Valor Christian junior defensive back Brian Dawkins Jr. admitted he was angry for a while until he examined the bigger picture.
The Eagles, Colorado's top-ranked Class 5A football team, lost 24-21 in overtime to Bingham, a team from South Jordan, Utah, in a game played Sept. 7 at Valor Christian. Bingham is Utah's top-ranked team in Class 5A.
“I was mad at first then I remembered everything happens for a reason,” said Dawkins. “This was a learning lesson for our team. We're going to use this game to let us not have this feeling again. We want to dominate the rest of this season.”
Valor, which has won four consecutive Colorado state championships and is the defending Class 5A titlist, should be favored in its next seven regular season games against Colorado opposition.
“It's all about trying to get some challenges, facing adversity and seeing how we respond,” said Valor coach Rod Sherman. “We would much rather be in a game like that again Bingham versus games that are easy. We want to be challenged. We have a lot of work to do, but we are going to get better. We're going to be OK.”
Last season, the Eagles lost to Bingham, 21-20, in Utah, and this year's Utah-Colorado Border War game was just as close.
“There were probably four to six plays that were critical plays that we missed,” said Sherman. “They made some of those plays. A close game like that ended up turning on those plays.”
Both teams made potential game-changing plays, but the two biggest came in overtime.
Valor had the ball first with four chances to score from the 10-yard line. Eagles running back Christian McCaffrey gained seven yards on second down to put the ball at the 3-yard line. However, holding was called on Valor, which nullified the run and moved the ball back to the 21-yard line.
Quarterback A.J. Cecil gained 10 yards, but he was sacked on third down and fumbled. McCaffrey picked up the loose ball and tried the scramble, but the play wound up losing 28 yards.
Paul Grizzle's 56-yard field goal attempt was wide and short.
Bingham didn't waste time, and on first down Chayden Johnston drilled a 27-yard field goal to give the Miners the victory.
“It would have been third and goal from the three, and then that holding call moved us back,” explained Sherman. “Our initial plan was to throw the ball on first down and run the ball the next three plays. Frankly if we were inside the three we would have probably went for it on fourth down.”
The holding call and Johnston's field goal were big plays that decided the televised contest that had many plays that swung the momentum.
Valor's Ben Waters blocked a Miners punt and Marcus Wilson recovered in the end zone to give the Eagles a 7-0 lead. Eric Lee Jr. intercepted a Bingham pass at the Valor 2-yard line to thwart a drive, and then McCaffrey, who rushed for 245 yards on 27 carries, broke two tackles and raced 98 yards for a touchdown to help stake the Eagles to a 14-0 lead.
With the score tied at 14 late in the third period, Valor took over on downs at their own 1-yard line after a goal line stand, but McCaffrey fumbled and Bingham's Nick Heninger recovered in the end zone to give the visitors a 21-14 lead.
Valor tied the game on a 5-yard scoring pass from Cecil to McCaffrey and had a chance to win when Dawkins intercepted a pass at the Eagles' 20 and returned it to the 48-yard line with 40 seconds left in regulation.
The Eagles drove to the Bingham 8-yard line, but Grizzle's 26-yard field goal on the final play of regulation was blocked by Langi Tuifua.
“That's as good as we could ask for, a chance,” said Sherman.