LAKEWOOD — On a freezing cold night at Jeffco Stadium, Columbine football heated things up in the second half.

The No. 2-seeded Rebels scored on their first three offensive possessions in the second half and got a pick-6 from senior defensive back Troy Johnson in a 35-16 victory over No. 14 Chatfield in the Class 5A state semifinal on Friday night.

“It’s just a special moment I’m going to cherish forever,” Columbine running back Josh Snyder said about the victory over rival Chatfield that locked the Rebels into the championship game next week. “Friday night lights against our rivals. Playing against kids that I’ve known since the second grade. It’s awesome.”

Columbine (13-0 record) was the first 5A team to punch its ticket to the championship game Saturday, Dec. 2 at Canvas Stadium on the Colorado State University campus in Fort Collins. The other 5A semifinal — No. 5 Ralston Valley vs No. 1 Cherry Creek — is scheduled for 1 p.m. tomorrow (Saturday, Nov. 25) at Stutler Bowl.

“We don’t care who is in our way,” Columbine senior defensive end Hunter Hamilton said of facing either Ralston Valley or Cherry Creek next week at Canvas Stadium. “Honestly I don’t care who we play. We are just hungry.”

Photo by Dennis Pleuss/Jeffco Public Schools

Chatfield (8-6) looked game to give the Rebels a tough battle. The Chargers were coming off back-to-back playoff wins on the road against No. 3 Arapahoe and No. 11 Grandview.

A 24-yard field goal by Chatfield junior Andrew Astone to end the first half cut Columbine lead to 7-3 at halftime.

“I’m not sure what is happening the first half all of the sudden during the last couple of week,” Columbine coach Andy Lowry said about the Rebels scoring just 7 points in the first half in the quarterfinal and semifinal games. “We are playing better teams.”

The Rebels were clearly the better team in the second half. Columbine had three methodical scoring drives in the second half that all ended with touchdown runs by Snyder.

“That’s the team,” Snyder said of his touchdown runs of 5, 5 and 6 yards. “The hoggies block. The other running backs block. I just ran the ball. All credit to them.”

Johnson accounted for the fourth Rebel touchdown after the halftime with a 37-yard interception of Chatfield quarterback Jake Jones that he returned for a touchdown with 9:14 left in the fourth quarter to push Columbine’s lead to 28-10.

“Troy Johnson was unbelievable,” Hamilton said. “He came out this year and wasn’t super confident in himself. We knew what he was capable of. I think everyone saw what he is capable of tonight. That was an amazing play tonight.”

Jones had a 14-yard touchdown run and engineered a 74-yard touchdown drive in the fourth quarter for the Chargers the that was capped off by a 3-yard touchdown run by senior Landon Mueller.

Chatfield’s run through the postseason this season was similar to two years ago when the Chargers won the 4A state championship as the No. 7 seed. Chatfield went 7-3 in the regular season, including a pair of league losses to Bear Creek and rival Dakota Ridge, but it all came together in the playoffs.

Chatfield upset No. 2 Dakota Ridge and No. 3 Pine Creek to reach the title game. A last-minute touchdown pass by Jones to Drew Rohlman — both sophomores at the time —  lifted the Chargers to a 41-34 win over Erie at Mile High Stadium.

However, the Chargers’ run this year ended Friday at the hands of the rival Rebels.

Columbine had taken a 35-14 victory over Chatfield in their regular-season meeting Oct. 27 at Jeffco Stadium.

“We can’t be content where we are at right now,” Lowry said. “We need to finish it and Chatfield happened to be in our way right now.”

Columbine’s last trip to the state championship game was in 2019. The Rebels suffered a 35-10 loss to Cherry Creek. It was the first of the current four straight 5A state championship for the Bruins.

The Rebels won five 5A state titles from 1999 to 2011 under Lowry. The loss to Cherry Creek in 2019 was actually the only championship game Columbine had dropped under Lowry who was 5-0 in title games.

“It hasn’t dawned on my yet,” Lowry said about coaching in his seventh state championship game next weekend. “It is just one week at a time and I love these kids. They are hard workers and have great character. They are kids you want to be around. It is probably the most fun and enjoyable year I’ve had in my career.”

The 5A state championship game is scheduled for a 3 p.m. kickoff Saturday, Dec. 2, in Fort Collins.

“We’ve got next week still. We are focused on Ralston Valley or Creek,” Snyder said. “We want that state championship title.”