Grizzlies narrowly avoid upset

Daniel P. Johnson
Posted 11/15/12

GREENWOOD VILLAGE - Presented with a second chance at ending what turned out to be a wild night, ThunderRidge wasn’t going to be denied. In a Class …

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Grizzlies narrowly avoid upset


GREENWOOD VILLAGE - Presented with a second chance at ending what turned out to be a wild night, ThunderRidge wasn’t going to be


In a Class 5A second round football game that had a little bit of everything - from a 21-point comeback by No. 17 Cherry Creek, to a last-minute drive to force overtime by the top-seeded Grizzlies, to a just-missed 39-yard field goal in regulation by the Bruins - it was fitting that the game’s ultimate play was anything but


After Jake Hand converted on a 1-yard touchdown run on fourth down in the second overtime, ThunderRidge chose to go for two points and the win, rather than kick an extra point which would’ve set up a third overtime period.

On the two-point conversion play, ThunderRidge quarterback Brody Westmoreland (who scored four touchdowns) rolled to his right and threw a pass in the end zone towards Jesse Krieger.

The ball came out a little low but Krieger alertly dove to his right, got his hands under the ball, cradled it to his chest and fell to the ground.

The back judge raised both of his arms, signaling a successful catch and the Grizzlies escaped the Stutler Bowl with an epic 57-56 double-overtime victory over a devastated Cherry Creek squad.

“Brody has made some big throws for us, and made some gutsy plays,” a relieved ThunderRidge coach Joe Johnson said of his quarterback, who threw for 124 yards and ran for 142 yards.

“That was definitely a big play. We wanted to go for (two) on the last drive in regulation, but the penalty (a false start) changed the plan.”

The Grizzlies (10-1) advanced to the 5A quarterfinals with the victory, and will host No. 9 Grandview (8-3) at 7 p.m. Nov. 16 at Shea Stadium.

“I couldn’t be more proud of the kids … the way they came back,” said Cherry Creek coach Dave Logan, whose team finished the year with a 6-5 record. “This is a tough one.”

Logan’s team nearly won the game on the last play of regulation.

A quality kick return by David Knight set the Bruins up with good field position, and, after four completions by quarterback Luke Papilion, they had moved the ball down to the ThunderRidge 23-yard


James Simpson came on to attempt a 39-yard field goal. Unfortunately for Simpson and the Bruins, he was kicking directly into a stiff wind that had picked up velocity throughout the second half.

Simpson’s kick was on-line, but fell just short.

“The wind was dead into him,” Logan said.

The missed kick left the score knotted at 42-42 as the teams entered overtime. On the first play of overtime, Westmoreland ran in from 10 yards out to put the Grizzlies up 49-42. Cherry Creek answered back with a Tahj Willingham run, and the game moved to a second overtime.

The Bruins had the ball first and, as they had the entire second half, moved the ball with ease and scored on the second run of the series by Daryl McNeil, which made the score 56-49 and set the stage for ThunderRidge’s dramatic final


“We learned a lot about ourselves,” Westmoreland said. “We have to stick together and it takes a total team effort to win these kind of games.”

Based on the first half, it didn’t appear the Nov. 9 contest would be close.

ThunderRidge raced out to a 28-7 lead by halftime, and, after a Westmoreland 13-yard touchdown run, led 35-14 early in the third quarter.

Cherry Creek then proceeded to score 28 unanswered points and took a 42-35 lead when Papilion raced 73 yards down the left sideline with 3:35 to play.

It was the third-straight touchdown scored by the senior quarterback, who finished with 133 passing yards, 101 rushing yards and four


McNeil gained 118 yards and scored two touchdowns, while Willingham added 90 yards and two scores for the Bruins. Steve Ray ran for 117 yards on 28 carries and a touchdown for ThunderRidge. The two teams combined for 959 yards of total offense.

“What a great effort on both sides,” Johnson said. 


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