Eagles end ThunderRidge’s run

Jim Benton
Posted

HIGHLANDS RANCH — It was Black Friday and people were lined up to get inside.

Once the overflow crowd settled into Shea Stadium, they learned that there were no bargains waiting for the ThunderRidge football team as the top-seeded Grizzlies were thrashed 49-3 by Valor Christian in a Class 5A playoff game.

ThunderRidge, making its first appearance in a Class 5A semifinal game after achieving great success in the Class 4A ranks, ended its season with an 11-2 record.

There was little doubt that Valor Christian was the better team in the semifinal matchup between neighboring Highlands Ranch schools.

“It was a good season,” ThunderRidge coach Joe Johnson said. “I’m proud of our kids. We just couldn’t match up with that team.”

ThunderRidge took the opening kickoff and drove 76 yards but settled for a 21-yard Mark Hopper field goal and a 3-0 lead.

“If we would have scored a touchdown there, we would have probably been a little better off but there are no excuses,” said Grizzly running back Steve Ray.

It was Katie-bar-the-door after ThunderRidge grabbed the early lead as Valor Christian established its dominance on both offense and defense.

“We kind of got away from our game plan and the speed they play at was much, much higher than anticipated,” said Johnson. They’re overall speed was better than I thought defensively. I thought we’d be able to do some things.”

ThunderRidge managed only 188 yards of total offense with 74 yards coming on its first possession.

Quarterback Brody Westmoreland completed only three of 15 passes for 40 yards and Ray was the Grizzlies leading rusher with 69 yards and 30 came on one run in the fourth quarter.

“Yeah, it was pretty hard to move the football,” said Ray. “They flew around faster than any team I saw all year.”

Valor Christian finished with 449 yards of total offense.

Christian McCaffrey scored five touchdowns for the Eagles. He rushed for 150 yards and two touchdowns including a 96-yard run. He caught two TD passes and scored once on a 67-yard punt return.

Quarterback Luke Del Rio completed 16 of 17 passes for 228 yards and four touchdowns. ThunderRidge sacked Del Rio three times, twice by Michael Stanley and once by Spencer Crandell. However, DelRio was able to scramble away from pressure many times to complete passes.

“We had to tackle him,” said Johnson.

ThunderRidge will lose 21 seniors off the team and the somber mood after last Friday’s game was evident as players huddled on the Shea Stadium turf long after the final play.

“It was definitely a good season but it sucks to see all the seniors go out like this,” said Ray.