned over the ball on downs again with 3:53 left in the half.
Creek QB Hammond completed passes to wide receivers Kyair Johnston and Ky Oday on the next series, bringing the Bruins to Valor’s 39-yard line. After slipping attempted tackles by three Valor defenders, Hammond broke free and passed the ball to Ismael Cisse avt the 20-yard-line, who ran it in for a score. After the PAT, the score was 21-0 with 2:41 left in the first half.
While the Valor defense kept the Creek offense from scoring in the second half, the Valor offense couldn’t get anything done against the Creek defense.
In the last minute of the game, with Valor threatening, Creek cornerback Sam Pezdirtz, as he had been all afternoon, was in the right place at the right time and swatted down a pass from Allen, this time in the end zone, denying Valor the chance to put points on the board.
As the game ended, Valor was on Creek’s five-yard line but never scored. Valor had 72 plays from scrimmage compared to Creek’s 48 over the game and beat Creek in total net yards, 278 to 193 bt the Creek defense made the difference with three interceptions, a forced fumble, and two turnovers on downs.
The 2021 5A state championship was Creek Coach Dave Logan’s tenth state championship and fourth with Cherry Creek in ten years. He previously won state titles with Arvada West and Chatfield and four with Mullen High School. After the game, Logan said, “It’s so rewarding, because we had so many injuries this year. We lost our starting running back, our starting left tackle, a tight end …” At age 67, after a coaching career that began in 1993 and calling Broncos games on the radio since 1990, Logan said, “I love working with kids. And I love coaching football. And I think — I know — there will be some things that I probably will give up, relatively soon, but it will not be coaching.”
About the 2021 season, he said, “I think there were times this season that a lot of people counted us out, so my message to the kids was, ‘Let’s just keep working, keep chopping wood, and we’re going to be playing our best football once we get to the playoffs.’”
Coach Logan was right.