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Valor Christian rolls Legend 45-Zero for berth in Class 5A championship recreation – The Denver Publish

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HIGHLANDS RANCH — Valor Christian used all three of its timeouts to stop the clock before halftime on Saturday against Legend to get the football back with another chance to score.

Consider it an act of mercy.

Valor, leading 38-0 late in the second quarter of the Class 5A football semifinals, needed only three plays to find the end zone for a sixth time on the afternoon. The Eagles’ first-half lead ballooned to 45-0, and per CHSAA rules, the game required a running clock for the second half.

No. 2 Valor turned to its backups, on offense and defense, and still held No. 3 Legend scoreless through the third and fourth quarter — a remarkable feat considering Legend running back Bryce Vaz rushed for six touchdowns in the quarterfinals. First-year Valor Christian head coach Donnie Yantis, in the shadow of Ed McCaffrey’s coaching success, has maintained the program’s championship expectations as a date with top-seeded Cherry Creek looms next week in Pueblo for the 5A title.

“One of the reasons I came here and accepted this job was because this school is about excellence — with your faith, academically and athletically,” said Yantis, the former tight ends coach and recruiting coordinator at Arizona State, and longtime prep football coach in Arizona. “Those are the expectations, to win a championship, we’ve got an opportunity to try and do that.”

Valor (7-0) dominated Legend (7-1) from the opening kickoff with the Eagles’ star player finding the end zone first. Running back Gavin Sawchuk — the top-rated junior football prospect in the state, per 24/7 Sports, and 43rd in the nation — scored on his third carry of the afternoon. He entered the game with just under 1,000 rushing yards on the season. But Valor used Sawchuk (15 carries, 93 yards) sparingly after the first quarter, opting for his freshman brother, Gabe, to carry the football. He also found the end zone.

“It’s important to be able to jump out on a team at the beginning of a game,” Sawchuk said. “That was our whole plan, to be able to get out and really handle business in the beginning, so we could secure a good lead. … It’s amazing being able to watch (my brother) score. I’m just so proud of him. I know he’s going to be a great player and lead this football team when I’m gone.”

Valor also scored on a pair of non-traditional touchdowns with a punt-block recovery by Mitchell Bigelow and a fumble return by Luke Meyer. But the Eagles’ offensive prowess stems from their masterful use of a no-huddle, up-tempo offense newly installed under Yantis. Valor rarely huddled in the first half and constantly kept Legend’s defense on its heels.

“They’ve been working since June 15,” Yantis said. “Doing a lot of tempo, we get a lot of reps in practice, so those offensive linemen are in pretty good shape. It’s what we do.”

The Eagles are seeking their ninth state football championship in school history with the team last claiming the title in 2018 with a 24-14 victory against, who else, Cherry Creek. Saturday’s 5A finale in Pueblo renews one of Colorado high school football’s best rivalries among blue-blood programs.

“We’ve got one more game and that’s going to decide who is the best team in the state,” Sawchuk said. “It’s amazing to be able to continue that legacy and tradition. I know (Cherry Creek) has a really good team, so it’s going to be a battle. We’re going to come ready.”

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