Brothers Bennett, left, and Steven Powell, ages 6 and 9, are all smiles following the Denver Broncos' victory Sunday afternoon against the New England Patriots. Residents of Northwest Colorado and the rest of the state were cheering on the Broncos as they played for the AFC championship and a slot in Super Bowl XLVIII.

Photo by Andy Bockelman

Brothers Bennett, left, and Steven Powell, ages 6 and 9, are all smiles following the Denver Broncos' victory Sunday afternoon against the New England Patriots. Residents of Northwest Colorado and the rest of the state were cheering on the Broncos as they played for the AFC championship and a slot in Super Bowl XLVIII.

Craig celebrates Super Bowl-bound Denver Broncos

— To paraphrase the lyrics of Prince, the people of Craig and the rest of Colorado are partying like it’s 1999.

The energy was unforgettable at various locations across Northwest Colorado as football fans cheered on the Denver Broncos during the AFC championship game. And they weren’t disappointed as the Broncos claimed a 26-16 victory against the New England Patriots to snag the Lamar Hunt Trophy and advance to the ultimate in gridiron glory, the Super Bowl.

The upcoming Super Bowl XLVIII, where the Broncos will face the NFC champs the Seattle Seahawks, will be the seventh appearance for the team, which hasn’t appeared in the biggest of big games since back-to-back titles in 1998 and 1999, led by quarterback John Elway.

At J.W. Snack’s Bar & Grill, the Broncos’ orange and blue were everywhere with people sporting team hats and T-shirts, as well as jerseys of players past and present.

Regina Powell, proudly wearing wide receiver Wes Welker’s 83, barely could contain her excitement at the win, which she claimed was inevitable following a regular season in which quarterback Peyton Manning and the rest of the team shattered one record after another as the weeks progressed.

“I had faith the whole time,” she said. “I knew from the beginning we were going (to the Super Bowl). Most touchdown passes in a year (55), most yards in a year (5,477), (kicker Matt) Prater got the longest field goal (64 yards), and now it’s like the next step.”

Should the Broncos come out on top on Super Bowl Sunday, Manning also will be the first player in the history of the NFL to be a starting quarterback for two different winning teams in the game, his first victory coming with the Indianapolis Colts in 2007’s Super Bowl XLI, where he was also named MVP.

The Manning name is a special one for Regina’s sons, who both were wearing No. 18 jerseys Sunday.

Although 9-year-old Steven idolizes Peyton, his little brother, Bennett, 6, favors Peyton’s own younger sibling and fellow quarterback, Eli, of the New York Giants. Bennett still roots for the Broncos with the family nonetheless.

Besides winning the championship and moving on to the Super Bowl, there was one element of Sunday’s game Steven liked better than any other.

“Getting revenge,” he said, referring to the Broncos’ Nov. 24 loss to the Patriots, which further incited the rivalry between Peyton and New England’s Tom Brady.

Sitting with the Powells was Kelly Hampton, one of the only people in J.W. Snack’s clad in Patriots apparel. Although she received her share of taunting, Hampton said she is a fan of both teams, her ties to the Patriots coming from family in the Northeast.

She said it would be nice to see Denver move on to the final round after having the AFC represented by Brady and the Pats five times since 2002.

“They’re not hurting for Super Bowl rings, that’s for sure,” she laughed.

J.W. Snack’s owner Danny Griffith already is planning a Super Bowl party, though the amount of people who have showed up Sundays to watch the team was already considerable.

“Every game has been like the playoffs here,” he said.

Griffith raffled off numerous prizes Sunday, including team merchandise for those in Craig who haven’t been able to get over a months-long case of pigskin fever.

“We’ve got a big football city here,” he said.

For Griffith, having so many turn out to his establishment reminds him of the fan base for his favorite squad, for which he prefers to drop the Denver part of their nomenclature.

“I like to just call them the Broncos because I feel like they’re a Colorado team,” he said.

Contact Andy Bockelman at 970-875-1793 or abockelman@CraigDailyPress.com.

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