Valor Christian coach Rod Sherman reminded his players after the Nov. 23 Class 5A semifinal playoff victory over Cherokee Trail that there is more to the Eagles’ tradition that just winning state championship football games.
Hard work, Sherman insisted, has to be included in the tradition.
Cherokee Trail forced Valor to work harder than it has in the past 11 games before the Eagles pulled out a 42-23 victory over the Cougars at Legacy Stadium in Aurora.
Valor, which has rolled over opponents after a loss to Bingham (Utah) in the second game of the season, had to overcome three turnovers, six holding penalties and actually was forced to come from before racking up its 21st consecutive playoff triumph.
The Eagles (12-1) will go after their fifth state championship in the past five seasons Nov. 30 when Valor meets top-seeded and unbeaten Fairview (12-0) in a 2:30 p.m. game at Sports Authority Field in Denver.
“I want to make sure our kids know that our tradition isn’t winning state championships,” said Sherman. “Our tradition is preparing hard, having a family with your teammates and playing hard and if they continue to do that we will win some games and lose some games.
“It was good for us to have some adversity and have to respond. I don’t think we had seen that in a while. It was a long time ago when we played Bingham and really had to respond and fight. Hopefully that will help. We know we will have our work cut out for us with Fairview. They are the No. 1 seed for a reason and we are just thankful to be playing. We try not to think about five in a row. “
Valor, which outscored the opposition by an average of 42.6 points after the Bingham loss prior to the 19-point victory over the Cougars, has established a state championship tradition by winning the Class 3A title in 2009, capturing the 4A crown in 2010 and 2011 and beating Cherokee Trail 9-0 in last season’s Class 5A title contest.
For a while in the rematch against the Cougars second-seeded Valor looked to be in trouble as Cherokee Trail grabbed a 16-7 lead with 8:08 left the play in the first half.
However, Valor came back 3:14 later with a 58-yard, nine play drive with Christian McCaffrey scoring on a 5-yard run as the Eagles pulled to within two points with Paul Grizzle’s extra-point conversion.
The Eagles took the lead for good when Brandon Biggs sacked Cougars’ quarterback Aric Johnson, who fumbled. Senior linebacker David Corral picked up the ball and ran 44 yards for a touchdown that pushed Valor ahead at halftime and changed the momentum of the game.
“I just told myself don’t stumble, don’t not pick it up and just pick it up and score,” said the 5-foot-11, 200-pound Corral. “We knew we need to make a play, we needed a momentum shift.”