The Durango High School football team’s playoff run ended on Saturday in the Class 3A quarterfinals. Durango and Mead battled for 48 minutes and neither team ever led by more than seven points. Mead, however, never trailed the Demons and despite a pair of second-half Durango touchdowns, the Mavericks held on to win the contest, 14-13.
“I thought our offense didn’t show up in the first half, and that’s on me,” said DHS head coach Todd Casebier. “I thought our defense battled over and over again. We had a couple chances in the second half, but we didn’t get the job done.”
On the game’s opening possession, the Demons initially shut Mead down to bring up fourth-and-12 at midfield. The Mavericks, however, faked a punt and used a little shuffle pass to pick up 17 yards and a first down. Mead converted on two more fourth downs on the drive, completing a 15-yard pass on one and then on fourth-and-goal from Durango’s 2-yard line, Sean Medlock was able to rush into the end zone to give Mead a 7-0 advantage.
Trailing for the first time since the middle of September, Durango’s offense got off to a rocky start. Quarterback Tyler Harms dropped back to pass on first down, but got sacked at the 2-yard line. Durango then fumbled on the next two plays and was forced to punt.
The Demon defense, however, came up with some stops and made Mead punt the ball away on its next two possessions.
DHS got the ball at Mead’s 42-yard line after the second punt, but fumbled on second down and the Mavericks recovered the ball.
On the ensuing drive, Durango safety Ean Goodwin nailed Mead’s Lane Beumer just as he was catching a pass. Beumer was shaken up and had to exit the game, but held on to the ball for a 25-yard gain. Durango’s leading tackler Cole Matava was also hurt on the play and didn’t return. After the long pass, Durango’s defense stepped up. AJ Folk sacked Gavin Garrettson on first down and Will Knight sacked him on second down. After an incomplete pass on third down, Junior Garcia-Rodriguez broke up a pass on fourth down to get DHS the ball back.
The Demons put together their best drive of the half after that. Harms completed a 14-yard pass to Jordan Stanley for a first down. Baruch picked up first downs with a 7-yard run and a 19-yard run. Then DHS converted a fourth-and-one at Mead’s 17 with a 3-yard run from Zach Haber. The 17-play drive, however, ended with a missed 28-yard field goal attempt.
To start the second half, Durango marched 70 yards in eight plays to tie the game, 7-7.
“We started playing our brand of football,” Casebier said.
Tagert Bardin hauled in a 42-yard pass from Harms on the first play of the drive. Then, after six runs, Harms threw a 4-yard touchdown pass to Bardin.
Mead took the lead back on its next possession. Garrettson and Evan Morris ran the ball on nine consecutive plays to go from their 12 to Durango’s 1-yard line. Corby Tecu then punched it in from a yard out to put Mead back in front, 14-7.
DHS had to punt on their next drive, but Folk blasted a 63-yard kick over the return man’s head and Mead had to start at their own 3-yard line. Mead picked up two first downs and then had to punt. Folk and Baruch both made tackles for losses on the drive.
With 47 seconds left in the third quarter, Durango started at its own 42-yard line.
Harms completed a 18-yard pass to Haber. Baruch kept his legs going after getting hit to pick up some extra yards on a 10-yard carry. Then, after a 7-yard Haber run on first-and-goal, Harms scored on a 2-yard run with 8:43 left in the game.
Rather than try to kick an extra point to tie the game, DHS went for a 2-point conversion. Haber got tackled short and Mead stayed in front, 14-13.
“I wanted to see how Mead would play from behind,” Casebier said. “I wanted to put some pressure on them.”
The Mavericks then put together a 15-play drive that ate the rest of the game clock, getting a first-and-goal at Durango’s 7-yard line and then running the ball four times to run off the final 1:30.
“I’m proud of our kids,” Casebier said. “They battled all game, and that’s the kind of toughness and grit we need around here.”
With the loss, the defending state champs finish their season 9-3 overall.
Mead advances to the 3A semifinals where it will play No. 1 Roosevelt. Roosevelt’s Roughriders beat No. 8 Holy Family, 51-33, in its quarterfinal.
On the bottom of the bracket, No. 3 Fort Morgan beat No. 6 Frederick, 21-14, and No. 2 Lutheran beat No. 7 Palisade, 49-7.
In 8-man ball, the No. 2 seeded Mancos High School football team hosted No. 11 Sanford on Saturday in the semifinals. Mancos went on to win the game, 26-16, to advance to the state championship finals next week. Mancos will play No. 1 Haxtun for the title in a battle of undefeated teams.