DENVER - Bad luck, tough break, outplayed - whatever you want to call it. After a season of bliss, misfortune finally found the Pine Creek football team Saturday at Sports Authority Field at Mile High.
And despite glimpses of hope as the Eagles battled for their second straight 4A state title, it was not enough to overcome the explosive offense of Pueblo South, which defeated Pine Creek 25-14 to earn the program’s first state championship in 59 years, according to an announcement after the game.
“I don’t know if it was bad luck or what it was, they were just better than us,” Pine Creek coach Todd Miller said. “And that’s football. You make your breaks or you don’t. And today we had our chances but we didn’t capitalize, and they did.”
Pine Creek was within reach thanks to a short touchdown run by backup quarterback Gavin Herberg, who was in for starter JC Coulter after he took a scary hit to the head in the second half.
Herberg’s score put the Eagles within five with 10 minutes left to play.
But Pueblo South responded with a march down the field and a quick quarterback sneak into the end zone by Zach Cozzolino, which effectively put it away for the Colts.
“I thought our youth kind of showed today, and their seniors made big plays when they had to, and the better team won,” Miller said.
Pueblo South went up 14-0 in the first quarter thanks to a trio of seniors who tested the young Eagle secondary. A 67-yard touchdown pass from Cozzolino to Marcell Barbee, then a 31-yard touchdown to Jesse Anzar resulted in the early lead.
David Moore III opened the scoring for Pine Creek midway through the third quarter with a short run out of the shotgun.
But prior to a break in the third, Moore had trouble breaking through the big Pueblo South defensive line.
“Our passing game just wasn’t executing as it has been against other teams, and we were more predictable in our play calling,” Moore said. “I’m still proud of this season and we’ve accomplished so much, we came together here for state, and I played my heart out and these boys did too.”
After Moore’s score, Pueblo South came back with a statement 92-yard kickoff return by Thomas Pannunzio.
“When they got the kickoff return it broke our backs a little bit, and we were constantly chasing,” Miller said.
His Eagles faced little adversity through its 9-1 regular season, and virtually none in the postseason as Pine Creek allowed just one touchdown through the first three rounds of the playoffs.
“Our kids fought all the way to the end, no one quit, and this doesn’t define us,” Miller said. “A loss in the state championship game, it isn't what you want but we got where we wanted to be.”
TOUCHDOWN @PuebloSouthFB: @Zachcozz finds @JesseAnzar4 in the end zone for a 31-yard score. PAT is blocked. Colts lead @PineCreekHS 13-0, 2:08 left in the 1st quarter. #copreps pic.twitter.com/NPR7J8h2Hq— Lindsey Smith (@LindseySquints) December 2, 2017