From the start of the prep sports season in early August until its conclusion in the middle of November, leaves changed, temperatures dropped, and five local teams left lasting impressions on opponents and fans.
Below are the Top 5 storylines from what became one of the most memorable and exciting fall sports campaigns in recent memory.
Lady Bears roll to stateBetween the end of August and the beginning of November, no team in Colorado was a dominant as the Dolores High School volleyball team, which won a school-record 22 straight matches.
Led by a trio of experienced seniors, several solid underclassmen, and sophomore outside hitter Jordan Elder, the Lady Bears became the first San Juan Basin League team to win every league match since 1973 before rolling to a District Tournament title.
While Elder led Dolores offensively with 322 kills, senior Sierra Schwartz anchored the Lady Bears defense with a team-high 330 digs. Senior Cameron Elder played an important role in the middle and registered 30 blocks, while Josie Majors showcased a well-rounded skill set with 106 kills, 168 digs, 36 aces and 20 blocks.
After losing a classic five-set match against Rangely in its Regional championship, Dolores received one of four wildcard berths in the Class 2A State Tournament, where the Lady Bears held their own during a three-set loss to top-seeded Yuma and a narrow loss to Rangely.
“We just have so much heart and passion for the game of volleyball,” explained Cameron Elder. “We’ve been playing since we were little and we just want it so bad. We can play through God and for God, and that has been our motivation all season.”
Bluejays enjoy historic yearWhile the Lady Bears volleyball team was belting its opponents, Mancos High School’s football team was dolling out similar punishment as the Bluejays amassed an 8-3 record overall and finished 5-1 in the Southwest League.
Unlike many 8-man football powers around the state, the Bluejays did not rely on one transcendent athlete, but rather, depended on a deep roster filled with fundamentally sound players to get the job done.
After a season-defining overtime victory over Norwood, which marked Mancos’ first win over the Mustangs since 2009, the Bluejays advanced to the state tournament, where they upset sixth-seeded Rocky Mountain Lutheran, 64-28, in the opening round.
Mancos’ victory over Rocky Mountain Lutheran marked the school’s fourth playoff win in its history and advanced the team to a state quarterfinals matchup against Soroco, which the Bluejays lost, 40-0.
“This year, we have a young team, but we’re a lot of very good athletes,” said sophomore running back Anthony Medina. “Our teamwork is great and I think that has played a big role in our success.”
Golf team a standard of successFor the Montezuma-Cortez High School golf team, the fall season once again resulted in success as senior Cristoffer Rudosky finished tied for fourth in the Class 3A state tournament and sophomore Blake Keetch placed 19th overall.
Several other Panthers players, including Tim Wyman and Justin Brunner also played well during the season, which saw M-CHS finish near the top of the standings in several regular season tournaments and finish first overall at the Monte Vista Invitational.
In recognition of the season’s results, both Rudosky and Keetch were named to the Intermountain League’s all-conference team, Rudosky was named Intermountain League “Player of the Year,” and M-CHS head coach Micah Rudosky was named Intermountain League “Coach of the Year.”
“I’m proud of Cristoffer and Blake and the rest of our guys,” Micah Rudsoky said. “They represented Montezuma-Cortez High School well throughout the year and at the state tournament.”
Dove Creek takes big stepsOne season after losing more games than it won, the Dove Creek volleyball team blazed to a 16-7 overall record while staking its claim to the title of the Four Corner’s area’s most improved team.
Among the keys to the Bulldogs’ success was the play of super-sophomore Cassie Gatlin, who registered a team-high 183 kills, 49 aces, and 308 digs. Also playing a significant role for Dove Creek were seniors Marissa Hatfield, Larissa Randolph, Faith Johnson, and Mikayla Hankins, who provided stability and leadership to the team’s younger players.
Although Dove Creek’s season ended just short of the state tournament after the Bulldogs lost to Sangre de Cristo in the Regional finals, Dove Creek’s surprising run that included several victories over larger schools and a District Championship ranks as one of the top prep stories of the year.
Mancos cross-country returnsMuch like the M-CHS golf team, Mancos High School’s boys’ and girls’ cross-country teams have become a mainstay at state competitions, where this season, their athletes once again performed well.
Leading the way for the Bluejays were seniors Simon Kearns, Jake McKie, Caleb Yoder, Zane Wilson, and Alex Fleitz, who all placed in the Top 100 at the Class 2A state meet and helped the team to a fourth-place finish overall.
On the girls’ side, Mancos qualified for state after surprising runs by Grace Manning, Hakayla Snow, and Kylie Guiles during a Regional meet in which the Bluejays were predicted to finish ninth and ended up finishing fourth.
“Most of our boys had been to state before, some of them multiple times,” said Bluejays head coach Brady Archer. “This group of seniors has finished in the Top 5 in the state in each of the last four years. Seeing how much all three girls improved over the course of the season, I know they will be ready to take the next step (next year).”