BY FREDA MIKLINGOVERNMENTAL REPORTER
On Friday night, November 15, the first-ranked Cherry Creek High School (CC) football team faced 16th-ranked Thunder Ridge High School (TR) of Highlands Ranch in CC’s first playoff game of the 2019 post-season.
After falling to Valor Christian 24-14 in the state championship last December, CC’s football team came back this year “with a hunger in their bellies,” according to school principal Ryan Silva. They are also very, very good. According to Silva, this is the first Cherry Creek High School football team to go undefeated in the regular season since 1996.
Junior quarterback Julian Hammond III was just voted Centennial League athlete of the month by the athletic directors (AD) of Arapahoe and Mullen High Schools, along with all six AD’s from the Cherry Creek School District. His own AD, Cherry Creek High School’s Jason Wilkins, told The Villager that Hammond’s best sport is basketball and that Hammond’s grandfather played for the Denver Nuggets back when they were an ABA team. Before Friday’s game, the quarterback had already thrown over 20 touchdowns and amassed 2,000 yards.
During the first period, safety Enoch Woolfolk ran back an interception from TR quarterback Seth Frasier, but Creek could not capitalize. In CC’s next possession, junior wide receiver Chase Penry, son of well-known political consultant Josh Penry, caught a big pass, as did senior wide receiver Dante Orlando. James Walker II had some good runs and CC moved the ball down to the three-yard line, but couldn’t convert.
The first score came two minutes into the second period, when TR ran the football the length of the field for a touchdown. CC tied the game two minutes later. After a three and out by TR, CC had the ball down to the TR 20-yard line with 5:14 left in the second period, when Penry caught a pass from Hammond at the five-yard line. CC scored on a 4th-down play. Kicker Alexi Sanchez Ventura hit the PAT and the score was 14-7 CC at halftime (after CC almost score again, but missed a field goal) .
Less than two minutes into the third period, CC added three points when Sanchez Ventura kicked a 32-yard field goal. CC notched another seven points after a 42-yard play by Orlando made the score 24-7 with most of the third period left to play. TR scored early in the fourth quarter, making it 24-14. The final score of the game came on a touchdown by Walker II after a big gain on a pass to Penry with eight minutes left to play.
CC’s 31-14 victory was a win on both sides of the ball. CC’s special strength was its ability to put together long, sustained offensive drives that ended with scores, even though an important part of its offense, running back Jayle Stacks, who is already committed to Air Force Academy next year, got hurt in the first quarter and didn’t return to the game.
On Friday, November 22 at 7:00 p.m., CC will take on number 8-ranked Fairview at home at Stutler Bowl in Greenwood Village in the quarter-finals of the state football championship.
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