Chatfield outlasts Erie to claim Class 4A championship in instant classic – The Denver Post
Drew Rohlman’s magic moment seemed to arrive in slow motion.
The Chatfield Chargers’ sophomore tight end slipped into the end zone shadows behind Erie’s defense and turned to look for a pass from sophomore Jake Jones.
“I saw the ball in the air and I saw that it was a little behind me, so I knew I had to flip around,” Rohlman said. “I made sure to look the ball in. I just knew that I had to make a play.”
And he did, cradling the 32-yard touchdown with 11 seconds left to lift the Chargers to a thrilling 41-34 victory in Saturday’s Class 4A state championship game at Empower Field at Mile High. Chatfield won its first state football title since 2001.
“I have never seen a catch like that,” raved Chargers coach Don McGatlin. “We came up huge — sophomore to sophomore. That was incredible.”
Jones, the designated passer in Chatfield’s run-heavy offense, suffered a fractured clavicle in Week 4 of the season when Chatfield looked nothing like a title contender. Last season, he almost quit football after breaking his ankle in two places. But there he was Saturday, throwing a winning touchdown pass that looked like something straight out of “Friday Night Lights.”
“It’s just an incredible feeling,” Jones said. “I was in a really dark place after breaking my ankle, but Coach McGatlin convinced me to stick it out. He’s one of the best men I’ve ever known. I’m so glad I didn’t quit.”
The Chargers (11-3) entered the playoffs as a No. 7 seed, but they won the title by knocking off No. 2 Dakota Ridge, No. 3 Pine Creek, and finally, No. 5 Erie.
“It’s weird because you never know when a team is going to figure it out,” McGatlin said. “We were down 24-7 to Dakota Ridge, but somehow they figured it out and we won (42-31). From that point on we were a championship-caliber team.”
Added senior running back Jake Marschall, who rushed for 151 yards and two touchdowns on 27 rugged carries: “We are resilient. A lot of teams would have folded because we had injuries left and right. But we never yelled at each other and never got down.”
For previously undefeated Erie (13-1), it was a devastating loss.
Prior to Chatfield’s winning drive, the Tigers had tied the game at 34-all on a 17-yard touchdown pass from sophomore quarterback Blake Barnett to Aidan Achtziger with 1:54 left.
Barnett was sensational, rushing for 153 yards and passing for 247, with two touchdowns and two interceptions.
Chatfield rushed for 304 yards, but until the game-winning drive, the Chargers had not completed a pass. That changed dramatically during their final possession when the Chargers reached into their bag of tricks.
Jones threw a pass to junior Mason Lowe, who pitched the ball to freshman Brock Narva. The perfectly executed hook-and-ladder netted 26 yards to the Erie 30.
“We’ve been kind of known for that hook-and-ladder and when we saw they were playing off us, we used it,” McGatlin said.
Erie and Chatfield combined for 868 yards of total offense — 508 for the Tigers, 359 for the Chargers. While the Tigers moved the ball up and down the field, mistakes cost them dearly. They had 10 penalties for 92 yards while Chatfield did not have a penalty.
Erie took a 13-0 lead on a 3-yard run by Caleb Theisen (20 carries, 122 yards, three touchdowns) and a 25-yard pass from Barnett to Gauge Nichols.
But Chatfield rebounded to take a 14-13 lead on runs up the gut by Sam Ayres out of the Chargers’ multifaceted single-wing offense. Ayres’ second score was set up when Lowe picked off Barnett’s pass and returned it 38 yards to the Erie 22.
Early in the fourth quarter, Chatfield took a 34-20 lead on two long drives, capped off by scoring runs of 5 yards by Marschall and 4 yards by Narva.
But the Tigers, who rallied from 14 points down to beat No. 1 Montrose, 29-28, in last week’s semifinals, thundered back one last time. Only to have their hearts broken with 11 seconds left in the game.
“They always play their butts off,” Erie coach Jeff Giger said. “It seems like we were questioned about how we could handle adversity all year and in the playoffs, we’ve handled it. (Chatfield) made the one play (to win it).”
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