ENGLEWOOD - Like a lot of teams in prep and college football, Kent Denver awards its players pride stickers for achieving big plays on the field.
Senior Brannon Jones, a two-way starter for the top-ranked Sun Devils, creatively arranged his to spell out BAM across the front of his helmet.
What a fitting word for a player that turned himself into a battering ram in the fourth quarter of the Class 2A state championship game Nov. 24 against No. 7 Platte Valley.
With the unbeaten Sun Devils down 17-14 with just 6 minutes, 53 seconds to play in the game, Jones took a handoff from Kent’s own 33-yard line, busted through the line of scrimmage, brushed off four would-be tacklers and rumbled into the end zone to give his team a 21-17 lead.
Jones tacked on an insurance touchdown with 2:03 to play as the Sun Devils won their first state championship since 1991 with a hard-fought 28-17 victory over the Broncos at a jam-packed Justin DeSorrento Memorial Field.
“It was a lot of will and determination,” said Jones of his game-winning touchdown.
“It was the offensive line and everyone buckling down, too, and saying that we needed to play tougher than we are. That break came right when we needed it.”
For Jones, one of a handful of seniors that was part of the Kent Denver team that lost in the state final four years ago, ending his prep career with a state championship game - and victory - on the team’s home field was rewarding.
“This is amazing,” Jones said. “To get back (to the state championship), win it and go undefeated is amazing and more than I could’ve asked for or dreamed.”
Platte Valley (10-3) looked poised to ruin the Kent Denver (13-0) victory party. With quarterback Logan Sitzman doing his best Tim Tebow impersonation, the Broncos rallied from an early 14-3 hole to take a 17-14 with 21 seconds to play in the second quarter on a 5-yard touchdown run by Sitzman.
The Broncos, though, were unable to find a rhythm offensively in the second half; they punted on their first four possessions, turned the ball over on downs and finally, were intercepted by Kent Denver’s Matt Pettyjohn with 1:41 to play.
“I knew they were going to throw the ball and I had been waiting all game for my opportunity,” said Pettyjohn, who caught a 56-yard touchdown pass from Joey Matarazzo on the game’s second play from scrimmage that gave the Sun Devils an early 7-0 lead.
“In the first game we played against them I had two interceptions, so I was waiting for my opportunity and once I got it, I jumped on it.”
As mentioned, Kent Denver started the game off with a bang on Matarazzo’s touchdown pass to Pettyjohn. Matarazzo threw a 22-yard touchdown pass to Brian Boatman to increase the lead to 14-3.
An interception by Tom Bluher off a tip by Trevon Hamlet set the Sun Devils up with a first-and-goal from the Platte Valley 5-yard line, but the Sun Devils were unable to put any points on the board and the Broncos responded with 14 unanswered points to take the lead.
“We knew this was going to be a tough game,” Kent Denver coach Scott Yates said. “We have a bunch of kids with great character, and they weren’t going to give up. It’s a testament to the young men on this team and the determination they had … they’re fighters and they wanted to finish.”