After the stadium lights flip on in Dove Creek tonight, fans in attendance will be treated to the area’s biggest prep football matchup of the season to date, and players will be presented with the opportunity to live out their dreams.
Local stars such as Chase Moore, Chorbin Cressler, Breccen Morelli, Gauge Thompson and Anthony Medina will put their talents on display as two talented teams from Dove Creek High School and Mancos High School battle for bragging rights and playoff positioning.
While countless factors figure to determine the outcome of tonight’s contest, a handful of key matchups likely dictate the contest’s final result. Below is a preview of a few of the things fans in attendance should watch out for after the opening whistle blows:
Can the Bulldogs match the Bluejays’ speed?Over the course of the eight games it has played this season, the Mancos High football team has left little doubt as to its status as one of the fastest teams in Colorado’s 8-man football classification.
Senior running back/receiver Medina has had a tendency to outrun opponents nearly every time he touches the football, and senior quarterback Morelli and sophomore running back Moore are highly regarded sprinters on their track team.
Moore, who has rushed for 1,510 yards and 26 rushing touchdowns this season, has had a tendency to blow open games with his long runs. Morelli and Medina have combined for 814 rushing yards and 13 rushing touchdowns.
While on paper it appears that Dove Creek’s defense will have difficulty matching Mancos’ team speed, junior Thompson, senior Walker Cressler and sophomore Chorbin Cressler are all speedy runners in their own right.
In the event that Dove Creek’s linebackers and defensive backs are able to contain the Bluejays’ speedy triumvirate of rushers, the Bulldogs should be able to keep the game close and may have a fighting chance as the fourth quarter winds down.
Can the Bluejays block Gray and Beanland?While team speed has been the key factor in the Bluejays’ success, the Bulldogs’ success has been born in the trenches as a result of talented offensive and defensive linemen who have overpowered their opponents.
Chief among those linemen has been junior Hayden Gray, whose rare combination of size and strength have allowed him to consistently pressure opposing quarterbacks and open holes for his team’s running backs.
Although Gray leads his team in tackles with 89, he has by no means been the only game-changer on Dove Creek’s defense, as evidenced by junior Austin Beanland’s team-best seven sacks and Thompson’s team-high five interceptions.
In order for Mancos to be successful, Morelli and senior lineman Nick Dan will need to play with a level of physicality they were unable to muster during their team’s loss to Sanford earlier this season.
If Mancos is able to move Dove Creek’s linemen off the ball, the Bluejays will find more than their fair share of success. If the Bulldogs are able to push Mancos around, however, it could be a long night for the state’s No. 6-ranked eight-man team.
Which signal caller will have a bigger impact?Since the start of the season, Morelli and Chorbin Cressler have ranked as two of the most exciting two-dimensional quarterbacks in Colorado’s eight-man classification. Both are capable of breaking off big runs and hurling well-placed passes down the field, and the two quarterbacks have consistently presented significant problems to opposing defenses while playing a key role in each of their team’s victories.
While Morelli tends to flummox opposing defenders with his long stride and uncanny poise, Cressler has had success shaking defenders with timely jukes and spins in the open field and uncanny power between the tackles.
As the unquestioned leaders of their respective teams, both Morelli and Cressler will need to come through with standout performances in order for their teams to pick up a victory. Which signal caller has greater success could greatly affect the game’s final outcome.
Prediction and playoff implicationsWhile predicting the outcome of eight-man football matchups is always difficult, smart money is on Mancos to defeat Dove Creek by at least three touchdowns tonight after a first half that will undoubtedly be tight.
In the event that Mancos wins, the Bluejays will finish the season with a 8-1 record overall and a 5-1 record in the A-8 Mountain League and will almost certainly get the right to host an opening round playoff matchup.
If Dove Creek loses, the Bulldogs’ record would fall to 5-4 overall and 3-3 in the A-8 Mountain League. Currently unranked in the www.chsaanow.com poll and ranked 15th in RPI, the Bulldogs would be on the bubble as far as getting into the playoffs.
Given their tough schedules and their big wins, however, both Mancos and Dove Creek should be in the 8-man playoffs, regardless of tonight’s result. The contest is scheduled to kick off in Dove Creek at 7 p.m.