The 38 seniors on the Pine Creek football roster have not had the sweet taste of victory in the 4A state championship game since they were freshmen.
It’s a taste they’ve been yearning for through a title-game loss and an early knockout. But now the stage is set for a championship run.
“That feeling has stuck with us and we’re ready to change it,” said senior Rece Rowan on the title drought. “We have stayed buckled down and focused the past couple of weeks and now we’re ready to make a march to our ultimate goal.”
Friday, the Eagles closed out the regular season much like they did throughout the year — in dominant fashion, defeating Vista Ridge 47-7 to take home the 4A Southern crown. The win marked the seventh straight season Pine Creek completed the year undefeated in league play.
In the RPI rankings posted on Tuesday, Pine Creek had the top spot in Class 4A, but fell to No. 2 on Friday afternoon behind Dakota Ridge. However, Dakota Ridge lost 14-0 Friday night to No. 13 Golden, which will likely move Pine Creek back up to the No. 1 spot in the RPI heading into Sunday’s tournament seeding meeting.
Seeds don’t mean much to the Eagles, who in the last four years have played in 10 postseason games.
“At the end of the day, we are going to stick to our fundamentals and no matter what team we are going to treat it like a state championship and keep trucking and go all the way,” Rowan said.
Despite the postseason experience, Pine Creek coach Todd Miller said playoff football is always an "anxious time" for everybody.
“The postseason is different, from playcalling, to how you prepare,” Miller said. “There’s a different level of anxiety when you know you could be out next round.”
Pine Creek will enter the state tournament with an 8-1 record, with their only loss coming from 5A No. 3 Valor Christian, and the loss was a valuable one.
“We set the standard pretty high and after the Valor game (24-14 loss) we knew the season was going to come to us and we would be dominant as long as we kept the same energy that we had against Valor,” said Eddie Kyle. “This is what we’re supposed to do. We are able to do things that other teams haven’t been able to do so we just want to continue that feeling and accomplish that goal at the end of the day to get to week 14 and come out with that trophy.”
Friday night Pine Creek struck quickly thanks to Kyle, who had a long punt return for a touchdown, then minutes later an interception to set up a 15-yard rushing touchdown by David Moore III.
Moore later followed with a 13-yard touchdown run.
Wesley Jennings blocked a punt which sailed out of the end zone for a safety after Vista Ridge’s first drive of the second half. Moments later, Elias Rogers went for a 40-yard rushing touchdown to start the running clock.
Senior quarterback Gavin Herberg threw a 27-yard touchdown to Gradon Miller, and senior Zachary Barnes also had a short rushing touchdown, set up by a long run by Spencer Peterson.
“We had a really well-rounded game, and earlier in the season I don’t know if necessarily that was the case,” Miller said. “We can get better, and we have to get better, but we have grown as a team and we are better than we played earlier in the season.”
Vista Ridge didn’t find the end zone until the final two minutes of play when freshman quarterback Brayden Dorman connected with Jayden Linta for a long touchdown. The Wolves conclude their regular season under a new coach and new system at 5-5.