Before kicking off against Shiprock Northwest at home on Sept. 27, Dove Creek’s High School football team appeared focused. Fire burned in the eyes of junior lineman J.D. Dennison, and looks of intensity etched the faces of several of his teammates.
Then, over the next 48-plus minutes, Bulldogs players brought their game to a new level as the blue-and-gold clad team from a small farm town with a storied history pounded Shiprock Northwest, 74-0.
Among the numerous highlights from the night’s contest were four touchdowns by sophomore running back Cade Curtis, including a six-yard rushing touchdown just one minute into the game to put Dove Creek ahead 6-0.
A subsequent 3-yard rushing touchdown by quarterback Austin Beanland put Dove Creek ahead 14-0, and a third Bulldogs touchdown on a 9-yard pass from Beanland to Curtis put Dove Creek ahead 20-0 halfway through the first quarter.
Appearing shell-shocked and discouraged, players from Shiprock Northwest continued to struggle as the Bulldogs added two more touchdowns to pull ahead 44-0 with just under a minute to go in the first quarter.
The second quarter was no kinder to Shiprock Northwest as Dove Creek scored on a 49-yard rushing touchdown by Gauge Thompson and a 27-yard touchdown pass from Beanland to Gage Bailey to pull ahead 58-0 at halftime.
Asked about his team’s success during the first half, Curtis credited the Dove Creek linemen who consistently opened large running lanes for him and his teammates to run through.
“I think we did a pretty good job of holding our blocks,” Curtis said. “Our line gave me and my teammates a chance to run the ball.”
While the Bulldogs’ offense hummed along, the team’s defense also provided a spark, thanks to team-tackling and a big play by Thompson, who scooped up a Shiprock Northwest fumble and rumbled 33-yards for a score.
“We were all flying to the ball, and someone stripped it,” Thompson said. “I picked the ball up and was able to run it in.”
Because the Bulldogs had only nine players available, starters continued to play throughout the second half, which began with a 33-yard rushing touchdown by Thompson that put Dove Creek ahead 64-0.
A 27-yard fourth-quarter rushing touchdown by Thompson, which resulted after Dennison and fellow lineman Hayden Gray opened a massive hole on the left side, capped off the Bulldogs scoring.
“Our line has worked so hard to get where we have gotten,” Dennison said. “We try our hardest to open holes so our running backs can do what they do.”
With the victory, Dove Creek improved to 2-3 on the season, while Shiprock Northwest dropped to 0-4 with the loss.
“Our guys played well, and it was good for them to get this win,” Dove Creek head coach Shane Baughman said. “We were on the receiving end of games like this a few times last year, and we have a young team, so hopefully this will be a confidence builder.”
Dove Creek’s next game will take place at home against Sargent on Oct. 6.