DENVER - Expectations.
They can burden a team. Or they can lift a team.
Pine Creek wilted under the weight of immense expectations as the 2016 season began, but the Eagles slowly grew into a fierce, disciplined, explosive force. PC ended its growth Saturday with a dazzling second-half performance that clinched a 36-14 win over Broomfield in the 4A football title game at Mile High.
It was the third 4A title in four seasons for the Eagles, who have finished 50-4 during their stretch of utter dominance.
On Sept. 2, Pine Creek opened against Chatfield, and got hammered 50-39. A state title? At the time, a winning record looked iffy.
Wide receiver Wyatt Wieland was celebrating after winning the title, but he grimaced when thinking back to the opening loss.
“We thought the season was given to us already, but it wasn’t,” Wieland said. “We got a rude awakening, but we turned it around.”
They sure did. The defense that allowed Chatfield to romp to 50 points surrendered only 103 points (or 8.6 per game) in the final 12 contests.
At halftime, Saturday’s game looked on its way to becoming a dramatic, tight battle. Broomfield struggled back to tie the game at 14, and seized momentum heading into halftime.
Pine Creek utterly dominated the second half, scoring 22 unanswered points with a combination of a powerful running game, an opportunistic passing attack and a violent defense. PC outgained Broomfield, 441-181.
Running back David Moore III led the way for the Eagles, gaining 196 yards on 26 carries. Moore was under constant attack from Broomfield’s aggressive defenders, but he just as constantly broke tackles. Moore, a freshman, weighs 155 pounds, at best.
“He’s a warrior,” coach Todd Miller said of Moore. “And I got him another three years.”
Quarterback Brock Domann, a senior, ended the scoring, and his Pine Creek career, with a 60-yard touchdown keeper with 6:47 left. Domann spent much of the game calming Miller, his volatile coach.
“His composure is amazing,” Miller said. “He comes over and calms me down, because I get crazy. He says, ‘We got this coach. We got it.’”
The Sept. 2 loss to Chatfield ranks among the most devastating of Miller’s career at Pine Creek. He wondered, along with the rest of the state, if Pine Creek’s magic, and reign, had ended.
“That was as tough as it gets,” Miller said of the defeat. “You feel a personal responsibility because I didn’t have the team prepared, and that’s on me. It was a punch in the face, but you pick yourself up and get going.”
The first half delivered plenty of drama, and perhaps a preview of the 2017 title game. Broomfield’s offense is directed by Steven Croell, a left-handed sophomore who will be terrifying 4A defenses the next two seasons.
A Broomfield-Pine Creek title rematch? It could happen.
In the opening minutes of the second quarter, Pine Creek drove to the Broomfield 1-foot line, helped by two fourth-down conversions.
But the third fourth-down try failed. Domann was stopped on a quarterback sneak at the goal line by Mason Keeler, who vaulted over the line to grab him.
On PC’s next drive, the Eagles quickly drove to the Broomfield 20, and Domann hit the wide-open Wieland in the end zone. The Eagles led, 7-0.
Broomfield immediately answered with a 65-yard drive. Jalon Torres scored on a 7-yard run. The kick missed.
Moore burst up the middle for a 73-yard score. He was barely touched on his long journey to the end zone. Pine Creek led, 14-6, with 2:50 left in the first half.
But Broomfield answered again. A 29-yard pass by Croell to Keeler, along with a 2-point conversion, pushed Broomfield to a 14-14 tie.
The struggle ended in the third quarter, part of a second half that was one long Pine Creek party. As the game ended, PC fans and players and coaches began shouting and jumping and celebrating.
The team that once struggled with expectations had met every expectation.