Published: November 29, 2013
Forget Black Friday. Pine Creek's defense would much rather prefer a Black Saturday instead. No deals here, other than a healthy dose of physical play that has made the Eagles one of the best around.
With the Nebraska-originated blackshirt swagger setting the tone on defense, No. 3 Pine Creek (11-2) has muscled its way into the 4A state championship game, where the Eagles will go for their first 4A state championship against No. 1 Montrose (12-1) at 11 a.m. Saturday at Sports Authority Field at Mile High.
"It brings a different attitude, a ton of intensity and a ton of hard work," said Pine Creek defensive coordinator Andy Colgate, a graduate of Chadron (Neb.) State. "It gives kids something to strive for. I've had kids say all they wanted to do was to wear a blackshirt. It's a rite of passage that's not easily earned. Once we start playing the way we expect the kids to play defensively, the blackshirt is a little token for them to have."
The Pine Creek defense has simply dominated in the past two playoff games, not allowing an offensive touchdown to either Windsor or Monarch, both known for controlling the action and the scoreboard.
Before meetings with the Eagles, Windsor had averaged no fewer than two touchdowns on the ground while chewing up 324 yards per game. Monarch had put up points virtually at will, nearly 50 per game, while playing keep-away with its relentless, clock-eating, double-wing offense.
Both ground to a halt against Pine Creek. Windsor managed just one complete pass and 127 total yards on 2.8 yards per rushing attempt. Monarch gained just 133 for the entire game. Both outputs were season lows by far.
"I'm always pleased with seeing everything come together," Colgate said. "It's a do-or-die atmosphere, and that brings out a lot in a good defense. It makes a defense have to prove itself every time it goes out there."
On Saturday, yet another formidable front will line up across from the Eagles blackshirts. Montrose boasts a powerful and impressive running attack, much like Windsor and Monarch had demonstrated in previous games.
Indians runners average nearly 7 yards per attempt and have crossed the goal line a staggering 50 times, led by Mike Rocha's 1,492 yards and 26 scores. Oft-injured running back Angelo Youngren, finally healthy after missing chunks of the season with a broken hand and collarbone, ran for 184 yards in last week's double-overtime win at Pueblo South and gives Montrose an added threat.
"Our defense, especially the line, has to put pressure on them," Colgate said. "Montrose has a heck of a running game. They're big up front and fast off the ball. We have to try to counter balance that with our defensive line."
And it's not just the defense swaggering in its blackshirt ways. By going against such an imposing crew in practice, the Eagles' offense certainly benefits from such competition.
The proof: During Pine Creek's 10-game winning streak, its offense has produced 53 touchdowns, compared to only 13 for its opponents. Two of those came on kick returns.
"There's a reason why our offensive line is really good," Eagles offensive line coach Matt Wibbels said. "We go against our blackshirts. When you get to be a good offense, it's because we go against the best defense in the state, week in and week out. It makes the whole team better when you push each other both ways. That competition in practice is a secret of how we've been successful through the years."