Eagle Valley football ends 2023 season in dramatic fashion
The Devils drove 92 yards in the final minute to defeat Summit 36-35
Nothing beats going out on a high note.
“Man, what a way to finish a game and a season for the seniors,” Eagle Valley’s first-year head football coach Chris Lake stated after the Devils’ walk-off touchdown, 36-35 win over Summit in the regular season finale last Friday night in Breckenridge.
“Starting a drive on your own 8-yard line with just over a minute in the game is a tall task for sure, but this scenario is exactly what we all dream about — a long drive for a comeback win.”
The drama started before the Devils’ rendition of “The Drive.”
Elias Pena, the team’s starting right slotback and linebacker, broke his collarbone in the team’s 19-16 win over Glenwood Springs on Oct. 27. The injury bug bit again in the first quarter of Friday’s game, taking out Peter Boyd and Camden Carle with ankle injuries.
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“We believe in the ‘next man-up approach to the game,” Lake stated. Mason Metz started for Pena, senior Aedan Phelan replaced Carle and sophomore Nathan Leeper assumed a heavy load at running back.
After the Devils booted the opening kick-off out of bounds, Summit quarterback Hank Chabot made quick work of the short field, putting the Tigers on the board first with a corner strike to Quinn Breigenzer.
Eagle Valley wouldn’t even things up until 10:51 remaining in the second quarter, when the call was made to run wideout Keaden Lake on a counter reverse. A Tiger defender sniffed out the trick play, meeting the sophomore in his own backfield. Lake quickly reversed course and then went majorly off script — in a good way — launching a pass deep to Kevin Hasley for a 48-yard score.
“As they say, big time players make big time plays, and that’s just what Kevin and Keaden would do all night long,” the coach stated of his two receivers, who contributed to a combined five touchdowns. Right before the half, it was older brother Caiven’s turn. The senior quarterback found his brother for a five-yard touchdown with 4:01 remaining; the successful extra point made it 14-7.
Coach Lake said the Devils have been “very balanced” on offense, but needed to rely more on the aerial attack with Pena and Boyd out.
“We had to take what they were giving us as the game played out,” he said.
Three ticks before the break, a Summit double-reverse ended with wide receiver Jackson Archambault lofting one to Chabot. After the successful two-point conversion, the home team went into the locker room ahead 15-14.
Caiven Lake connected with Hasley for the first score of the third, then tossed the two-point conversion to Phelan for the 22-15 lead. Summit responded one minute later on a two-yard run by Ben Elam. The Tigers held the Devils to consecutive punts on the following two drives, then went ahead 29-22 on Chabot’s 2-yard run with 9:46 remaining in the game.
Eagle Valley answered with another Lake-to-Lake connection, this one a 10-yard score with 4:28 to go. The brothers hooked up on the 2-point conversion pass as well, thrusting the Devils in front, 30-29.
But the home team stormed back. Chabot found Emilio Jain for a long gain through the air, setting up Archambault’s 34-yard scamper to pay dirt — and the game’s seventh lead change.
The Tigers, who came into the contest ranked No. 25 in 3A, seemed poised to provide head coach Paul Lopez a 5-5 finish to his first season at the helm, pinning Eagle Valley inside the 8-yard line with 1:03 remaining.
On the Devils’ sidelines, Lake’s message was simple: stay focused.
“If you can stay poised in the critical moments you have a much better chance to be successful. I just wanted to keep the boys calm and give us a chance to go win the game,” the coach said.
“The whole team stepped up on this drive.”
Caiven Lake made key throws and scrambled out of bounds to stop the clock. Hasley made a catch-and-run on a fourth down to keep the drive alive. Finally, Keaden Lake delivered the dagger.
The sophomore tallied three catches on the final possession, including the game-winning 14-yard-post route over the middle as time expired.
“Everyone played their part on offense and defense,” the coach stated of the group effort. “Missing the kids that were injured was big and made it an incredibly tough, contested game.”
After starting out the year 1-6, Eagle Valley won its final two games, both against higher-ranked opponents (Glenwood Springs finished the year 5-5 and No. 16 in 3A). Lake said the victories were a great reward for the seniors’ hard work throughout the fall.
“Our goal this year was to be competitive and in the end we were that,” he said, adding that those victories also provide the program momentum for 2024. “We hope this win will help the young kids believe that they too can be successful.”
He expects to build around returning starters like Lake, Leeper, Metz, Isaiah Gonzalez, Cooper Hern, Malachi Barros and Xander DeHerrarah. Improvement was both the team’s theme for this year and its mantra for the next.
“Getting better every day — that is what I asked of the team. These kids needed a couple wins, especially the underclassman. The culture here at Eagle Valley is changing. All they’ve known in recent years is losing,” the coach continued.
“We intend to change that and these last two games proved we can.”