DENVER – The first time Carlson “Bubba” Tann touched the football in each half for the Cherry Creek High School football team, he exploded for a big play.

The opening offensive snap for the Bruins in the Class 5A state championship game was a 50-yard rush into the red zone that put Valor Christian on its heels. Immediately after halftime, it was a 34-yard run from Tann coupled with a 15-yard facemask penalty that catapulted Cherry Creek into the red zone after only one play.

The biggest difference between the two, however, was the end result. While the Bruins were stuffed up on the opening drive and missed a 26-yard field goal attempt, the second half saw Tann take a counter 15 yards for a touchdown.

Cherry Creek erased a 7-3 halftime deficit and rallied for a 24-17 victory to secure their fourth consecutive state title, only the second time a team in 5A or 4A accomplished that feat.

For Tann — who won the National Football Foundation Most Outstanding Player Award with 15 carries, 164 yards and a touchdown — the moment was worthy of celebration.

“We’ve been working all season long for this,” Tann said. “The first day of summer camp, coach (Dave) Logan started talking about the championship. Ever since that, we never talked about it again. To be able to come out here and do this, it’s just a great feeling.”

(Dan Mohrmann/

It’s only the fourth time in the history of the Colorado High School Activities Association that an 11-man football team has won at least four consecutive titles. Valor Christian won five between Classes 3A, 4A and 5A from 2009 to 2013. Palisade raised the trophy four times between 1994 and 1997 and Limon won four consecutive championships in the ‘60s.

A series of halftime adjustments made the difference for Cherry Creek and turned stalled drives into touchdowns.

Perhaps most noticeably, freshman quarterback Brady Vodicka, who skillfully guided the Bruins through the playoffs and the second half of the regular season, was subbed out for Creek’s Week 1 starter Brian Rudden late in the first half. The senior’s first passing attempt on the final play before the break was a 50-yard bomb to Ismael Cisse. Rudden had limited attempts, finishing 2 for 3, but his 39-yard touchdown strike to Cisse put the Bruins up 17-7 midway through the third quarter.

“We’ve been switching quarterbacks all year, so we knew it was a possibility to happen,” Rudden said. “For it to be successful here means a lot.”

Logan added that he was proud of the fortitude shown by Rudden in the second half.

“Brian came in and — listen, he’s a joy to coach and we’re going to do everything we can to help him play college football because he’s capable of it — but he stepped in at a time we needed a spark and he provided just that,” the coach said.

It was Tann who gave Creek the lead just one drive earlier and his running that sustained the offense to the finish line. The senior credited the offensive line and receivers, saying “they blocked their asses off,” and added that his fellow running backs were hyping each other up in the locker room at halftime.

The third and final touchdown came from an unexpected source. The Bruins snapped the ball quickly with some offensive linemen still upright. As the Valor defense scrambled to react, it was defensive end Blake Purchase who took the snap and rumbled for a 4-yard touchdown.

The University of Oregon signee finished with nine tackles, one for loss, and blew through the right tackle late in the first quarter to collapse the pocket and set up a strip sack for fellow edge rusher and University of Iowa signee Chase Brackney that gave the Bruins the ball at the Eagles 4-yard line.

Logan said he was skeptical of the trick play’s potential success when they ran it during practice earlier in the week but was happy with the result.

“There were a couple times I looked at it and said ‘huh, didn’t like the way that looked,’” the coach said. “But I liked how it looked yesterday in practice and I just said “roll over; you’ve got to be patient on this and let this thing run.’

“He really did a nice, nice job.”

Valor went down swinging against a familiar opponent. Saturday’s contest was the fourth time in five seasons that these two teams have met in the state title game. Down two scores late and facing fourth down, Eagles quarterback Asher Weiner found a diving Cash Spence in the end zone for a 24-yard touchdown. Cash, a freshman, had a game-high six receptions for 85 yards to go with his score.

The ensuing onside kick rolled out of bounds to essentially ice the game, but Valor coach Bret McGatlin said there’s much to be optimistic about for the Eagles.

“That’s a freshman who caught that touchdown,” the coach said. “We’re excited about our future, too. We had to do some things that are a little out of character for us, but you see the future in these skill kids and a quarterback coming back next year. We’ll lose some awesome seniors, but we’re also really excited about some of these young kids who stepped up today.”