Steve Lewis/Durango Herald
A deluge of turnovers typically drowns football teams at all levels, washing away feelings of optimism and replacing them with harsh realities.
Five turnovers did just that to the Durango High School football team, and the Demons, trying as they could to overcome those miscues, couldn’t get past the stout rushing attack of Fruita Monument, falling 42-0 at home Friday night at DHS Stadium.
The Wildcats (4-5, 3-1 Southwestern League) scored 19 points off five DHS turnovers – three interceptions and two fumbles.
“Anytime you lose the turnover battle, you’re going to have a tough night,” DHS head coach Greg Wyatt said. “We had a tough time hanging on to the ball. We had a tough time throwing the ball, catching the ball.”
The Demons’ other seven possessions ended with four punts and three turnovers on downs. Fruita Monument used all those stops to feed its running game, which rumbled for 295 yards as a unit Friday in Durango.
Leading the way was the speedy Vince Grasso, who entered the game second in the SWL to Montrose’s Angelo Youngren in rushing yards, according to www.maxpreps.com. Grasso ran for 199 yards and two touchdowns, including a backbreaking 80-yard scamper that pushed the lead to 30-0 one play after DHS threw an interception in the end zone.
“Our O-line was getting a good push, and our wide receivers were getting good blocks on the edge, so it really made it easy for me to just read it and cut,” Grasso said.
Wyatt said the Wildcats’ ability to get to the edges with pace gave the DHS defense some problems.
“Our defense played hard, and at times they played really well,” Wyatt said. “You know, one thing we do have a real hard time with is speed. This is the fastest team that we’ve probably seen all year, and that does kind of play to some of our weaknesses when we play a fast team like this.”
Grasso said the goal for the run-oriented Wildcats was to try and wear down the DHS defense with the ground game. DHS got some push on runs up the middle, but Fruita Monument made hay on the edges.
“It’s definitely nice when you’re offense can come out and control the time of possession and keep the defense off the field and getting rested up, so that was a big help,” Grasso said.
Durango made a surprise swap in its starting lineup Friday, going with sophomore quarterback Alex Lavenue over Jeremy Szura, who had a decent day throwing the football with a 150-yard performance against Grand Junction Central last week.
Wyatt insisted the switch simply was an attempt to jump-start the offense.
Lavenue, unofficially, was 9 of 19 for 61 yards and three interceptions, one of which was a near miss that if thrown an inch or two further may have sprung Tyler Worley for a touchdown.
“We’re trying to find some combinations that work in our passing game. Sometimes you’ve got to take chances, and sometimes it works, and sometimes it doesn’t,” Wyatt said.
Worley paced the Demons (3-5, 1-2 SWL) offensively with 155 yards rushing on 28 carries, while Blake Dunlap had five catches for 60 yards.
Fruita Monument quarterback Jacob Lynch was 10 of 20 for 130 yards and ran for 47 yards and a touchdown.
Connor Harmon and Chris Gershon had touchdown runs, and Spencer Fair kicked three field goals, including one from 48 yards out.
“Our defense got a lot of turnovers, and our offense capitalized on them,” Grasso said. “It was a great team effort.”
The loss hampers Durango’s postseason aspirations, and the road doesn’t get easier with Montrose coming to town next week after downing Grand Junction on Friday.
DHS will host Montrose at 7 under the Friday Night Lights, then will round out the regular season with a game at Montezuma-Cortez.