LAKEWOOD — The traditional Lakewood-area rivalry opened up another football season at Jeffco Stadium on Aug. 25.
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Bear Creek and Lakewood high school that are separated by just over six miles of Kipling Street. The Bears and Tigers kicked off the first of 24 regular-season football games scheduled at 6th and Kipling over the next 10 weeks.
The Bears separated themselves early against the Tigers. Bear Creek raced out to a 28-0 halftime lead and went on to win 42-0.
“This was huge. We’ve been talking about it daily,” Bear Creek junior quarterback Adrian Rico said of the victory. “We talked about the rivalry and how much it meant to us.”
Senior Elijah Thomas had a monster first half with five catches for 144 yards and a pair of touchdowns for the Bears. Rico found Thomas on touchdown for 62 and 29 yards in the first half.
“He (Thomas) spent this last spring really working his tail off,” Bear Creek coach Matt Steinfeldt said. “We got him out on our track team and I think that was huge for him. This summer we went up to CSU and did the team camp. He got a lot of confidence up there.”
It’s the second straight season Bear Creek has defeated Lakewood in the season opener.
“It’s a rivalry game and we always love playing Lakewood,” Steinfeldt said. “To get a victory over the squad is a big thing for us.”
Bear Creek running backs Izaiah Phelps and Steve Campos both had touchdown runs to the balanced Bears’ offense that scored touchdowns on its first four possessions. Bear Creek just ran out of time in the first half before it could put in a fourth touchdown on Lakewood before halftime.
“We are a really young team and you come into that first game with a lot of nerves,” Steinfeldt said. “You aren’t fully certain what you are going to get. I thought we started the game extremely well. I was very impressed.”
Rico kept it going in the third quarter. He connected with junior Ryan Bobick for a 7-yard touchdown with 7:15 left in the third quarter, extending Bear Creek’s lead to 35-0. Rico finished off the scoring with an 8-yard touchdown pass to Phelps on the first play of the fourth quarter to induce a running clock for the remainder of the game with the 40-point lead.
“Of course you always have those nerves,” Rico said of his first varsity start at quarterback. “But there is nothing better than to be on this field with my boys. We’ve been working our tails off and we deserve this one. I feel great about this win.”
Bear Creek’s defense was just as impressive as the offense. Emilo Mendoza, Josh Cordova and Ben Iannotti all had interceptions on the night. Jerry Torrez had a fumble recovery in the second half that set up the Bears’ final score.
Lakewood’s best scoring chance came late in the fourth quarter, but the Bears was able to force a turnover on downs on the final play of the game inside Bear Creek’s 20-yard line.
The Bears are coming off an 8-4 season that included a first-round playoff victory. However, Bear Creek graduated quarterback Jaedon Minter, receiver Blake Mcomber and running back/linebacker Ryan Segovia. Those three combined to score 32 touchdowns last season.
“Over the last couple of years we’ve been pouring a lot into this program trying to get it back to where we want it to be,” Steinfeldt said. “Last year was a great start. We want this year to be a reload instead of a rebuild.”
The Tigers had an early 3-game winning streak last season after dropping its opener against Bear Creek. However, it was tough sledding in the tough 5A Jeffco League with Lakewood going winless in conference play.
Rich Martinez takes over the heading coaching duties at Lakewood. Martinez is one of three new coaches in 5A Jeffco this season with Chatfield (Kris Rosholt) and Ralston Valley (Jared Yannacito) also sporting new leaders.
Lakewood is back at Jeffco Stadium next Thursday night to host Fairview. Bear Creek hits the road to face Greeley West on Sept. 3.
Dennis Pleuss is the sports information director for Jeffco Public Schools. For more Jeffco coverage, go to CHSAANow.com.
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