Cherry Creek advances to football semifinals

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Cherry Creek, the top seeded team in the Class 5A state football playoffs, used big plays to hold off an inspired Fairview team in a quarterfinal game played Nov. 22 at the Stutler Bowl.

Myles Purchase, a junior defensive back and kick returner, delivered two of the biggest plays in the second half for the Bruins which downed the Knights, 42-28, to move into the semifinals.

The game drew a lot of media attention because Fairview’s senior record setting quarterback. Aidan Atkinson was arrested by Boulder police the day before the  quarterfinal game on suspicion of sexual assault.

Senior Liam O’Brien replaced Atkinson and played well for the team, which seemingly was motivated by the adversity they faced.

Fairview grabbed a 20-7 lead in the first half but Cherry Creek, helped by a big 52-yard run by Jayle Stacks, moved 80 yards in four plays and scored with four seconds to play in the first half take a  21-20 lead into the dressing room at halftime.

Then Purchase took over.

“I knew I needed to make a play,” he said. “We had a bad first half but we regrouped in the second half.”

On Fairview’s first possession of the second half, Purchase intercepted a pass by O’Brien and returned it 15 yards for a touchdown and the Bruins took a 28-20 lead.

“I jumped the pass and did what I needed to do,” said Purchase. “I got it returned.”

O’Brien threw his fourth TD pass of the game and ran for a two-point conversion as the Knights tied the game at 28-all with 6:14 still to play in the third quarter.

Creek’s defense forced a punt and Purchase caught the kick, dodged a couple tacklers, sped towards the sidelines and raced 72 yards for the touchdown which put the Bruins ahead 35-28 with 9:05 remaining in the game.

“It was my job and what I needed to do,” explained Purchase. “Fortunately I was able to do that, get a return and able to score. If I can make one move I can score every time I get it. It was very emotional. It put us up a score when we needed it.”

Creek added an insurance TD on its next drive, going 60 yards in six plays and which was helped by a 50-yard run by James Walker II.

Bruins coach Dave Logan piled plenty of praise on Purchase.

“It’s the third game this year that he has scored multiple touchdowns,” pointed out Logan. “He’s a playmaker and he’s dangerous when he gets his hands on the ball. Both were big at the start of the third quarter and the punt return really gave us a shot.”

Logan also hailed the play of O’Brien and the Knights.

“That was a heavyweight battle,” said Logan who will have his team in the semifinals for the fifth time in the past six seasons. “They (Knights) were very good and obviously they had a tremendous challenge given the circumstances. I thought Tom (Fairview head coach Tom McCartney) and his staff did a great job with those kids.

“I thought O’Brien played terrific. To come in under those circumstances and to play like that is a credit to him and to him and to their staff. We hung in there and I was proud of our guys because we had not been two scores down the whole year.”

O’ Brien connected on 18 of 29 passes for 280 yards and four touchdowns. He showed his mobility as he scrambled several times to avoid the Creek pass rush. The Bruins did manage three sacks and two came in the second half.

Cherry Creek quarterback Julian Hammond III, who like Purchase is a standout basketball player for the Bruins, completed 9 of 16 passes for 95 yards and threw two TD passes to Chase Pendry. Stacks rushed for 198 yards and two TDs and Walker II finished with 61 yards

Cherry Creek (12-0) will face Pomona (8-4) in a 1 p.m. semifinal contest on Nov. 30 at the NAAC. The Panthers scored all their points in the first half and downed Regis Jesuit, 28-14, in a Nov. 23 quarterfinal game.

Creek beat Pomona, 31-17, in an early season game but Regis also had defeated the Panthers, 23-13, in an early season game.

Defending state champion Valor Christian (10-2) will not be in the state championship game. Columbine eliminated the Eagles 37-30. The Rebels (10-2) will face Jeffco rival, unbeaten Ralston Valley, in the semifinals on Nov. 29.

In the Class 4A state playoff quarterfinals, top-seeded Pine Creek ousted Ponderosa, 55-17, and Dakota Ridge edged Heritage, 38-34.

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