Much sooner than it expected, Pine Creek's defense made quite a statement in its Pikes Peak League opener against visiting Vista Ridge.
Three plays after an opening-play fumble, JoJo Domann picked up a blocked field goal and raced 79 yards for a touchdown, setting the tempo for the Eagles' smothering 42-7 victory over the Wolves at District 20 Stadium.
"We want people to know we're the toughest defense in the state," said Pine Creek senior linebacker Matt List, who had missed the previous two games, both losses, with a leg injury. "We call ourselves the Blackshirts, after Nebraska, and we have to have swagger, passion, intensity and toughness. That's what we stand for."
Pine Creek (2-2, 1-0 4A Pikes Peak League) played in black jerseys, instead of its traditional green, to recognize those who fought the Black Forest fire, which raged close to the high school's northeast Colorado Springs campus.
Eric Warren added to the defensive effort, picking off Vista Ridge quarterback Elway Tubbs and racing 65 yards down the left sidelines on the final play of the first half, one of three interceptions as the Eagles made life miserable for the Wolves offense.
Pine Creek held Vista Ridge (2-2, 0-1) to only 41 total yards, a staggering minus-35 on the ground on 20 attempts.
"They were spying me the whole night and had a great plan," said Wolves senior running back Dedrick Lee, who was held to minus-7 yards on 13 carries after averaging more than five yards per carry in his previous three games. "Throughout the game, I didn't make plays. This loss is on me."
Austin Schultz rushed for 72 yards and two touchdowns, quarterback Tommy Lazzaro threw for 129 yards, and the Eagles avenged a 40-14 road loss to the Wolves last season.
On Pine Creek's first play, James Fisher never got hold of the handoff from Lazzaro, and Doniaj Smelker recovered for Vista Ridge at the Pine Creek 15. The Wolves made only one yard, then Avery Anderson blocked a 30-yard field-goal attempt, and Domann picked it up and gave the Eagles a wave of momentum they rode the rest of the night.
"We remember what happened last year, but this is a new team," Domann said. "We came out and punched them in the mouth."
Vista Ridge didn't register a first down until early in the second quarter, then later moved the ball into Pine Creek territory on three drives. A turnover on downs sandwiched around two Tubbs interceptions kept the Wolves scoreless and looking for answers.
Tubbs didn't return in the second half, and the Wolves fared no better under sophomore quarterback Jake Goggin, unable to move the chains.
"We're going to get better," Wolves coach Les Johnson said. "Everything that happened out here can be fixed. Pine Creek is a good team. That's what it is."
Tyrique Amstrong returned a punt 82 yards for a touchdown to put Vista Ridge on the board with 7:40 left in the game.