HIGHLANDS RANCH – The Big Blue Machine – aka Valor Christian — kept rolling Friday night.
Led by their dominant defense, the Eagles steamrolled Regis Jesuit 44-6 in second round of the Class 5A state playoffs.
The No. 1 seeded Eagles (11-0) advanced to play ThundeRidge next week in the 5A quarterfinals. ThunderRidge beat Fairview 30-13 Friday night. Regis, seeded 16th, saw its season end with a 7-5 record.
Valors’ defense, rarely bending and hardly dented, dominated Regis, holding the Raiders to 195 total yards, and just 50 in the first half. Meanwhile, Valor’s multifaceted offense rang up 584 yards, 416 of them coming on the ground.
One play, in particular, illustrated the skill and ferocity of the Eagles’ defense. Late in the second quarter, sophomore cornerback Zaire Jackson perfectly read a swing pass to Tate Shulter and leveled him with clean, earthquake of a tackle.
Valor held a 21-0 lead at the half, but the margin should have been more. Because there were multiple misfires and mistakes by the Eagles’ offense — certainly more than coach Ed McCaffrey would like. Their first drive went 14 plays and took 5 minutes 20 seconds off the clock. But it stalled out because of three two false-start penalties, plus a delay of game.
No matter, on the first play of Valor’s next possession, senior quarterback Luke McCaffrey found a seam and raced 81 yards for the game’s first score. McCaffrey, son of the head coach, is bound for Nebraska. He finished the night rushing five times for 90 yards and completing 13 of 24 passes for 168 yards and two touchdowns.
But the player to watch during the rest of the playoffs — and for three more years into the future — is freshman running back Gavin Sawchuck. Roadrunner fast on the outside and tough as nails up the middle, he rushed for 212 yards on 19 carries and a touchdown. Sophomore Jack Howell added 77 yards on six carries and two TDs, including a breakaway 49-yard run in the second half.
Regis’ lone score came on a perfectly executed pass from talented freshman quarterback Nicco Marchiol to Bryce Sloan. Marchiol completed 14 of 25 passes for 110 yards.
The Raiders’ TD drive, however, was aided by three costly Valor penalties — two for unsportsmanlike conduct and another for a late hit out of bounds. Indeed, by the end of the night, the Eagles were flagged for 16 penalties — four of them for unsportsmanlike conduct — for a total of 145 yards.
The No. 1 Eagles are flying high, but they’ll have to clean up their act to keep advancing in the playoffs.
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