Since the beginning of its season, the Mancos High School football team has prided itself on a hard-nosed, physical style that has had a tendency to bludgeon opposing teams into submission and has left opposing players wanting no more.
Thus, when the Bluejays took their home field on Nov. 8 for an opening round playoff matchup against Caliche High School and dominated from start to finish in route to a 36-6 victory, it was not altogether surprising.
“We’re just running it down the field like we said that we would at the beginning of the season,” Bluejays’ sophomore running back Chase Moore said. “We play physical, and we play fast. That’s just Mancos’ brand of football.”
Keying the Bluejays’ lopsided victory was the team’s ability to limit turnovers one week after turning the ball over four times in a hard-fought win over Dove Creek. Also key was their control on the line of scrimmage.
Behind impressive blocking by linemen Nick Dan, Michael Velasquez and others, Mancos amassed 256 rushing yards and five rushing touchdowns. Moore led the way with 172 yards rushing and four rushing touchdowns on 14 carries. Senior quarterback Breccen Morelli rushed for 60 yards and a score.
“It’s good to break the first-home-playoff-game curse that we’ve had the last couple years,” Morelli said, referencing his team’s opening-round playoff defeats the past two years. “We just have to keep our sights set on going further and further in the playoffs and wherever that takes us, it takes us.”
After punting on its opening offensive possession of the game, the Bluejays offense drew first blood by scoring on its second possession courtesy of a 49-yard touchdown run by Chase Moore with 3:28 left in the first quarter.
The touchdown came after Mancos lined up in a straight I formation and handed it off to their star back, who was lined up in the fullback position. After sprinting through a big hole in his team’s offensive line, Moore sped untouched into the end zone.
“We were just outrunning (Caliche) up and down the field all day long,” Moore said. “I just don’t think they could keep up with us.”
Already ahead 8-0 and looking for more, the Bluejays offense struck again on its third possession of the contest when Moore scored from 45-yards out on another run that started off of right tackle and ended with an easy touchdown with 1:28 to go in the opening quarter.
Moore tacked on his third rushing score of the half midway late in the second quarter on an 18-yard jet sweep around the right side and with Caliche players looking shell-shocked, the Bluejays carried a 22-0 lead into halftime.
After Moore opened the third quarter with a 9-yard rushing touchdown to put his team ahead 30-0, Caliche scored its only touchdown of the game when quarterback Dylan Huss carried the ball in from 2 yards out to make the score 30-6.
Mancos scored its final touchdown midway through the final quarter when Morelli broke several tackles on a quarterback sneak and raced into the end zone from 23-yards out to make the score 36-6.
While the Bluejays offense might have stolen the headlines in the lopsided victory, the contributions made by the team’s defense did not go unnoticed as junior linebackers Christian Cova and Colt Fury combined for 28 tackles.
Senior Anthony Medina delivered several crushing hits from his safety position, and senior linebacker Andrew Ruatti played one of the finest games of his high school career and made eight key tackles.
“Our approach on defense was to stop their run,” Ruatti said. “We saw that on film. A lot of teams that they played were in four-man fronts, and we decided to go to a four-man front. It worked, and our defensive ends were able to get in on a lot of tackles.”
With their opening-round playoff victory behind them, Mancos will advance to the second round of Colorado’s eight-man playoff tournament and play third-seeded Fowler High School, which defeated Simla High School 40-0 in the opening round.
“I think the key is for us is to keep the ball secure like we did today,” Mancos head coach Josh Gardner said. “I think Fowler is very similar to us. They are hard-nosed, well-coached and disciplined. When you get down to two teams like that, it comes down to who has the least turnovers.”
The game, which will be played in Mancos thanks to the Bluejays winning a coin flip, will take place on Saturday at 1 p.m.