CHERRY HILLS VILLAGE — A flock of Canada geese, in a perfect V-formation, flew in a southerly direction over Justin DeSorrento Memorial Field in the fourth quarter of Saturday's Class 2A state championship game.
About two minutes later on the field below, Brannon Jones ran the same direction through the Platte Valley Broncos' defense. The V-formation in this case stood for victory.
In a game that left both teams in tears, Jones' fourth-quarter heroics lifted Kent Denver to a 28-17 win over the valiant Broncos for its first state championship since 1991.
The Sun Devils finished 13-0 under coach Scott Yates. But, boy, did they get a tough fight from an undersized Platte Valley team playing big in honor of an injured teammate.
The scene, with 6 minutes, 53 seconds left in the fourth quarter: Kent Denver had the ball, first-and-10 at its 33-yard line, trailing 17-14. The Broncos to that point had done a great job against the Sun Devils' talented backfield of Jones, a 6-foot-2, 225-pound senior, and speedy 5-10 sophomore Jaden Franklin.
If they could just hold on for seven more minutes, championship nirvana would be there for the Broncos. Trey Johnson, who watched the game from an online feed from a hospital bed in Aurora, starred for Platte Valley before suffering a brain injury this season. He no doubt would have been given the title trophy.
But then, suddenly, Jones began his flight to victory. On an epic 67-yard run that started right but finished in the left side of the end zone, Jones broke four tackles along the way.
"It was called 'Blast Right,' and obviously I broke to the right, but I'd been trying to find that cut left all day and finally found it," Jones said. "As soon as I saw that goal line getting close, I knew I had to find a way to make it. I don't know this all happened. I'm just trying to make sense of it right now."
The Broncos (10-3) appeared to be in deep trouble in the second quarter, falling behind 14-3 and faced with first-and-goal on defense against a Kent Denver offense confidently led by junior quarterback Joey Matarazzo. But after stiffening and stopping the Sun Devils on downs, Platte Valley pretty much dominated the game from that point until Jones' long run.
"We were expecting a pass on that play," said Broncos coach Troy Hoffman. "We missed a couple tackles, but he made a great play."
The Broncos, down 21-17 now, had plenty of time left. With the ball in the hands of 145-pound junior QB Logan Sitzman, anything was possible. Sitzman, who made the bigger Sun Devils miss much of the day on his zig-zag run-and-throws, led the Broncos to their 41 before getting a pass batted down on fourth-and-3 by Kent Denver's Trevon Hamlet. Jones would add a 2-yard plunge for the final score with 2:03 left.
"Our motto all year was 'finish,' " said Yates, Kent Denver's longtime coach. "These seniors were here four years ago when we made it to the title game and lost. It was their mission to change that, and they did."
Hoffman gave an emotional speech to his team afterward, many of his players in tears. Johnson's mother, Marilyn, was emotional when talking about how the Broncos honored her son.
"They did us all proud," she said.Platte Valley 3 14 0 0 — 17
Kent Denver 7 7 0 14 — 28
KD — Pettyjohn 57 pass from Matarazzo (Raeder kick). PV — FG Collins-Landwehr 29. KD — Boatman 22 pass from Matarazzo (Raeder kick). PV — Bethel 11 run (Collins-Landwehr kick). PV — Sitzman 2 run (Collins-Landwehr kick). KD — Jones 67 run (Raeder kick). KD — Jones 2 run (Raeder kick).
Kent Denver senior Brannon Jones had a fourth quarter he will never forget. He broke four tackles on a game-winning 67-yard run, and added a late 2-yard TD run for the final margin.