LONGMONT – Give them 17, then 14. Then, for an encore, spot the defending 3A champs a 17-point lead on their home field in the state championship game. For Coronado, the deficit never seemed too large.
The Comeback Cougars did it again, and now they have a nice gold trophy to show for Saturday’s latest rally that capped an unbelievable season.
No. 6 Coronado won its first football state title as Isaah Duvall ran for 189 yards and a touchdown, and Joah Smith’s 11-yard scramble with 4:15 left gave the Cougars the lead for good over No. 9 Silver Creek in a thrilling, 28-24 victory at Everly-Montgomery Field.
It capped a wild and heart-pounding playoff run for Coronado (13-1). In the first round against Rifle, the Cougars rallied from a 17-0 deficit in the second quarter to score a three-point win. The next week at Roosevelt, Coronado gave up two early touchdowns, then recovered and hung on, 29-27.
“The last time we rushed the field, it was after we were 0-20 and won our home opener (in 2009),” Coronado athletic director Dave Howard said amid a sea of red and yellow on the turf at Everly-Montgomery Field. “We ended up going 2-8 that year. I’m so happy for the coaches, for our kids and for the whole west-side community. It’s been an incredible journey, and their hard work paid off in a most amazing fashion.”
The final journey to the state title started with 11:38 left in the game, and Coronado had just watched Silver Creek punter Nico Rembert pin the Cougars back at the 2. Undaunted, Cougars quarterback Joah Smith led his team downfield.
He got help on a pass interference penalty on third and 4 from the Coronado 8, and later lofted an underthrown pass down the left side that his twin brother, Sam, plucked out of the air for a 43-yard catch on third and 24.
On third and goal from the Raptors 11, Joah Smith rolled out to his right but couldn’t find a receiver, instead turning it upfield and stretching the ball over the goal line after breaking a tackle to complete a 17-play drive.
“The play was designed for a passing touchdown,” Smith said. “The defense was playing man, and they all dropped off. I knew I could get in with my feet. I just wanted it. After the Rifle game, we knew if we could get down and come back, we could do that against anyone.”
The Raptors (10-3) moved the ball to the Cougars 30 with 2:26 left, but consecutive sacks, followed by a well-defended screen pass for minus-7 yards set up fourth and 24. Quarterback Ben Sjobakken completed a pass underneath to Anthony Kasper, but he was tackled well short of the first down as the celebration began.
“We knew they were a team, when they got down, they could come right back,” Raptors senior linebacker Andre Apodaca said. “Things went in our favor, and we knew it was important that we had to bury them. We didn’t, and I give Coronado credit for coming out and playing 48 minutes.”
Duvall’s 80-yard touchdown run with 4:27 left in the third gave Coronado its first lead at 21-17, but the advantage was short-lived after Sjobakken tossed a short screen pass to Brock Ricks, who found a seam and raced 58 yards for a touchdown as the Raptors reclaimed the lead, 24-21.
Coronado spotted Silver Creek a 17-0 lead, starting right off the bat on Kasper’s opening kickoff return of 97 yards. With 2:05 left in the first quarter, Eric Machmuller went in motion to the right, took a handoff from Sjobakken and ran 24 yards for a score that made it a 14-0 cushion.
A Joah Smith fumble resulted in a Ryan Charles 43-yard field goal that extended the lead to 17-0 with 8:33 left in the second quarter.
Zeb Foster completed a 13-play, 80-yard drive with an 8-yard run up the middle, then after an Austin Micci interception on the ensuing drive, scored on a 5-yard run that cut the deficit to 17-14 with 9.1 seconds left before halftime.