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Bruins roll past Brighton 49-21 in playoff opener

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By Steve Smith

BRIGHTON — By all accounts, Cherry Creek’s Daryl McNeil had quite a night Friday in his team’s 49-21 win over Brighton High School in the opening round of the state 5A football playoffs.
    McNeil, a senior, ran for 189 yards on just eight carries and scored three touchdowns.

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    So it begs the question. What sort of an evening did fellow running back Tahj Willingham have? He ran for 200 yards on 18 tries and scored the other four Bruins’ touchdowns.
    “I can’t give enough credit to our O-line and our coaches,” Willingham said. “They had the confidence in me and #9 (McNeil). We had a lot of success, thanks to our O-line.”
    “The first half, defensively we played well,” BHS coach Pat Sandoval said. “We held them to 14 points. Their second touchdown? We gave them a short field. A team like that with the speed they have at their tailbacks? Give credit to Dave Logan (Cherry Creek’s first-year coach). He deserves all those accolades as far as state champs. He adjusted.”
    Cherry Creek rolled up more than 560 yards of offense against the Bulldogs. That was more than enough to balance Ethan Trujillo’s 402-yard, three-touchdown effort for Brighton. Michael Goward caught two of those scoring tosses, and Collin Tabor caught the other one.
    “I just read and react,” Willlingham said. “I see the hole. I hit it. Full speed. Football is a simple game.”
    Cherry Creek quarterback Luke Papilion completed 12 of 23 passes for 140 yards. He spread out his completions among eight receivers. Hunter Burton caught three passes for 43 yards, and Mike McCauley caught two for 40 yards.
    “It’s not the best we can play,” Willingham said. “Our O-line was opening up holes at the point of attack. Brighton is a real physical team. I’m sore. I give them a lot of credit.”
    Brighton’s top rusher was Nicholas Garcia, who was held to 26 yards on just seven carries. Tristan Wells caught seven passes for 103yards. Tabor finished with four receptions and 82 yards. Goward caught five passes for 126 yards.
The Bruins move into the second round to host top-seeded ThunderRidge, which beat Westminster 70-28 in Friday night’s first round.
    “Whoever wants to play us, we’ll be ready to work,” Willingham said.
    “I’m proud of the boys,” Sandoval said. “We played hard. We kept going. The offense got going. They gave everything they had. That’s what they did best.”