Bulldogs power to final 8

Sam Green/Cortez Journal

Dalton Randolph breaks loose for a touchdown run Saturday against West Grand.

By Dale Shrull
Journal Staff Writer

DOVE CREEK — Start fast, run the ball and contain the opponent’s offense.

It’s a successful football formula as proven as mom’s apple pie recipe.

The Dove Creek Bulldogs pulled it off to near perfection Saturday afternoon, as they pounded West Grand 39-12 in the first-round of the state 8-man playoffs.

Start fast the Bulldogs did. Under a gorgeous, cloudless autumn sky, Dove Creek (7-2) bolted to a 13-0 lead after its first two drives.

After stuffing West Grand (6-4) on three straight plays, the Bulldogs’ offense went on a methodical 12-play, 65-yard scoring drive with senior quarterback Dalton Randolph punching in from the 2 for the first score.

On the second Bulldog drive — 7 plays and 47 yards — Randolph plowed in from a yard out. Dove Creek kept the ball on the ground for every play of the two drives.

Coach Shane Baughman said the strategy was pretty simple. Run the ball, control the clock and keep ball away the potent West Grand offense.

“We wanted to sustain those long drives and keep the ball out of their quarterback’s hands,” Baughman said. “Our running game was really working.”

In a matchup of the eight and nine seeds, Dove Creek dominated with its running game and were only forced to punt once in the game.

The Bulldogs’ smashmouth offense spoke volumes, grinding out more than 270 yards on the ground in the first half.

Dalton Randolph and his brother Chance Randolph did most of he damage, chewing up more ground than a Dolores County bean farm operation.

Combined, the Randolph brothers each ran for more than 100 yards in the first half, bulldozing around, over and through the Mustang defense to help the Bulldogs take a 33-12 lead at the half.

“The offensive line blocked really good,” Chance Randolph said.

For center Tyson Smith, it was about attitude.

“It was just a matter of sustaining our blocks and staying strong,” the junior said.

The Mustangs cut the lead to 13-6 but that’s when sophomore Chance Randolph pulled off some running wizardry, weaving his way into the secondary, then pinballing off two defenders to break free for a 34-yard TD run.

Again, the Mustangs pulled close at 19-12 but then Dalton Randolph busted through a massive hole up the middle for a 49-yard TD run. He added a 2-point conversion run to push the lead to 27-12.

“That’s a designed play with Cole (Baughman) and Chance (Randolph) blocking for me,” Dalton said. “It’s pretty easy when there’s no one there to touch me.”

Dove Creek’s defense stymied the West Grand offense for most of the game. After forcing two straight three-and-outs to start the game, the Bulldog defenders kept the pressure on.

In the secondary, Chance Randolph, Nick Jones and Tyler Ebberts, who had an interception, swatted down passes, and up front, the Bulldogs played physical, hard-nosed football.

Late in the half, the Bulldogs attempted their first of only three passes in the game, then it was back to the run.

“We were so successful running that we didn’t really need to throw the ball,” Dalton Randolph said.

Smith agreed: “Whenever you’re successful running the ball you just stick with it.”

A 22-yard run by Chance Randolph set up a 4-yard scoring run by Cole Baughman and the Bulldogs headed to halftime with a 33-12 lead.

The second half was more of the same, just with less points. The Bulldogs’ defense continued to contain the Mustangs and Baughman added the final score of the game with less than a minute to go.

The powerful Dove Creek running game finished with 400 yards with Dalton Randolph leading the way with 175 yards and 155 yards coming from Chance Randolph.

Dove Creek is now in the final eight and will travel to the Front Range to play Granada (6-4), the 16 seed.

Notes: Western League champion Norwood, which defeated Dove Creek 47-42, was knocked out of the playoffs by 12th-seeded Fowler, 46-20. Granada, the 16th seed, pulled off the biggest upset in the first-round, holding off the No. 1-seed and previously undefeated Dayspring Christian Academy, 32-27. Dove Creek will have to travel close to 450 miles for Saturday’s game at Granada. Dove Creek’s other loss was to Elbert (38-14) early in the season. Elbert remains unbeaten and also advanced to the final eight. The victory over West Grand was Dove Creek’s first playoff win since 2006.

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