Over the course of the fall season, teams from Cortez, Mancos, Dolores and Dove Creek enjoyed a level of success that is not always seen in the Four Corners.
Athletes with last names such as Morelli, Keetch, Elder, Medina, Frost, Plewe and Cressler etched their names into local lore while fans of all four local schools cheered as loud as they have in decades.
Below are the top-five stories from the recently concluded prep season:
Mancos footballOne year after suffering a monumental upset in the first round of the playoffs, the Mancos High School football team returned to its newly renovated field with vigor and advanced to the state quarterfinals for the first time since 2017.
Among the Bluejays’ notable accomplishments over the course of the year was a 9-2 overall record that included wins over state powerhouse Merino High School and cross-county rival Dove Creek.
Leading the way for Mancos throughout much of its season was sophomore running back Chase Moore, who led Colorado’s 8-man classification with 1,900 yards rushing and 31 rushing touchdowns.
Also playing a key role for the Bluejays was a talented group of seniors that included quarterback Breccen Morelli, running back Anthony Medina, lineman Nick Dan and linebacker Andrew Ruatti, who together carried the program to new heights.
“I’m going to remember the men that we turned into since we were in third grade,” said Medina shortly after his team suffered a 34-28 loss to Fowler in the final game of its season.
“Coach Allen (Matthews) has taken us from little boys to what we are now. I will never forget him or any of my other coaches.”
Dolores volleyballThroughout the fall season, no team in the local area was as dominant as the volleyball squad from Dolores High School, which won 21 of its 27 matches and captured the Class 2A Region 10 Championship.
Among the many leaders on this year’s Bears team was senior Jordan Elder, who hammered down a team-high 226 kills while providing leadership to her teammates on and off the court.
Also playing a key role for Dolores was sophomore outside hitter Erin Brown, who emerged as an offensive force and was credited with an eye-popping 203 kills after spending the majority of last season on her school’s junior varsity squad.
Although the Bears ultimately lost tight matches to Fowler High School and West Grand High School in Colorado’s Class 2A State Tournament, the group’s accomplishments over the past four months will not soon be forgotten.
M-CHS softballAfter slogging through several rebuilding seasons during the past decade, the Montezuma-Cortez High School softball team regained its mojo en route to a 17-win season that ended with a hard-fought loss to Sterling High School in the opening round of Colorado’s Class 3A State Tournament.
Although nearly every player on the Panthers’ roster contributed over the course of their team’s magical season, no player played as big of a role as seniors Presley Frost and Alyssa Cornett, who provided consistent offensive punch and combined to drive in 60 runs.
The arrival of pitcher Taiah Wilson also helped M-CHS reach new heights, as the freshman finished the year with an 11-1 record overall and struck out 50 batters in the 83.2 innings she pitched.
With several key players returning to its roster next season and manager Brittney Whiteman likely to remain at the helm, the Panthers appear primed to build on this season’s success in the years to come.
Dove Creek footballHistorically a powerhouse in Colorado, the Dove Creek High School football team took a significant step in its return to relevance by qualifying for the 8-man playoffs for the first time since 2015.
Leading the way for the Bulldogs was sophomore quarterback Chorbin Cressler, whose unique ability to avoid defenders in the open field and game-breaking speed allowed him to amass 1,157 rushing yards and race into the end zone for 18 scores.
Also playing a key role in Dove Creek’s success was junior linebacker Hayden Gray, who made a team-high 104 tackles while establishing himself as one of the most physically imposing players in Colorado’s 8-man classification.
Although the Bulldogs’ season ended with a 66-30 loss to Vail Christian in the opening round of the 8-man playoffs, Dove Creek appears to be a program primed for a deep playoff run next season.
M-CHS golfLed by a seasoned senior and a talented freshman, the Montezuma-Cortez High School golf team enjoyed a great deal of success during a 2019 season that resulted in a regional championship and an appearance in Colorado’s Class 3A Golf Tournament.
Setting the tone for the Panthers throughout much of the season was senior Blake Keetch, whose composure on the course and leadership away from the links carried his team throughout the 2019 campaign.
Also emerging for M-CHS was freshman Thayer Plewe, who burst onto the prep scene and enjoyed success almost immediately thanks to his smooth swing and ability to think his way around the golf course.
Thanks to solid rounds by Keetch, Plewe and Dolores High School junior JJ Brunner during the state tournament, M-CHS tied for seventh place overall while solidifying its status as one of the most consistently successful prep programs in the area.