PARKER — On this warm and sunny day, Pine Creek's football team didn't really need its offense. That's because the Eagles' defensive and special teams units handled a lot of the scoring.
A pair of pick-6 plays and a long touchdown by Eddie Kyle following a blocked field-goal attempt highlighted top-ranked Pine Creek's 55-17 rout of No. 9 Ponderosa at EchoPark Stadium on Saturday in the Class 4A quarterfinals. The Eagles are one win away from returning to the state title game for the third time in four seasons.
And to top it all off, senior kicker Luke Wieland stepped up with big two field goals of 35 and 38 yards in the first half.
Up next is No. 5 Pueblo West, a 31-19 winner over No. 4 Montrose .
"It was a team effort," said Eagles junior strong safety Beau Freyler, who finished with two interceptions. "We made big plays when it counted."
Unlike a dominant-from-the-first-snap win over Longmont last week, Pine Creek (11-1) started off slowly. Its first two drives resulted in punts, but coach Todd Miller said that was all part of "playoff football" and credited the Ponderosa defense.
Then, things began to shift once senior running back David Moore III started getting the ball. He had three TD runs but perhaps his most impressive was his first one, a 52-yard scamper that ended with a Superman-like dive into the end zone.
That play was the beginning of the end for Ponderosa (8-4).
Freyler and Gavin Whetzal followed it up by turning their interceptions on the Mustangs' next two possessions into touchdowns to give the Eagles a 21-0 advantage. Their returns were at least 30 yards apiece.
"The defense really picked us up," said Miller. "Two scores back-to-back and we got up 21 and we got a little breathing room."
The big plays kept coming and coming.
Wieland made his first field goal toward the end of the first quarter, thanks in part to a big punt return by Kyle, who would later have his own special teams moment. At halftime, the Eagles were up 41-10, as both Moore and quarterback Gavin Herberg had TD runs and Wieland nailed another FG.
Entering the second half, the Eagles had something in mind: To score at least twice to enforce a running clock. By the late third quarter, they got just that. It started with Moore's third TD run, followed by Kyle's quick decision to pick up the ball after a failed 50-yard FG attempt and run some 80 yards along the left sideline for the score.
"He's just an unbelievable kid with a ball in his hands," Miller said of Kyle. "He's a senior. He's been doing this for a long time, and he made some big plays for us. Anytime you can get points outside of your offense, it's hard to overcome."
The Mustangs did score again in the fourth quarter.
But by then, Miller had already benched his starters to rest them for next week's state semifinals.