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Durango football’s run ends in semifinals

Lutheran prevails 45-28 to advance to championship for first time
Jaxen Fancher, right, and Zach Haber of Durango High School hug each other on Saturday after losing to Lutheran High School in the semifinal round of the Class 3A playoffs at DHS. (Jerry McBride/Durango Herald)

In a battle of high-powered offenses, the Lutheran Lions set the tone early while also intercepting four Durango passes to prevail in the Class 3A semifinals, 45-28, on Saturday at Durango High School.

“Lutheran did everything better than us,” said DHS head coach Todd Casebier. “They coached better, they played better and they deserved the win.”

The Demons struggled to move the ball on offense for most of the game, and they didn’t help themselves with penalties.

Lutheran, meanwhile, methodically moved down the field in the first half with its no huddle offense.

Tyler Harms of Durango High under pressure as he passes the ball while playing Lutheran High School in the semifinal round of the Class 3A playoffs at DHS. (Jerry McBride/Durango Herald)

The Lions struck first on a 14-play, 79-yard touchdown drive on its opening possession. Ryan Kinney scored on a 7-yard run to give Lutheran a 7-0 lead.

“That first drive, we grinded out 79 yards and I think that set the tone,” said Lutheran head coach Stephen Robbins. “That got our guys hyped up.”

A hold negated a DHS first down on its first drive. Landen Mrozczek then sacked quarterback Tyler Harms to force DHS to punt.

Durango’s defense made a stop on the next drive. A Lion receiver got a step on Durango’s defense, but was unable to make the catch. On fourth-and-3, Lutheran completed a pass, but Kaleb Roberts made a tackle behind the line of scrimmage to force Lutheran to turn the ball over on downs.

Durango then tied the game after starting at Lutheran’s 42. On fourth-and-8, Tyler Harms completed a 35-yard pass to AJ Folk. Harms then scored with a second effort from one yard out with 2:05 remaining in the first.

Jackson Hubertus of Durango High School blocks a Lutheran High School pass on Saturday during the semifinal round of the Class 3A playoffs at DHS. (Jerry McBride/Durango Herald)

The Lutheran Lions, however, were able to pull away after that.

Kinney scored his second touchdown on a touchdown on a six-yard run to put LHS up, 14-7.

DHS was forced to punt on its next drive, but fumbled the snap and Lutheran started at Durango’s 12-yard line. Three plays later, Ryan Daugaard completed a 14-yard touchdown pass to Sam Wisler.

The Lions’ Samuel Smolen kicked a 20-yard field goal as the second quarter expired and LHS took a 24-7 lead into halftime.

Lutheran extended its lead in the third quarter to 38-7 with a pair of touchdown passes. Wisler caught a 30-yard touchdown and then, after Smolen intercepted a pass, Chace Sorenson hauled in a 32-yard score.

Durango kept fighting and scored on its last three possessions. Jeric Baruch broke free for several big runs in the second half and scored on a 15-yard run in the fourth quarter. Later, Harms threw a nine-yard touchdown to Zach Haber. Durango recovered an onside kick and Haber ran into the end zone once more on a 11-yard run with 52 seconds remaining.

Lutheran, however, was able to take a knee after that and will now play in the state championship for the first time in the program’s history.

“We all got beat, but that doesn’t change what a great season we had,” Casebier said. “I love this team and the senior group has been great to be around.”

DHS finishes its season 11-2 overall. Lutheran, meanwhile, improved to 11-2 and will next face Roosevelt in the title game. Roosevelt beat Green Mountain 30-3 in its semifinal.