HIGHLANDS RANCH – It was hard for the Valor Christian football team to take the field and not think back to its Week 1 loss to Regis Jesuit.

It was even tougher not to think about it when Josiah Harris picked off a pass and returned it for a touchdown to give the Raiders a quick lead. But this Valor team is different than its Week 1 counterpart. This team is more comfortable with the coaching staff and more comfortable with each other.

At the end of the night, they walked off the field with a 45-28 win and a trip to the Class 5A football semifinals. To get there by beating the Regis Jesuit team that knocked them off the first week of the regular season made the effort sweeter.

“We knew we had to get through (the first round) and we knew we had a tough schedule in front of us,” senior Trey Stott said. “But we really wanted the revenge week. We wanted to get after it.”

After Harris’ pick-6 put the Raiders up early, the Eagles (10-2 overall) never panicked. They moved down the field and tied the game on a 25-yard run from Gabe Sawchuk. The Eagles added a field goal and another touchdown to make it a 17-7 game.

(Dan Mohrmann/ColoradoPreps.com)

The Raiders (7-5) responded quickly with a touchdown run from Albert Medina. But the Eagles were determined to stay ahead of pace. A long Sawchuk run setup a Stott rushing touchdown, igniting the Valor crowd.

“It takes a team effort,” Sawchuk said. “Actually, Roman Bradley took two guys out on that play. It’s never a one-man sport. It’s always a full team effort.”

That’s a statement that holds true for this win. The offense put up 45 points, but it was the defense that may have been the big difference maker. The Eagles forced four turnovers in the game which is an area where they have struggled for the majority of the year.

“I would’ve liked to not throw two picks,” coach Bret McGatlin said. “I feel like we can control that, but to force four (turnovers), I’m very happy with that. You can’t win this time of year and lose the turnover battle.”

This is the third consecutive year that the Eagles have reached the semis and in the previous two they’ve made it to the state championship game only to lose to Cherry Creek.

That’s a trend they hope to break, but first they have to get through the winner of Columbine and Ralston Valley.

The Raiders held Valor to just 17 points in the first meeting between the two teams, but coach Danny Filleman knew that the team would look far more polished in November than it was in August.

“We knew it was going to be a battle,” Filleman said. “We knew they were going to be tough to stop on offense. We knew they could move the ball and we turned the ball over four times. You can’t do that against a good Valor team.”

Regardless of the winner of Saturday’s Jeffco showdown between Columbine and Ralston Valley, the Eagles will host their semifinal game on Nov. 26 at 1 p.m.