LAKEWOOD — Columbine has conviction that it can churn through the 5A playoffs on its run-heavy, wishbone offense, slugging through opposing defenses with physicality rather than the home-run play.
On Friday, the Rebels flexed that attack and ran away to a 41-14 win at Jeffco Stadium in the 5A football quarterfinals against defending champion Pomona, extending their season to 12-0.
Columbine’s two-headed tailback attack of Tanner Hollens and Adam Harrington, both juniors, accounted for four touchdowns to overcome an early deficit and put the game away early in the third quarter. Harrington scored three on the ground to bring his season total to 17, while Hollens hauled in a 32-yard passing score from senior quarterback Logan DeArment late in the fourth.
“We’ve got to still stay humble but definitely when we play our game I don’t think we can be stopped,” Harrington said.
Columbine, the No. 2 seed in the 24-team tournament, is now just two wins away from winning its first title since 2011. They take on third-seeded Cherry Creek at Jeffco Stadium next weekend after Creek’s 24-16 win over No. 6 Ralston Valley on Friday.
Perhaps more than any team in this year’s field, Columbine embodies the ‘black and blue’ ways of yesteryear that the Jeffco region was built on. Entering Friday, the Rebels averaged 317.3 yards per game. Hollens and Harrington have each crossed the 1,000-yard mark. DeArment has added an additional 488 on the ground, and through the air, he’s completed 62.1 percent of his passes for 12 touchdowns, including two on Friday.
“We’re definitely a ground and pound team but I like our throwing game just as much,” Harrington said. “I feel like we’re really a dual threat.”
Pomona played valiantly, particularly given how the first meeting went four weeks ago, when the Panthers were pounced, 35-13. It was evident that they’d heavily adjusted their gameplan. They had multiple linemen play on both offense and defense to ensure they had their most athletic players in the trenches attempting to stonewall Columbine’s ground attack.
“We’re trying to get bigger up front obviously and it’s really hard obviously coming off playing Arvada West who threw it 60 times to playing Columbine, who runs it 60 times, so it’s been a long week of practice,” Pomona head coach Jay Madden said.
They had opportunities, but had three momentum-killing turnovers.
“Offensively wise, they beat us up front a little bit,” Columbine coach Andy Lowry said. “We didn’t have our best offensive game. It seemed like we scored a lot of points but when you get five extra possessions on turnovers, you better do something.”
Offensively, Pomona’s Riley Welsch — the unexpected yet unsung quarterback who took over just two months ago — accounted for two touchdowns on Friday to cap his senior season, headlined by a 14-yard touchdown scamper on the opening drive. He also connected for a nine-yard touchdown pass to Theorius Robison, the 5-foot-8 speedster early in the third quarter.
Welsch supplanted senior Colten Muller after the Panthers’ 14-6 loss to Valor on Sept. 7 to rejuvenate the Panthers’ option offense. Welsch had made all of three pass attempts, all in mop-up duty during his sophomore year, before taking the reigns.
The Panthers took their first and final lead midway through the second when sophomore kicker Adam Tasei pooched a 37-yard field goal off the crossbar and through. On the ensuing play from scrimmage, Welsch lasered an interception into the right arm of 230-pound Columbine lineman Ben Earnest at the 19-yard line, positioning Columbine for another field goal — a 40-yard boot from DeArment, marking the quarterback’s first field goal attempt of the year.
Columbine hasn’t played against Cherry Creek since it hired head coach Dave Logan in 2012.
“It’ll be nice to see somebody who hasn’t seen us a lot,” Lowry said. “(Pomona), they know every inch that we’ve got.”