The Denver East Angels U19 program earned the gold medal, Littleton the silver and Colorado Springs the bronze in 7s competition of the Colorado state games at Cheyenne Mountain High School sports complex in Colorado Springs on Saturday.
Denver were down 12-0 at halftime of the finals, but clawed their way back for the win with a superb second effort to claim the title.
Path to the medals
The Angels went 3-1-1 and were tied for second place with Colorado Springs Grizzlies in preliminary match play, but advanced to the gold medal fixture by virtue of a cumulative points differential with their downstate rivals of six. Littleton went into the title match as top seed with a 4-1 record, its only loss coming in the third round v the Grizzlies, 10-17.
Bronze: Colorado Springs v Cherry Creek
Colorado Springs jumped to a 10-0 lead in the first half with tries by the Markowsky brothers, Nick and Alex. Sevens All-American Michael Black, who directed his talented charges in stellar fashion from the slot position, stripped ball in the tackle at Creek’s 10 meter line and fed Alex Markowsky perfectly. The speedy scrumhalf stepped inside a defender and outpaced pursuit for Springs first score. Then Black grubbed ahead for onrushing Nick Markowsky who collected the ball on a friendly bounce and sped into goal.
Grizzlies scored twice shortly after break with tries by Marcus Whitting and Nick Markowsky before Cherry Creek got on the board with a slick inside move, burst, and touch down by Hayden Teehan, closing the gap to 22-5. Christian Flores finished tallies for Springs as Black put him into space at Creek’s 22 and he crossed for the score. CC’s Ben Pinkleman completed the scoring with a burst through the defense and a dash into goal for a final of Colorado Springs Grizzlies 35, Cherry Creek 21.
Gold and Silver
Tries by newcomer Abe Ruiz and wing Brian D’Ambrosia had Littleton up by ten at the half, but Denver East were able to erase that deficit and claim ultimate victory via the sure toe of Matt Fitzgerald.
Ruiz, a first year player for Littleton, electrified onlookers with a 60 meter scoot through traffic for a 5-0 lead after 2 minutes. D’Ambrosia got his try after a banging, jinking run up the touchline and a leap into goal: 10-0 to Littleton at the breather.
East burst out of the halftime gates, roaring into Littleton territory as deceptively canny 7s prop Adam Page ghosted through the defensive wall at midfield, but Littleton were up to the task forcing turnover and attacking well in the early stages of the second stanza. Then dynamo wing Taj Willingham fended off a tackle at his own 10 meter line. He broke through a second attempted stoppage en route to a try converted by Fitzgerald, and East drew to within five midway through the half.
Littleton made it a twelve point margin when Josh Brake popped into space at the Denver 22 and would not be denied the score as he dragged a hand tackler for ten meters before crossing, and it was 19-7 as Littleton looked the good bet to grab gold.
A spirited dash up touch by Miles Mackenzie realized seven more for the Angels with Fitzgerald’s conversion. With game over at next whistle, versatile Angel 7s prop Dante Brown broke into space and flippered a pair of defenders to draw East even, and Fitzgerald secured the title with his conversion at no time. Final: Denver East 21 - Littleton 19.
“I’m really proud of the way the boys played after the loss to Littleton (14-21) in our first match, as well as their ‘never say die’ attitude in the finals,” enthused a beaming Bill Baer, longtime Denver East coach.