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Gazette Premium Content Football: Coronado can draw on pressure-packed playoffs for title game

By Kevin Carmody Published: November 29, 2013

In terms of recent success, Silver Creek can't be beat.

In terms of this season's 3A playoffs, Coronado won't be beat.

So when defending 3A state champion Silver Creek (10-2) plays host to new-kid-on-the-block Coronado (12-1) at 1 p.m. Saturday at Everly-Montgomery Field in Longmont, it'll feature the battle-tested No. 9 Raptors hoping to defend their crown against a sixth-seeded Cougars team that simply refuses to lose.

Over the past four seasons, no 3A team has won more games than Silver Creek, whose stellar 42-10 mark includes three straight berths in the title game, beating Rifle a year ago after falling to Windsor in 2011.

On the other hand, Coronado, before this season's magical playoff run, hadn't won a postseason game since 1991, well before anyone on this year's team was born.

"We don't have anything near the experience that Silver Creek has," Coronado coach Bobby Lizarraga said earlier this week while his team practiced at Garry Berry Stadium. "But boy, I wouldn't bet against us right now with the way they're handling themselves in the playoffs."

Following a 24-20 loss against Discovery Canyon on Nov. 2 to close out the regular season, the Cougars advanced through the 3A playoffs by the slimmest of margins, rallying past Rifle and Roosevelt (34-31 and 29-27, respectively), then holding off TCA, 28-27.

"I have to give credit to our boys," Lizarraga said. "We could have lost our composure, but it never happened no matter what we were facing. It would have been easy to fold. We've had the opportunity to appear three times at the playoff level, and all three being well-played and tight. I think they'll take this into the next game."

They face a Raptors team that has avoided such dramatics, although two unanswered touchdowns in the second half at Delta on Nov. 23 provided for a 28-17 triumph. Silver Creek runs a spread offense, using the pass to set up the run. Quarterback Ben Sjobakken has thrown for 2,620 yards and 30 touchdowns with only six interceptions.

Coronado allowed a team-high 213 pass yards Sept. 28 at Sierra. Sjobakken has surpassed that total seven times this season.

Still, the Cougars seem undaunted at stopping a team that makes a living by putting the ball in the air.

"It's not going to alter what we do," Cougars defensive coordinator Gerry Strabala said. "At this stage of the game, you can't change who you are. You just have to go with what you know and just play fast. We've seen the spread offenses that they run, and they won't do anything we haven't seen before."

On Saturday, Coronado can do something it hasn't done before, and that's win a state football championship. It fell 14-12 at Loveland in 1982 in the school's only other appearance in a title game.

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