“It has been an interesting few weeks, to say the least,” Garrett Looney said.
All Looney, the quarterback who helped Columbine to its first title in 1999, the fall after the Massacre, and was thrust into his first head-coaching job in the middle of 2018’s Week 2, has done is: lead Eaglecrest to a 6-0 record; extend Class 5A’s top, current regular-season winning streak to 26 games; and take charge of a group of stunned players who had their coach suddenly resign after their opener.
Oh, and he watched his Raptors rally from a 35-14 deficit in the third quarter the past Friday to take a thrilling 36-35 decision over Grandview, also a Cherry Creek District rival, at Legacy Stadium in Aurora in the new Metro East League.
Other than that, Looney, in his first season with the program, hadn’t been doing much.
“This is a great group of kids,” Looney said. “And, honestly, since these kids stepped in shock and awe, they’ve gotten on board and said, ‘Let’s go!’”
Go they have. After winning their opener, the Raptors, who finished state runners-up a year ago to Pomona and were in transition after longtime head coach Mike Schmitt moved out of state, were shocked like everyone else when new head coach Dustin Delaney, in a scathing letter directed at district officials, said he was resigning in order to bring attention to what he said were problems detrimental to his players, specifically shoddy facilities. It also was reported that he had resigned from Shawnee Mission East High (Mo.) upon completion of the 2017 season.
So Looney, the team’s offensive coordinator who began as an assistant at Cherry Creek in 2004, moved to ThunderRidge and previously was at Cherokee Trail, suddenly was designated interim coach by Raptors administration.
“I really haven’t had much time to think about it,” he said, noting that it probably has been a good thing.
But all the while he has been able to switch the focus from a very bizarre beginning to what is brewing to be another significant run. Case in point: Eaglecrest, now 30-2 since the start of 2016, outlasted Grandview in its first big game of the season.
The Raptors scored the winning touchdown on fourth-and-1 from the 50-yard line with 24 seconds to play. Quarterback Dylan James, who ran for 291 yards and three TDs, and was just 2-of-9 passing, connected with Ty Robinson. They went for the two-point conversion and got it as Isaiah Emecheta scored on a dive.
However, it didn’t end there. Grandview got a big kickoff return, was helped to the Eaglecrest 35 with a personal-foul penalty, and the Raptors had to make a play with 8 ticks to play to seal it.
Why should it be easy?
“It was about as wild as you get, a crazy, emotional game,” Looney said. “This is what I remember Friday night high-school football being about.”
As for what it’s about concerning his position, Looney, a school dean, certainly hopes he has made his point. He believes what the school administration told him when he took over and doesn’t expect a pat on the back at season’s end and have the program start over – again – with someone new.
“I want to stay and continue to build on this,” he said. “It’s what I want to do.”
But, again, he’s more comfortable with the focus being on his players.
After all, Looney, a former Rebels player, is a veritable expert on the subject.
“It’s about this group right now,” he said.
Eaglecrest will next face Overland on Thursday, 7 p.m., at Stutler Bowl in Greenwood Village, as in-taters head into Week 7. Several other matchups of the round are marked for your viewing pleasure below as only a month of the regular season remains:
Fairview (5-1) vs. Horizon (2-4), Thursday, 7 p.m., Adams 12 North Stadium
It’s a Front Range game. … There were some crazy numbers thrown around last week for Knights junior QB Aidan Atkinson, but the following is what Fairview officially reported in a 67-33 victory over Legacy – he was 32-of-50, for 687 yards, nine TDs and zero interceptions. Other players don’t approach those figures for a season. … The Knights also had four receivers catch all of the passes and the lowest yardage total was 143, Tops was senior Matt Greenwald with 11 catches for 238 yards and two TDs. … On the season, Atkinson has 32 TD tosses. … Horizon has won two straight games after dropping its first four. … Most recently, the Hawks downed Fossil Ridge 17-7. … The Hawks are coming off very good ball control – they held possession for 32 minutes, 23 seconds. … Senior Derek Coffman rushed for 119 yards (on 19 carries) and a TD.
Grandview (5-1) vs. Cherokee Trail (6-0), Friday, 7 p.m., Legacy Stadium
It’s a Metro East game. … Duh! Of course, Grandview is kicking itself after not being able to hold off Eaglecrest last week, so, yes, additional motivation will be good against a second consecutive and undefeated Cherry Creek District/league foe. … Sophomore Noah Schmidt rushed for three touchdowns for the Wolves last week and senior RB Jordan Billingsley ran 23 times for 131 yards and two TDs. … Junior Cade Bruckman was in on 16 tackles, 11 of them solo. … The Cougars already have their most victories since winning 10 in 2013 and their 6-0 start is their best since winning their first 12 games in 4A in 2007. … Senior Malik Sparrow rushed 24 times for 236 yards and three TDs in last week’s 34-10 dismissal of Arapahoe.
Arapahoe (4-2) vs. Cherry Creek (6-0), Friday, 7 p.m., Stutler Bowl
It’s a Metro East game. … The two have met only five times since 2004 (Cherry Creek has won four of them) and used to meet regularly in the Centennial. … It will be the first of three demanding matchups for the Warriors. After the Bruins, Arapahoe will host Grandview and be at Eaglecrest. … Cherry Creek is tied for fourth in scoring (241 points) and fifth in points permitted (70). … In a 45-0 spanking of Overland the past week, the Bruins totaled 38 points in the middle quarters. … Senior QB Alex Padilla (committed to Iowa) has 16 TD tosses and only one interception.
Columbine (6-0) vs. Lakewood (4-2), Friday, 7:30 p.m., Jefferson County Stadium
It’s a Metro West game. … Only one of the Rebels’ six foes has been able to come within two touchdowns. … Columbine head coach Andy Lowry is in his 25th season in command and in the previous two he headed the Tigers, going 13-8. … Junior Tanner Hollens rushed 12 times for 117 yards and two TDs in a 42-13 whipping of Mullen last week. Senior QB Logan DeArment was 5-of-9 passing for 76 yards and a TD. … In his fifth year in command, Tigers coach Jeff Braun has led winning seasons in three of the previous four. … Lakewood is looking for its first victory over a team with a winning record in 2018. Conversely, all three Tigers’ losses have come to teams with above-.500 marks.
Valor Christian (6-0) vs. Rock Canyon (1-5), Saturday, 4:30 p.m., Shea Stadium
It’s a Metro South game. … Bet you didn’t know the following – Valor leads 5A in fewest points allowed (19). The Eagles have three shutouts, 15 sacks and 16 players who have recorded tackles for losses. … Senior QB Luke McCaffrey has thrown for 11 TDs and rushed for six. … Kaiden Keefe and Zain Zinicola each have 13 receptions and combined for five TDs, a team-high four by Keefe. … The Jaguars’ one victory in six tries so far in 2018 was against district-rival Douglas County. … Over its past eight quarters, Rock Canyon has been hit for 103 points. … Rock Canyon has never beaten the Eagles. It is 0-4 and been outscored by a combined 225-26.
Also keep an eye on …
Pomona (4-2) vs. Arvada West (4-2), Thursday, 7 p.m., NAAC
Thursday Night Lights? In the Metro West, the Panthers and very talented senior WR Billy Pospisil, will have their fifth Thursday night matchup in 2018, this one against their Jefferson County-rival Wildcats.
Castle View (4-2) vs. Mountain Vista (1-5), Thursday, 7 p.m., Shea Stadium
The SaberCats’ next victory will be their most in seven seasons; their Metro South matchup is against the district-rival Golden Eagles.
Smoky Hill (6-0) vs. Denver East (5-1), Friday, 4 p.m., All-City Stadium
The Metro 10 lead – both teams are 5-0 — is on the line. Putting the struggling big-school programs together may work. A year ago, the two were a combined 3-17.
Mullen (3-3) vs. Ralston Valley (5-1), Friday, 7 p.m., NAAC
In the Metro West, the Mullen Mustangs (junior RB Damien Cearns, eight TDs) hope to snap a two-game losing streak and the RV Mustangs hope to remain undefeated against 5A (their one loss was to 4A Loveland).
ThunderRidge (5-1) vs. Highlands Ranch (2-4), Friday, 7 p.m., Shea Stadium
In the Metro South, the Grizzlies and Spencer Lambert (12 rushing TDs) have a date with the district-rival Falcons.>