Joe Davis scored two touchdowns and totaled 187 for Valor Christian (Highlands Ranch, Colorado) to lead the Eagles to a 28-22 road win over Greater Atlanta Christian in a battle of top-ranked schools on Friday at Spartans Sports Complex.
The Eagles (3-0), ranked No. 1 in Class AAAAA — The Centennial State’s highest classification — by the Colorado High School Activities Association, and state champions seven of the last eight seasons, beat the Spartans (2-1), AAA’s top-ranked team, for the second year in a row. Valor Christian won 21-17 over GAC in Colorado in 2016.
In a game that was tightly contested, Davis was the difference. His 52-yard touchdown reception with 7:25 remaining gave the Eagles a commanding 28-19 lead. It was his second touchdown reception of the game, with the first being a 35-yard reception to start the second quarter. He finished with 105 yards on four catches and another 82 yards on 19 carries.
“We had good teamwork and our coaching staff had us well prepared,” said Davis, a 6-foot, 190-pound junior. “First off, it was the line — they did great and we just came out as a brotherhood.”
GAC got nine of its points from Sean Henderson, who booted field goals of 30, 38 and 20 yards to keep the Spartans close. His final field goal — a 20-yarder with 51.4 seconds remaining — pulled the score to its final margin, but his ensuing onside kick was batted out of bounds by Valor Christian. The Eagles would run out the clock from there.
The Spartans had built a 6-0 lead with 5:07 left in the first thanks to Henderson’s other two field goals. The second was set up by one of two Johnathan Moore blocked punts, which gave the Spartans prime field position at first-and-goal from the Eagles’ 5. But a GAC holding penalty, an illegal shift penalty and three incompletions forced the Spartans to settle for a long, 38-yard field goal.
Davis scored his first touchdown on the Eagles’ next possession.
The Spartans responded on their next possession on Robby Fowler’s 3-yard run, which was preceded by his 7-yard run on fourth-and-1 from the Eagles 13 two plays earlier. That gave the Spartans their last lead at 13-7 with 7:24 left in the first half.
On the Eagles’ next possession, they marched the field with a 14-play, 80 drive that ended on quarterback Blake Stenstrom’s 1-yard run, which gave them the lead for good at 14-13 with 1:56 left in the second. That score would hold through halftime.
The Eagles opened the second half with a 17-play drive that spanned 77 yards and ate 8:08 of clock and culminated in Strenstrom’s 8-yard pass to Luke McCaffrey on third-and goal, which pushed the Valor Christian lead to 21-13 with 3:43 left in the third.
Inside the final minute of the third, Moore blocked his second punt, this one putting GAC at the Valor Christian 18. Three plays later, on third-and-12 from the Eagles 20, sophomore Jackson Hardy connected on a touchdown strike to Trey Morrison with 1 second left in the third. Hardy attempted to run in a two-point conversion but was stuffed, leaving the score at 21-19.
“We had a couple plays go our way here and there,” Eagles coach Rod Sherman said. “If a couple plays don’t go our way we could have lost easily by 10 points.”
Following Davis’ 52-yard touchdown reception, the Spartans drove the field but their drive sputtered at the 31-yard line. Facing fourth-and-10 and trailing 28-19, they opted for a Henderson 48-yard field goal attempt. He narrowly missed wide left after a bad snap disrupted his timing.
Spartans coach Tim Hardy believes GAC is better off for the loss.
“How good is it to play good people?” Hardy asked. “You can go play county whoever and win 57-2 and not learn anything about yourself. These are the games we need to play.”
McCaffrey, who’s the fourth McCaffrey that’s come out of Valor Christian — the others are Christian and Max, now in the NFL, and Dylan, a freshman at Michigan — finished with 48 rushing yards on seven carries and two catches for 9 yards, including a touchdown.
Strenstrom was 17 of 21 passing for 203 yards.
Spartans starting quarterback Justin Rose was just 15 of 30 passing for 173 yards while Hardy was 1-for-2 for the 20-yard touchdown in his only offensive series. Montae Bailey was the Spartans’ leading rusher with 36 yards on six carries and Jake Floyd had 82 receiving yards on six catches.
Valor Christian 0 14 7 7 – 28
GAC 6 7 6 3 – 22
G – Sean Henderson 30 FG
G – Henderson 38 FG
V – Joe Davis 35 pass from Blake Stenstrom (Brian Brogan kick)
G – Robby Fowler 3 run (Henderson kick)
V – Stenstrom 1 run (Brogan kick)
V – Luke McCaffrey 8 pass from Stenstrom (Brogan kick)
G – Trey Morrison 20 pass from Jackson Hardy (run failed)
V – Davis 52 pass from Stenstrom (Brogan kick)
G – Henderson 20 FG