PUEBLO – Roosevelt football coach Lane Wasinger told his football team they required three characteristics to earn the Class 3A state title.
Poise, composure and confidence.
The Roughriders showed all three throughout their 34-24 victory against No. 3 seed Lutheran at the Colorado State University Pueblo Thunderbowl on Dec. 3.
Roosevelt, the No. 1 seed, had not trailed in a game since Sept. 16 and have not lost in more than a year.
But the Lions, looking to avenge a loss in the season opener to Roosevelt, did not care about the Roughriders’ stats.
Lutheran took a 10-0 lead with 8:38 left in the first after a pick-6 gave the Lions a two-score cushion.
“We’ve been in tight ball games at half, we’ve been down at half, we’ve blown teams out by half time,” Wasingner said. “To us, this was a 0-0 ball game at that point.”
Wasinger’s message kept the Roughriders confident through their dry spell when Ryan Doucette capped a nine-play, 46-yard drive with a 7-yard rushing touchdown that cut the lead to 10-7 with 4:17 left in the first.
Lutheran responded with a 12-play, 80-yard drive where Ryken Duaguaard connected with Chace Sorenson for 14 yards to give the Lions a 17-7 lead with 8:01 left in the half.
Roosevelt ate much of the remaining clock in the second with their drives and scored with an 8-yard pass from Bronco Hartson to Tucker Peterson with 18 seconds left in the half to cut it to 17-14.
“We’re only down 3 points after how we played,” Wasinger said of his halftime speech. “If we come out and play the next 24 minutes how we’re capable of doing, we will come out on top and they believed in that.”
After halftime, Roosevelt gave up one score and stymied the previously potent Lions offense.
Following a recovered fumble by the Roughriders’ defense, Xavier Ramirez, who earned the Most Outstanding Player award, scampered for a 3-yard touchdown to give Roosevelt its first lead at 21-17 with 9 minutes left in the third.
Sorenson scored on a 10-yard run for the Lions to reclaim the lead at 24-21 with 2:40 on the clock in the third.
However, Wasinger’s aforementioned attributes sizzled in his players’ spirits in the final 24.
“We had momentum on our side,” Ramirez said. “Our momentum was so high and our fans were so hyped that when [Lutheran] took the lead, we knew we just had to get one big play.”
Roosevelt had a trio of big plays including Hartson scoring on a 3-yard keeper to give the Roughriders a 28-24 lead with 7:48 left in the game.
Then, after forcing a Lutheran 3 & out, Hartson found Milo Pascual on 3rd and 12 for 40 yards to keep the Roughriders’ drive alive.
Ramirez eventually punched it in from 12 yards out to build a 34-24 lead with 1:33 left in the game.
The Roughriders then intercepted Duaguaard on the Lions’ ensuing drive and closed the game in victory formation.
“This is surreal,” Wasinger said. “There’s a longstanding tradition of success, especially in football at Roosevelt High School but never a championship. We’ve been close the last few years… to finally get over that hump and to come out with the gold trophy feels amazing.”