For much of the past decade, Norwood High School’s football team has beat its opponents into submission while building its reputation as one of the most physically imposing eight-man football teams in Colorado.
Never before have the Mavericks faced an opponent like this year’s Mancos Bluejays however – a team capable of delivering bone-rattling hits between the tackles and outrunning opponents on the outside.
Thus, when Mancos and Norwood faced off on Oct. 12, the results were striking as the Bluejays dominated the Mavericks in a way that few teams have in recent seasons and walked off the field with a 34-12 victory.
Mancos quarterback Breccen Morelli was outstanding as the junior ran for one touchdown and threw for another, and junior Anthony Medina showed electric playmaking ability on both sides of the ball.
The Bluejays also received an unexpected boost from freshman running back Chase Moore, who scored two second-half rushing touchdowns after freshman running back Chance Garcia injured his knee in the second quarter.
Ultimately, the contest provided yet another reminder to teams around the state of just how good the Bluejays can be.
Shortly after the game, Morelli spoke about his team’s mindset heading into the game.
“You know when you play a team for their homecoming game, they’re going to come out fired up, and you have to match that intensity,” Morelli said. “If you want to come out and hit hard with us, we’ll hit you back just as hard, if not harder. Like (Chance Garcia) said earlier this year, if you hit someone multiple times over and over again, they’re not going to get back up.”
While the lopsided final score was indicative of one-sided domination, the game’s first half was competitive as the Bluejays and the Mavericks traded body blows and struggled to seize momentum.
After Morelli scored on a 1-yard quarterback sneak by with 3:10 left in the first quarter and Will Gabriel scored with on a 5-yard run with 7:50 left in the second,, the teams found themselves tied, 6-6, with the second quarter winding down.
It was then that the Bluejays caught lightning in a bottle as Morelli rolled to his left while being chased by three Norwood defenders and fired a 25-yard pass to Medina, who made a leaping catch at the 25-yard-line and raced into the end zone as the half expired to put his team ahead 14-6.
“We knew exactly what we were going to do,” said Morelli, when asked about the game-defining play. “The pocket was starting to collapse, and I saw (Medina) coming back for the ball. We had nothing to lose, so I threw the ball.”
“That was a big play, and it gave us a lot of momentum,” added Medina. “We were able to head into halftime winning instead of going into halftime with a tie.”
After lengthy halftime festivities that included the crowning of a homecoming king and queen, the Bluejays received the ball to open the third quarter and scored three plays later when Moore ran into the end zone from 25 yards out.
A 77-yard punt return by Medina with 1:47 left in the third quarter increased the Bluejays’ lead to 28-6, and a 75-yard touchdown run by Moore on a well-blocked trap play capped off the scoring with 2:07 left in the game.
“I got to play for my brothers,” Moore said, when asked about the keys to his big game. “Our mindset is about always being there for each other. We’ve been playing together since pee-wee football.”
While the Mancos offense somewhat stole the show, the contributions of several Bluejays defensive players, including sophomore linebacker Colt Fury and junior defensive tackle Hunter Goodwin, who played key roles in limiting Norwood’s high-flying offense.
“We played as a team,” Goodwin remarked. “We all played our hardest.”
With their record now standing at 7-0 on the season, Mancos sits alone atop the A-8 Mountain League with next week’s road matchup against Dolores Huerta looming. The Bluejays will close out their regular season at home against Dove Creek on Oct. 26.
“We’re undefeated, and that’s all that matters,” said Medina, when asked whether the Bluejays are better than their No. 5 ranking in the Colorado High School Activities’ Association’s latest poll might indicate. “We’ve just got to keep improving.”
A fine answer to say the least and such focus, there is no reason to think that the Bluejays powerhouse team will be slipping up anytime soon.