One day away from its most important game in years, members of the Mancos High School football team are feeling pretty confident.
Who can blame them.
Over the course of what has been a magical season, the Bluejays have won eight of their 10 games, defeated league-rival Norwood for the first time since 2009 and won a playoff game for just the fourth time in school history.
Now, after traveling to Denver last weekend and upsetting No. 6 seed Rocky Mountain Lutheran, 64-28, the Bluejays (8-2 overall, 5-1 in Southwestern League) will host No. 14 Soroco High School (7-3 overall, 3-2 in Northwest League) at 1 p.m. on Nov. 11 with a trip to the state semifinals on the line.
“This year, we have a young team, but we’re a lot of very good young athletes,” Bluejays’ sophomore running back Anthony Medina said. Our teamwork is great, and I think that has played a big role in our success. We’re all excited for this weekend.”
Bluejays offense looks to utilize speedTo come away with a win over Soroco, the Bluejays know that they will need to utilize their team speed and score points. Mancos will rely heavily on Medina, who, despite standing 5 feet 8 inches and weighing just 145-pounds, has enjoyed a stellar season running the football.
Also figuring to garner carries will be sophomore fullback Chance Morgan Garcia and senior quarterback Kaleb Hargraves, who together allow the Bluejays to run the ball between the tackles and complement Medina’s speed with a power-rushing attack.
“We’re a running team, and we’re going to try get on the outside and beat (Soroco) with our speed,” Medina said. “When I run the ball, I’m just trying not to get tackled. I know that I can outrun a lot of their defensive players.”
While running plays will most likely make up the bulk of the Bluejays’ offensive attack, Hargraves’ passing could provide necessary balance as the senior quarterback will look primarily to receivers Hunter Hoover, Nicholas Huver and Peyton Suazo to key the team’s aerial attack.
“Kaleb stepped in after our first string quarterback had an injury early in the season, and he became a big leader for this team,” Medina said. “He can throw very well, and he can read the defense very well.”
Protecting Hargraves on passing plays and opening running lanes for Mancos running backs will be linemen Nick Dan, Cameron Fury and Casey Orange, who make up the backbone of the Mancos offense.
Bluejays defense focuses on a giantWhile scoring points will be key for the Bluejays, slowing Soroco’s offense could prove just as important and to do so, Mancos will need to figure out a way to contain junior running back Jace Logan.
Considered one of the top prep athletes in the state, Logan has been one of Colorado’s top prep football players in each of the least three seasons, placed second in the Colorado State Wrestling tournament as a freshman and sophomore, and was crowned state-team roping champion by the Colorado Junior High Rodeo Association while in middle school.
At 5 feet 10 inches and 170 pounds, Logan plays larger than life.
He has run the ball 200 times this season for 2,594 yards and 35 touchdowns while averaging 13 yards per carry. Playing against No. 3 seed Merino last week, he ran for 298 yards and five touchdowns to lift his team to victory. He also had 14 tackles, 10 of them, solo takedowns.
“(Soroco) has a very large and fast running back,” Medina said. “We know that we just have to take him out, and if we take him out, we’ll win the ball game.”
To stymie Logan and the rest of the Soroco rushing attack, the Bluejays will lean heavily on Orange, Dan and Fury along the defensive line, as well as Garcia and Hargraves at the linebacker position.
Coaching could be key role for the Bluejays, who will be led by Adam Priestley and Josh Gardner, who played in several big games while suiting up for the University of Cincinnati from 1999-2002.
“Our two coaches want nothing but the best for us,” Medina said. “They’re always there for us, and they’ll support us to the end. They’re just amazing coaches overall.”
In the event that Mancos wins this weekend, the Bluejays will advance to a state semifinals matchup against either West Grand or Sargent. By no means looking ahead to their next game however, the Bluejays are seemingly 100 percent focused on giving their home fans something to cheer about this weekend.
“Our fans will give us a lot of confidence,” Medina said. “We won’t have to travel and seeing our community there will be big for us going into this game.”