LAKEWOOD — An early defensive touchdown set the tone early in the annual Chatfield versus Columbine football rivalry Friday night at Jeffco Stadium.

Columbine senior Spencer Houle hit Chatfield quarterback Jake Jones from the blindside just as Jones was trying to get a pass off midway through the first quarter. The ball popped up in the air and senior defensive lineman Allen Pham was right there to grab it in mid-air and return it 30 yards for a touchdown.

“I wasn’t expecting to be unblocked,” Houle said of the biggest defensive play of the game in the eventual 35-14 victory for Columbine. “I came out the back side and just saw him (Jones). I punched the ball out and saw my teammate (Pham) running it in for a touchdown.”

The defensive score gave the Rebels a 14-0 lead 6:44 left the first quarter. Columbine — No. 2 in the 5A Colorado Preps Select Media Football Poll — never trailed against cross-town rival Chatfield in the regular-season and league finale.

Photo by Dennis Pleuss/Jeffco Public Schools

“That was awesome and Allen Pham picking it up to score,” Columbine coach Andy Lowry said of the defensive touchdown midway through the first quarter to make it a 14-point lead for the Rebels. “That was huge.”

The Rebels’ victory clinched the coveted conference title that Ralston Valley won last year.

“This is great after last year losing to Ralston Valley,” Houle said of the league championship returning to Columbine. “This feels great.”

Columbine (10-0, 5-0 in 5A Jeffco) also had its starting quarterback back on the field to help return the league title back to Columbine High School. Senior Reeve Holliday has missed the pervious three games after having an emergency appendectomy leading up to the league game against No. 4 Ralston Valley on Oct. 6.

“It was a lot of fun to be back,” Holliday said.

Holliday engineered a 6-play, 80-yard touchdown on the opening drive of the game. The drive finished with a 2-yard touchdown pass from Holliday to junior James Basinger on a fourth-down play to give the Rebels a 7-0 lead.

Holliday had a handful of key completions on third downs to keep drives alive. He had a 32-yard touchdown pass to senior Hunter Hamilton in the third quarter that pushed Columbine’s lead to 28-7.

“When our run game gets shutdown we obviously need to make some plays,” Holliday said. “I’ve got to make some plays for our guys. It was nice that I was able to step up for those guys.”

Columbine senior running back Mason Moreno had a pair of short touchdown runs to cap off drives for the Rebels. Senior Josh Snyder had a strong game that included a 73-yard run on the opening drive.

“Our guys played hard tonight,” Lowry said. “They blocked hard, ran hard and the defense played great. We held them to basically seven points except for that kickoff return.”

Chatfield (5-5, 3-2) got on the scoreboard on the opening kickoff of the second half after trailing 21-0. Senior Dagan Myers had incredible 88-yard return for the score 15 seconds into the second quarter.

However, Columbine answered with Holliday’s touchdown pass to Hamilton. Chatfield did get a 11-yard touchdown run by senior Landon Mueller early in the fourth quarter to make it a 28-14 game. Columbine responded again with a signature Rebel scoring drive going 71 yards on 11 straight running plays.

Columbine completely dominated Chatfield 56-0 in their last meeting, the regular-season finale for both teams a year ago at Jeffco Stadium. The Rebels rushed for more than 350 yards on the ground and had eight rushing touchdowns.

The 21-point victory gives the Rebels plenty of momentum going into the postseason.

The bracket for the 5A state tournament is scheduled to be released by CHSAA on Sunday, Oct. 29. Columbine — No. 4 in the CHSAA Selection and Seeding Index before games Friday night — is expected to get a top-8 seed and first-round bye.

“We aren’t going to take this (bye) week lightly,” Holliday said. “We still need to get better. We need to be a great team going into playoffs for us to go after that state championship.”

Chatfield was No. 12 in the seeding index and still should get a home game in the first round that beings next week.