ARVADA — Cherry Creek got off on the right foot, but not before stumbling a little, in its journey to make history in its 2022 football campaign.
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The Bruins took a 35-21 road victory in their season opener against No. 6-ranked Ralston Valley at the North Area Athletic Complex.
“I can’t ever remember having a Week 1 where everything went smoothly,” said Cherry Creek coach Dave Logan, who is starting his 30th year as a head high school football coach in Colorado. “Tonight would be exactly that.”
The Bruins — CHSAANow.com’s Class 5A coaches’ poll unanimous No. 1 team in the preseason rankings — are attempting to do something that has never been done during the Bruins’ tradition rich football history.
Cherry Creek has never captured four straight football titles in a row. The Bruins won three consecutive — 1994, 1995 and 1996 — 5A championships nearly 30 years ago. Cherry Creek has won a dozen state football championships since 1982.
While that fourth straight title in on the table. There is a long road for the Bruins and many hurdles to manage before even thinking about what would be a historic achievement.
“It’s back to the grind and we get ready for Week 2,” Logan said. “We want to continually to improve every week. I told the kids we wouldn’t play our best game Friday night. Our best football historically is when we get into October and early November.”
Ralston Valley and Cherry Creek were locked in a low scoring defensive battle early.
The lone first-half scoring came on a 37-yard scoring drive that took 10 plays in the first quarter. The Bruins were able to convert a key 4th-down and 6 from Ralston Valley’s 10-yard line. Senior quarterback Brian Rudden hit receiver Ismael Cisse for a 9-yard gain. Three plays later senior Bubba Tann scored on a 1-yard touchdown with 4:22 left in the first quarter to give the Bruins a 7-0 lead.
Ralston Valley had a 17-play drive that chewed up most of the second quarter. However, the drive eventually stalled and a long field goal came up well short.
Things opened up in the second half.
Rudden and Cisse hooked up to end the opening second-half drive for the Bruins with a touchdown. Cisse caught a 30-yard touchdown on a corner route to give Cherry Creek a 14-0 lead midway through the third quarter.
“For his first game I thought he made some plays,” Logan said of Rudden in his first varsity start at quarterback.
When it looked like Cherry Creek would start to roll to a comfortable win, Ralston Valley scored back-to-back touchdowns in less than a minute to tie the game up 14-14 lead in the third quarter.
Senior running back Diano Benallo finished off a nice drive with a 4-yard touchdown run. On the next Bruin drive, Ralston Valley junior Jackson Hansen intercepted Rudden and returned it 33 yards for a touchdown.
“When the defense gets a pick-6 that changes the momentum and energy,” Ralston Valley coach Yannacito said. “That was a game changing play.”
Cherry Creek and Ralston Valley traded touchdowns. Senior running back Bubba Tann had a 10-yard scoring run for the Bruins, but Ralston Valley junior quarterback Logan Madden answered with a 62-yard touchdown pass to Hansen, tying the game up at 21-21 midway through the fourth quarter.
“The positives are we hung in there and when we tried to give the game away we found away to bounce back to make enough plays,” Logan said.
Rudden hit a wide-open Cisse for a 45-yard touchdown with 6:25 left to give the Bruins the lead back at 28-21. Less than two minutes later senior Marte Russell sealed the victory with a pick-6 to make the final score 35-21.
“We have a lot of work to do,” said Logan, who will take his Bruins to Ohio for a game next week against St. Edward’s. “We’ve got some guys back from last year, but we’ve got some inexperienced guys thrown in as well. It’s a long journey.”
Ralston Valley also goes out-of-state next week for it’s Week 2 game.
“The biggest thing is we have to stay humble and hungry,” Yannacito said about having a gauntlet of a non-league schedule that still includes Grandview, Regis and Valor after a trip to Orlando. “We have to keep getting better.”
The first-year coach for the Mustangs who came over from Golden High School was pleased with how his new squad performance against the three-time defending state champions.
“These kids showed me they are a family,” Yannacito said. “They played so resilient and so tough. I can’t be more proud of the effort they gave tonight. It was awesome.”
Dennis Pleuss is the sports information director for Jeffco Public Schools. For more Jeffco coverage, go to CHSAANow.com.
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