The eight-man bracket is down to its final four teams, and the top two seeds are still in the field. This will be the third straight round with a regular season rematch, with Sanford visiting league rival Mancos. The winners of this week’s games will meet on Friday, November 26th at the Thunderbowl on the campus of CSU-Pueblo.
FEATURE PHOTO PROVIDED BY WILDCAT PRIDE PHOTO / BRADLEY SIMON
#1 HAXTUN (11-0) VS #5 HOLLY (10-1) – SATURDAY 2PM
Just a few weeks after handing Akron a 58-0 defeat in the regular season finale, Haxtun traveled to face the Rams in the quarterfinals. Haxtun piled up 575 yards of offense in the rematch, 472 on the ground, but only claimed a 42-24 victory.
Michael Gerk powered the Fightin’ Bulldog attack with 230 yards and two rushing touchdowns, while Isaac Andersen added 186 yards and two more scores in the rushing game. Owen Knode threw for 103 yards and a long TD, that went to speedster Kyle Fryrear, and the QB also ran for one score.
The defense, which allowed 291 yards on the ground, saw five players in double figure tackles, led by Andersen with 15. That led all players in the game. Grant Statz tallied 14, while Kailin Kelley recorded 11, and the duo of Knode and Ozzy Coss each nailed down 10. Knode and Statz each registered a sack in their respective totals. The Fightin’ Bulldogs came up with three takeaways, including fumble recoveries by Kelley and Ryland Wolff, and a pick from Andersen.
Haxtun will be facing a high-flying offense this week, with Holly coming to town. The Wildcats racked up 704 yards of offense in their 66-22 quarterfinal victory over Dove Creek. Senior QB Dakota Eaton threw for 348 yards and four touchdowns, while also running for 117 yards and two more scores. Donovan Pecina added 85 yards and two touchdowns, and Daunte Maldonado tallied 84 yards and one TD. As a unit, the Wildcats ran for 356 yards. Fernando Dominguez was the top target for Eaton, hauling in six passes for 119 yards and a TD.
On the defensive side of the ball, the Wildcats were led by Maldonado and Pecina, who each recorded nine tackles. Dominique Maldonado and Eli Ramos each added eight stops, and Cauy Stum supplied six. Colby Swopes added a pair of sacks, giving him 17 on the season. That leads eight-man, and is fourth in all of Colorado, regardless of classification. Pecina and Devin Eaton each registered one sack, with Eaton also recovering a fumble. Andre Salgado picked off two passes, and returned one for a TD. Josue Avalos went 3-3 on PAT kicks, and also added a 27-yard field goal.
This will be the third playoff meeting between the two programs, with Haxtun taking a 36-6 win in the second round of the 2004 postseason, and Holly grabbing a 32-16 win to open the 2017 tournament. Haxtun went on to win its seventh state title in 2004. The Fightin’ Bulldogs last reached the championship contest the following year.
The last of Holly’s three outright crowns came in 1955. They also tied for one in 1939. The Wildcats have not made the finals since 1960. Holly won a wild 48-44 contest over the Fightin’ Bulldogs during the regular season last year.
#2 MANCOS (9-0) VS #11 SANFORD (8-4) – SATURDAY 1PM
The closest contest in the quarterfinal round saw Mancos edge Dayspring Christian 33-24. The Bluejays led 18-6 at the half, and twice in the fourth quarter held 15-point advantages, before securing the victory.
Chase Moore was held to his second lowest rushing total of the season (125 yards), but still picked up his eighth 100-yard game of the season. He now has 1739 yards on the year, and his one TD run in the game raised his season tally to 28. Ayden Matthews added 69 yards and two scores on the ground, to go with 107 yards and one TD passing. Kail Wayman hauled in that TD as part of his three reception, 85 yard day.
The Bluejays had several players register a high number of tackles, led by Moore with his game-high 18. Wayman added 15; Chris Medina, 14; Broc Imel, 11; Matthews, 10; and Mason Goodwin, nine. Goodwin tallied 2.5 sacks, while Wayman and Matthews each had half of a sack. Moore added a special teams touchdown, as he returned a kick-off to the house. Evan Sehnert also added a 20-yard field goal to the cause.
When they line up on Saturday, the Bluejays will see familiar faces, as they host Mountain rival Sanford. The Indians overcame a slow start before picking up their second straight win on their revenge tour, beating Vail Christian 62-38. Sanford trailed 8-0 after one quarter and was down 24-18 at the half. After surrendering another TD to the Saints to open the third, Sanford scored 24 straight and never looked back.
Kelton Gartrell went for more than 250 yards on the ground, with a pair of touchdowns, and Josh Holman added three rushing touchdowns to go with his two through the air. Gartrell snagged one of those aerial touchdowns, with McCray Larsen bringing in the other. All together, the Indians racked up more than 500 yards of offense in the win.
The biggest play on defense came late in the contest, when Cash Caldon stepped in front of a pass and returned it more than 50 yards for a pick-six to close out the victory. For the Indians, they were able to avenge a 36-22 regular season loss to the Saints. Their first round win over Sedgwick County was also payback for a regular season defeat.
Mancos won the regular season contest with Sanford, 60-24, with Moore running for 373 yards and five touchdowns. This is the third time the two squads have met in the postseason, as Sanford claimed a 38-28 victory in the quarterfinals last year. For the Bluejays, their win came back in 1996, when the two played in the 1A opening round. The Indians own an 8-5 edge in the recent history of the series.
A win on Saturday would send the Indians to only their second state title contest, building off last year’s appearance. Mancos would reach its first championship contest with a victory. This is their first year with more than one postseason victory.