It was the first time the Pueblo West Cyclone Football Team had made semifinals since 2012.
Pueblo South, the eventual state champions, looked as a shoe in for the championship spot on the other side of the bracket, and the whole town of Pueblo was talking about the dream to end all dreams; an all-Pueblo State Championship.
But looming ahead of the Cyclone offensive attack was the brick wall defense of the 2016 state champion Pine Creek Eagles, who served the Cyclone’s their lone regular season loss in week seven 21-14.
History, unfortunately, repeated itself, as the Cyclones lost 28-0 on Saturday, November 25th, “We weren’t clicking like we had in the two previous playoff games,” explained Senior Guard Ticen RothRock.
Rothrock’s sentiment mirrored the reality of the game, where the often praised cyclone offense, normally explosive and quick to make big plays and collect touchdowns, failed to score even a point against a tough Pine Creek defense.
“We, as a team, don’t like Pine Creek,” said Rothrock, “Part of the reason they’re so tough is because their name is Pine Creek. People are intimidated of that name and even though we were capable of beating them, that name puts some fear into us and the coaches.”
Aside from the loss, and the end to an unarguably successful season, Rothrock was sure to mention how classification comes into play immensely with CHSAA’s current football cut offs for 4A and 5A schools. “4A is a mess, places like Pine Creek, that play 5A for every other sport, should not be allowed to continue playing 4A ball when they win four out of six state championships. That’s a 5A team, playing with 4A schools.”
With more kids come a marked size difference in the athletes, which was definitely a factor for the defense during the semifinal game. “You can only have the defense out for so long before they get tired,” mentioned Rothrock after praising the Cyclone defensive effort, “Like these kids are huge, the guy I go against [on offense] is listed at 6’4″ and 305 lbs. and that’s hard to deal with once you’re tired.”
However, the story of the game itself was not the only story unfolding that Saturday; following the Cyclones up to D20 Stadium in springs that day were the expectations of a notoriously sports-minded and competitive town, wanting to prove something to the larger Springs Schools. Pueblo wanted a West v. South State Championship, and that pressure made it’s way into the ears of players and coaches.
“Obviously, we wanted it too, but some things don’t happen, and we didn’t have an easy bracket, according to the numbers, like South.” noted RothRock with a polite statement on how he did not mean to speak badly of the other Pueblo Team, “They had to play a 12th seed and a 15th seed, we played 5th and 1st. It doesn’t mean we’re better, but I do believe that our bracket was harder to survive.”
Many of the Team’s players are now competing for the Cyclone Boy’s Basketball team, most notably seniors Jacob Wilkenson, Pierre Taylor, Nyeme Smyer Williams, and Billy Blosser.
Others, like Rothrock, are looking to continue playing football in college. Rothrock will be playing at a Las Angeles Valley College come next Fall.