Saturday’s game between Gilpin High School and Rocky Mountain Lutheran will stand out in Eagle fans memories for a long time. It was a homecoming. The Eagles had three wins for the season and had a good chance at beating the Lutheran Eagles who came to Gilpin with a 5-2 record.
But there was more to the game. The two Eagle seniors on the team received special recognition. Not only were they football players, but they were also Homecoming King and Queen, high school sweethearts. Andrew Immordino and Valerie Romine, both in uniform, held hands as they were introduced to the crowd. Channel 2 television cameras captured the moment.
The couple was not the first King/Queen football player combination. There have been about a dozen such relationships in history, but the Eagle couple was unique in that Valerie is a right back/tackle player. The other female players are kickers.
With the drama of a television camera to heighten the homecoming excitement, with the big bass drums of the Gilpin band and the glittering pom-pons of the cheerleaders, it promised to be a special homecoming, a special game.
Wouldn’t it be great if the Gilpin Eagles could pull off a win.
With the roll of the drums, Gilpin kicked off to the Lutheran Eagles, who promptly ran it all the way downfield for a touchdown and a successful 2-point conversion. Not a good beginning.
Down 0-8, Gilpin could not move the ball and they had to punt. Rocky Mountain had the ball on their own 49-yard line, a great field position. But they fumbled the ball on the second play, Gilpin sophomore Chase Boulter recovered it and the Gilpin Eagles took over on the RM 40-yard line. Slow and steady they moved the ball to the 30-yard line when Bjorn Tomlinson ran it into the end zone for a touchdown. The conversion try was no good and the score was 6-8.
The RM Eagles made two plays before they fumbled the ball again. The Eagles recovered it again and the march was on. Eagle freshman Matthew Immordino carried the ball to the Lutheran 40 yard line and a pass interference call put Gilpin on the RM 20-yard line. Matthew ran it in for a touchdown. The extra point try was no good and the score was 12-8.
Gilpin attempted an on-side kick which failed and Rocky Mountain took over on the Eagle 35-yard line. They moved the chains to a first and 10 on the Eagle 15 and the first quarter was over.
The first play of the second quarter resulted in a RM Eagle touchdown and the score was 12-14.
Gilpin junior Dalton Dziedzic carried the ball to the 50-yard line and then a Boulter pass to Tomlinson put the Eagles on the Rocky Mountain Lutheran 28-yard line. Gilpin’s Matthew Immordino scored his second touchdown of the game and the Gilpin Eagles took the lead, 20-14. With four minutes in the half, Rocky Mountain used up four tries within 10 yards of the end zone and finally scored. A two-point conversion put them in the lead, 22-20. After Gilpin was forced to punt, Lutheran threw a long pass for a touchdown and with a minute and a half to go in the half, scored again, pulling ahead, 30-20.
With a 10-point deficit, Gilpin seemed to lose confidence and after one play, was intercepted to give the RM Eagles a first and 10 on the 3-yard line. But the Gilpin defense got tough and the first half ended before RM could score again.
It was windy, bitter cold day and fans warmed their hands with hot chocolate as the teams retired to the lockers. A huge group of elementary school cheerleaders took the field and shouted their support for their Eagles. Homecoming royalty was introduced and a special ovation was given to Andrew Immordino and Valerie Romine in their last year of Eagle football.
Gilpin received the ball and after a steady march to the RM Eagle red zone, freshman Tyler Stevens scored and it was a 26-30 game and the stands exploded. with 2:25 minutes in the third quarter, Bjorn Tomlinson found a path to the end zone and momentum brought the Eagles to take the lead 32-30. This is a homecoming game to remember said one of the Gilpin fans.
After Rocky Mountain began their series to the goal, they fumbled the ball and Chase Boulter recovered it but then Gilpin fumbled the ball. During the melee that followed, Valerie was still on the ground when the teams got up. The Homecoming Queen had injured her ankle and was taken off the field in an ambulance to be transported to the hospital.
When the game commenced, the Gilpin Eagle players shouted, “Let’s do this for Valerie,” and their energy was palpable as the fourth quarter began.
But Rocky Mountain Lutheran was up to the challenge and scored in their first series, taking back the lead, 36-32.
Gilpin players continued to rally for Valerie and after RM fumbled, Tyler Stevens picked up the ball and ran it to the RM 15-yard line. This was the moment that would make or break Gilpin’s bid for a victory.
The Eagles gained a safety with three minutes to go and it was a two-point game. Chase Boulter took the all to the 20-yard line and at 4 and 20, with 1:6 minutes on the clock, Tomlinson went in for the TD and Gilpin was on top, 40-36. Now all they had to do was hold RM for a minute. At third and 10 on the 50-yard line, Lutheran threw an interception and the game was over.
It was a bittersweet victory for the Gilpin Eagles. They celebrated the win. Andrew Immordino shed tears as his teammates hugged him. As Channel 2 reporters interviewed him, he said he was happy to win the game but sad that his girlfriend was hurt.
But it was a homecoming game that will be remembered long after the King and Queen have graduated, putting Gilpin High School into high school football history.
Crossover playoffs begin this Saturday, Oct. 26, time and place to be announced.