LAKEWOOD — Rob Molholm walked up to his team, choked up with a lower tone than normal in his voice. The usually vociferous Evergreen Cougars football coach was emotionally wounded by his team’s 47-14 season-ending loss to Silver Creek at Trailblazer Stadium.
“My heart’s broken. They’re good kids,” Molholm said. “You know if you have a wife or kids, but this is my family.”
Ninth-seeded Silver Creek (8-2) broke out to a 23-0 halftime lead and rode the legs of running back Josh Quiroz, who ran for 221 yards and two scores, in the 3A football playoff opener on Nov. 9. Quarterback Ben Sjobakken added 168 yards and two passing touchdowns for the Raptors.
“They’re a good team. They’re probably going to go far. We just couldn’t hang with them,” Evergreen senior Joe Danni said of Silver Creek, which will play 16th-seeded Pueblo East, a stunning 47-13 upset winner over top-seeded Discovery Canyon in the quarterfinals.
Losing in the first round has become, unfortunately, a somewhat familiar scene for Evergreen. The Cougars have lost in the first round in their last four playoff appearances, including 0-3 in the Molholm era. The 33-point differential was the worst in the postseason for Evergreen since a 47-2 shellacking at the hands of Niwot in 2004.
“We’ve got to start learning from these playoff losses,” Molholm said. “We missed it last year, and that’s a predominant amount of this team. I’m hoping this will motivate our younger guys to hit the weight room very hard here soon.”
What Evergreen can hang its hat on, though, is a 31-14 record the past four years — all winning seasons — which is the first time that’s happened in the school’s 66-year history.
The Cougars can also look at three playoff appearance in the past four years, including two 3A Metro West titles in the past three seasons. All of those accomplishments can’t be take from the Cougars, but that did little to squelch their disappointment after a fifth straight playoff defeat. Evergreen, which is 4-8 all-time in the postseason, hasn’t won a playoff game since Nov. 27, 1999, in the 3A state semifinals against Eaton.
Evergreen finally got on the scoreboard with 4 minutes, 28 seconds left in the third quarter when senior running back Ryan Hays juked his way down the left sideline for a 47-yard TD run after initially being bottled up inside. It was a good momentum boost for a Cougars offense that turned the ball over three times and was held to just 51 yards of offense in the first half.
“We did a good job,” said Hays, who missed the first four games of the season with a dislocated tendon in his right ankle. “We knew that they were flowing. The line did a good job of holding their own. I cut back, saw the hole, and they couldn’t catch me.”
It was one of two big offensive scoring strikes for Evergreen (8-3) in the second half. The other was a picture-perfect 77-yard Jack Curtis touchdown pass to Hays midway through the fourth quarter.
“They were big; they were strong. I have to give them credit. They are the reigning state champions,” Hays said. “I’m really proud of the way we came back in the second half.”
Contact Michael Hicks at email@example.com or 303-933-2233, ext. 15.