PUEBLO — The Centauri High School football team wrapped up an undefeated season as it defeated top-seeded Limon 24-21 in the Class 1A state championship game Saturday at the CSU Pueblo Thunderbowl.
“It’s amazing — it’s pretty darn amazing,” said sophomore Kaleb Anderson, who kicked the game-winning field goal with 1 minute and 2 seconds remaining. “I just don’t know how to feel. I’m so overwhelmed and it’s awesome.”
This marks the first state football championship in Centauri’s history. The Falcons were seeded second in the Class 1A State Tournament and the Badgers were seeded No. 1. Limon had won three straight 1A state football titles and 20 in the school's history.
“I love these boys,” said Centauri coach Kyle Forster. "They did a helluva job.
“We’re going to go celebrate it long into the night,” Forster added. “We’re going to go celebrate this one and enjoy it.”
The seniors said that it was great to go out on top.
“It’s just a special feeling,” said senior quarterback Byron Shawcroft. “We’ve done this as a team.”
“It’s amazing,” said senior Baron Holman. “There’s no better feeling at all.”
“This is the greatest feeling I’ve ever had,” said senior Peyton Polzin. “I’m just at the top of the world.”
“This is a dream come true,” said senior Mason Claunch. “I’ve been dreaming about this since I was a little kid."
“It feels amazing,” said senior Danny Brady. “This was everything to me. We’ve been working for it forever now.”
“It was amazing,” said senior Zach Buhr. “It was a long time coming.”
“It’s amazing,” said senior Ben Tailleur, who blocked two punts.
Neither team scored in the first quarter, but both teams had opportunities. The Falcons (12-0) turned the ball over twice in the opening period, but neither resulted in any Badgers (12-1) points. The teams crushed their four playoff opponents on the way to the championship game.
Centauri scored the first touchdown just 34 seconds into the second quarter. Claunch found an open hole and raced 86 yards down the left sideline. Anderson kicked the extra point and the Falcons led 7-0.
“Getting the lead on this team was huge,” Claunch said. “Getting a lead on them felt good."
Centauri got another break on Limon’s next possession. Tailleur blocked Trey Hines’ punt and Buhr picked up the loose ball and ran 18 yards for a touchdown. Anderson again kicked the point after for a 14-0 lead.
“I saw Ben block the punt and I scooped and scored,” Buhr said.
Limon answered on its next possession as Hines threw a 38-yard touchdown pass to Brady Rockwell. Hines also converted the point-after to cut the Centauri lead to 14-7.
The Badgers closed to within 14-13 on its first possession of the second half. Jeremiah Leeper broke through the line and raced 45 yards for a touchdown. Hines’ extra-point attempt was partially blocked and fell short.
The Falcons answered on their next drive with a 16-play 63-yard scoring drive. Shawcroft threw a 6-yard scoring strike to Holman to cap the drive. Anderson again kicked the extra point for a 21-13 lead.
“We ran some routes to get everybody to go inside,” Shawcroft said. “We let Baron go to the outside and he came open. I’m just going to get it to my receiver and let him go make a play. He’s a special receiver and if you get him the ball, he’s going to score just about every time.”
Holman credited the call of the offensive coordinator.
“I got wide open and the line held up perfect. Our quarterback made a great pass and it was well-executed,” Holman said.
Limon again had an answer as Hines ran 45 yards to the Centauri 14. Hines was injured on the play and left the game.
Brady Rockwell came in at quarterback and he threw a 13-yard touchdown pass to Gabe Schubarth. Leeper took the pitch on the two-point conversion and tied the score at 21-21 with 3:02 left in the third.
The game-winning field goal was set up as Tailleur partially tipped another Badgers punt. Buhr grabbed the ball out of the air and ran 27 yards to the Limon 12.
“I was just trying to get through,” Tailleur said. “I was thinking if I don’t get this block, we didn’t know how this was going to go.”
The Falcons moved the ball to the Limon 3 before Anderson calmly booted the 20-yard field goal with 1:02 to play.
“I was just trying to score,” Anderson said of his game-winner. “The crowd was just so wild and there was so much pressure I could hardly think. All I knew that I had to keep my head down and I had to kick and just try to focus on that. It went through the uprights and I’m glad.”
Limon had one last drive, but sophomore Chaz Holman knocked down Rockwell’s Hail Mary pass on the last play of the game.
Centauri accumulated 256 yards of total offense — 122 rushing and 134 passing.
Shawcroft completed 16 of 23 passes for 134 yards. Baron Holman was his top receiver with nine catches for 91 yards. His brother, Chaz, had three receptions for 23 yards and Claunch had two for 14 yards.
Claunch led the Falcons’ running game with 109 yards on 26 carries.
Centauri’s defense bent but it didn’t break. Despite giving up 352 total yards, the Falcons came up big limiting the Badgers to 6-16 on third-down conversions and Limon was also 0-2 on fourth down.
“Our defense played well,” Forster said. “They did all day. Our offense struggled at times, but Limon’s a great team and they’re a great program. They’re extremely well-coached. It was a great, great win for our program, for our community, and our fans.”