Throughout the offseason, those familiar with the Dove Creek football program predicted this year’s team would be much improved. Some even suggested that a playoff berth was possible.
Now, after physically dominating Plateau Valley throughout a 51-8 home victory on Sept. 13, players and coaches are well aware that the hype surrounding their team will grow as Dove Creek continues to push for a playoff berth.
“We’re definitely way more physical this season,” junior lineman Hayden Gray said. “What we try to do is make (our opponents) remember who they came to play and make them not want to do it again. We are upperclassmen now, and we are a lot more confident.”
While sheer physicality was certainly a key part of Bulldogs’ dominant win, so too was overall team speed, as sophomore quarterback Chorbin Cressler and junior running backs Gauge Thompson and Gage Bailey consistently outran Plateau Valley’s overmatched defense.
During a first quarter that consisted of only Dove Creek highlights, Cressler ran for a 4-yard touchdown, Bailey raced for a 25-yard touchdown, Thompson recovered a fumble and raced 35 yards for a score, and junior Austin Beanland blocked a punt that led to a safety that made the score 23-0 heading into the second quarter.
“We have pretty good upperclassmen, and everybody does their jobs,” said Bailey. “We just have to do our jobs and keep our heads up every single play.”
As their home fans screamed during the opening minutes of the second quarter, Dove Creek continued to pour it on and extended its lead to 30-0 on a 20-yard touchdown pass from Cressler to Bailey.
Although Plateau Valley briefly righted its ship and scored on a 22-yard touchdown pass from sophomore quarterback Justice Kuper to Jerome Spinger that made the score 30-8 heading into halftime, the Dove Creek forced three turnovers in the second half and did not allow a score.
“(Winning the turnover battle) is probably one of the biggest factors in most wins,” Thompson said. “Our coach preaches often that turnovers win and lose games.”
Among the second-half scoring for the Bulldogs was a 3-yard touchdown run by Cressler that made the score 37-8, a 67-yard rushing touchdown by Thompson that made the score 44-8, and a 10-yard run by Bailey that made the score 51-8.
After his final touchdown run of the game, which ended with a forearm shiver that sent an overmatched Plateau Valley defender careening into the end zone, Bailey briefly flexed his right arm as if to remind those in attendance that Dove Creek football is back.
“It’s overwhelming to see so much support from our home fans,” Bailey said. “We only have four years of doing this, and you gotta embrace every moment. I love hanging around with my team.”
With its record now at 2-1 on the season, Dove Creek will prepare for a key road matchup against Norwood. The contest between the Bulldogs and the Mavericks is scheduled to kick off at 7 p.m. Sept. 20.