On a night that featured graduates from years past in the stands and homecoming royalty on the field at halftime, the Mancos High School football team came from behind Friday to defeat Sanford, 26-14.
The victory marked the fourth of the season for the Bluejays, who now stand alone atop the Southwest League standings with a 3-0 record against league opponents. Sargent High School currently sits second in the league standings with a 2-0 record.
During the early stages of the contest, the Bluejays struggled offensively as Sanford defenders swarmed toward the ball with reckless abandon.
“Somehow, we were tipping our plays,” Priestley said. “It seemed like Sanford’s defense knew what was coming before we even ran it. We’re still looking at the film to figure out what happened, but early on, we had trouble moving the ball.”
After Sanford scored a touchdown in the second quarter to move ahead 8-0 heading into the locker room at halftime, Mancos regrouped and came on for the second half on fire.
A passing touchdown from Kaleb Hargraves to Peyton Suazo, followed by two rushing touchdowns by Anthony Medina and a rushing touchdown by Caleb Yoder, put the Bluejays ahead 26-8 before Sanford scored late to make the score 26-14.
“In the second half, we realigned some people and changed some formations a bit,” Priestley said. “Chance Garcia was a big part of our offense, and when we needed a first down or some critical yardage, he was great.”
On the defensive side of the ball, the Bluejays were led by Casey Orange, who moved from his usual spot on the defensive line to middle linebacker. Using his size to shed would-be blockers, Orange consistently filled holes and stymied the Sanford’s vaunted running game, which has been one of the league’s most effective in recent seasons.
“Casey Orange was our standout guy on defense,” Priestley said. “We moved him to middle linebacker, and he was able to get to their running back.”
As time expired and players celebrated with Mancos fans near the sidelines, the Bluejays’ four seniors – Cameron Fury, Nicolas Huver, Suazo and Hargraves – grouped together and basked in the glow of their team’s victory.
“It’s always bittersweet to see your seniors have their last homecoming,” Priestley said. “All four of our seniors have played a big role in our program.”
Hoping to build its confidence and keep its undefeated league record intact, Mancos will next face off against Norwood at home on Oct. 7. The game is scheduled to begin at 1 p.m.
“(Norwood) is going to be tough,” Priestley said. “We have to tackle well and offensively, we cannot struggle at the beginning the way we have the last two games. It’s going to be an exciting test for our team.”