Prayer answered: Broomfield football headed to Class 4A title game after late stop against Erie – The Denver Post

BROOMFIELD — Broomfield’s Cole LaCrue watched the area’s other quarterback phenom make most of the sensational plays in the opening half of the Class 4A football semifinals here Saturday afternoon. Then responded in turn.

Still needing a goal-line stop from the defense in the final seconds to seal a trip to the state title game, he prayed to his late father: “Please help us make one more play. One more.”

Prayer answered. Broomfield 36, Erie 32.

Sophomore Gio Toledo emerged from the pile with the ball to halt a go-ahead touchdown from Erie in the closing seconds, putting the No. 2 Eagles one win away from their first football championship since 1984.

“We kept going, played with some Eagle magic and then Gio made the game-winning play because he’s a stud,” defensive end Garrett Keeler said.

Toledo was an unlikely hero in a game featuring outstanding play from Erie quarterback Blake Barnett and LaCrue.

In one moment, it looked like Barnett and his favorite receiver Caden Lettis would be instrumental in erasing an 11-point deficit in the final 6 minutes, 15 seconds. The pair connected for a 23-yard TD strike after a long Broomfield scoring drive to pull within four. Then, with 89 seconds left, they connected for another long strike as Erie moved all the way down to the 1.

At that point, the ball was dislodged and Toledo recovered. Celebration, hurt and disbelief, all in one.

“I’m pretty sure (Noah Biller) came in with me but I came in and partially popped it out,” Toledo said, describing the fumble. “It was in front of my hands and I just picked it up.”

Barnett, who has multiple Division I offers as a junior, often showed off an arm that has college scouts raving about him. But it was his legs that’d given the Tigers swagger early on — none more so than his blistering run as the team’s defensive back.

Late in the opening half against a team that’d walloped the Tigers 35-14 in Week 4, Barnett was the last man in pursuit of a ball carrier headed for the end zone when he turned on his state title track speed. The junior caught the ball carrier and ripped the ball away, too, and leaped on top before it squirmed out of bounds.

That play turned into a 14-point swing, a huge momentum shift, as Barnett led the Tigers back the other way, finding Ronin Ward for a 2-yard score to push the lead to 17-7 with 9 seconds left before the break.

Turns out, though, his back-and-forth with LaCrue had just begun.

LaCrue told his teammates to trust him at halftime. He then led them. The Wisconsin commit, who lost his father two years ago, ran for scores of 18, 1 and 15 yards to give the Eagles a 28-17 lead. (The 1-yard score was set up by his 28-yard run that saw him floor a defender to the ground.)

Barnett responded and got Erie back within three on a touchdown pass and 2-point conversion early in the fourth. LaCrue pushed it back to 11 with his fourth rushing TD of the day on the backend of a 10-play drive.

Barnett, with the ball in his hands late, nearly had the last laugh. He needed just two plays to go 52 yards to make it 36-32 minutes earlier. Then only three plays to rack up 44 in closing seconds. He needed 45.

“I’m just thinking of what a phenomenal competitor and athlete Blake Barnett is at that point,” Broomfield coach Blair Hubbard said he thought before Erie’s final play.

Broomfield will face Loveland at Empower Field at Mile High Stadium in the 4A title game at 11 a.m. Saturday.

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