A road win over undefeated, third-seeded Fowler on Saturday would send Pikes Peak Christian to its first 8-man state title game.
The Eagles came achingly close last season, but learned a hard lesson in staying humble.
They beat bigger, top-seeded West Grand, 29-28 - led by the coach who in 2016 broke the state wins record, Chris Brown - on a 37-yard field goal with 15 seconds left.
“We got a huge emotional high,” Nathan Seay, senior running back/outside linebacker said. “We thought we could beat anyone. Then of course, we came in too proud and fell.”
The next weekend, they were blown out by fifth-seeded Hoehne in the semifinals.
“We left thinking, ‘You know what? We were a lot better than that,’” coach Kelvin Thorne said. “That’s motivated us all year.”
The seventh-seeded Eagles (10-1, 4-0) haven’t dropped a game since their season opener. Most recently, they rolled over second-seeded Sanford 28-6.
“1-2-3 state champs!” was the final cheer at practice on Wednesday for the only 8-man football team in Colorado Springs. It’s been the plan since much of the team was in seventh grade, already playing together.
This year’s group is special, Thorne said. His son, Jackson, is the senior quarterback, who has passed for 450 yards on 58 attempts with 13 touchdowns and 3 interceptions. Andrew Harris leads the defense with 100 tackles, and Kyle Arnett has contributed 10 sacks.
Seay was an injury replacement at running back and developed rapidly, leading the Eagles’ rushers with 1,329 yards and 17 touchdowns.
Seay said at this point he’s “pretty close” to knowing his teammates’ minds as well as he knows his own. They’re all so motivated to play and improve that Thorne said he sometimes has to reel them back.
Even when the Eagles are sore and tired with schoolwork to do, Ben Kopriva, the senior center Thorne called the “rock of our line,” said he wants to be practicing.
“Here with the guys, hitting each other as hard as we can,” Kopriva said. “That’s my happy place.”
That mentality has gotten them right back where they were last season with the chance to go further than ever before. Pikes Peak Christian is keeping its sights high and its memories short.
“One reason we’re able to play so well – we trust each other,” Seay said.