Vista makes Valor work for win

Eagles take 49-35 victory over Golden Eagles in regular-season finale

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When these two teams had gotten together in the past, the beatdowns were so severe, you almost had to take a deep breath and cover your eyes.

But on the night of Oct. 28 at a chilly and jam-packed Halftime Help Stadium, big, bad Valor Christian, a perennial Colorado high school football power, was given everything it could handle by Mountain Vista, the smaller and sometimes overlooked second cousin two miles down the road.

If not for a late interception and a long scoring drive by Valor in the closing minutes, who knows, maybe the Golden Eagles would've recorded their first-ever win over the eight-time state champs, who had beaten them by a combined score of 221-22 in five previous meetings.

As it was, Valor, ranked No. 2 in Colorado, managed to escape 49-35 in each team's regular-season finale.

“I give our kids all the credit in the world,” fourth-year Mountain Vista coach Garrett Looney said. “They battled to the very end.”

“To the very end” is right.

With time winding down in the game and the 17th-ranked Golden Eagles clinging to a 35-34 lead, Mountain Vista quarterback Austyn Modrzewski took a third-and-16 snap from his own 48-yard line and, scrambling to his right, heaved a long pass in the direction of Sean Conway, who'd made big catch after big catch all night.

But this time, Valor cornerback Jackson Oriol, glued to Conway, twisted around the sophomore, jumped and picked off Modrzewski's pass in what was a dazzling defensive play.

“[Modrzewski] got a little bit of pressure on him,” Looney said. “If he had a half-second longer, I think we score a touchdown there. [Oriol] made a great play.”

The Eagles took over at their own 25-yard line with 4 minutes, 36 seconds to go and first-year coach Bret McGatlin opted to give the nod to what had served Valor well all night: the big bodies in the trenches and the Eagles' running backs, some big and salty and others fast and elusive.

Five straight runs, bookended by Gabe Sawchuk's 25-yard mad dash and a Jake Krekeler 21-yard scamper, set up Valor at Mountain Vista's 10-yard line. After short runs up the gut by Trey Stott and Krekeler, bruiser Roman Bradley took a direct snap and plowed into the end zone, dragging several Golden Eagle defenders along with him.

Bradley's 1-yard plunge capped an eight-play — all runs — 75-yard drive that sliced nearly 3 minutes off the clock and gave the Eagles a 42-35 lead.

“I went to the sideline and told [McGatlin], `Give me the ball.' I knew they couldn't stop me,” Bradley said. “I knew I was going to fall forward. There wasn't a doubt in my mind that I was going to get that in.”

Added McGatlin: “We knew they couldn't stop us (on that last drive). We've got a big offensive line, so we figured, let's just run behind those guys.”

The Golden Eagles got the ball back with 1:47 remaining but didn't go far before turning it over on downs. Stott broke loose for Valor and added a 28-yard touchdown run for the game's final points.

“Mountain Vista played a great game,” said McGatlin, who took the Valor head job after a 15-year run at Chatfield. “They had a great game plan. We knew their passing game was one of the best in the state. We haven't seen anything like that all year.”

That passing game, orchestrated by the sophomore sensation Modrzewski, catapulted the Golden Eagles (7-3 overall, 3-2 in 5A League 5) to a 21-7 first-quarter lead. On Mountain Vista's second possession, a 48-yard completion to Conway and Jakhai Mack's 11-yard grab set up Jack Blais' 11-yard touchdown run. On possession No. 3, Modrzewski found Conway again, this time for 79 yards, before Chris Smith took it into the end zone for a 14-point Golden Eagles advantage.

Modrzewski was nearly perfect through the Golden Eagles' first three possessions — all touchdowns — completing 8 of 10 passes for 190 yards.

“He's going to be a stud. I mean, he already is a stud,” Looney said of his 16-year-old triggerman. “He's only a sophomore, and he's doing things that I haven't seen seniors do.”

But the Eagles (8-2 overall, 5-0 in 5A League 5) have plenty of studs of their own and weren't about to lie down. A 72-yard touchdown scamper by Krekeler — a play in which he took an inside handoff, cut right, then showed off his speed down the right sideline — made it a one-score game. Moments later, after a Mountain Vista three-and-out, Cash Spence darted 31 yards and found pay dirt, punctuating an eight-play, 63-yard drive and trimming the Golden Eagles' lead to 21-20 (the point-after attempt was blocked).

The two teams traded blows the rest of the way, including in the game's waning moments.

“We found a way to win, which I'm really proud of our kids for doing,” McGatlin said. “We've had a few games like that this year. We'll take it.”

Up next for both teams is the Class 5A state playoffs. Valor, the No. 2 seed, received a first-round bye and will play the winner of Legend (Parker) and Poudre (Fort Collins). Thirteenth-seeded Mountain Vista, on the other side of the 24-team bracket, will take on No. 20 Rocky Mountain (Fort Collins) in an opening-round bout.

valor football, alex schultz, mountain vista, garrett looney, high school football, douglas county sports

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