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Bluejays clinch Mountain League title

Mancos senior Kail Wayman joins his parents in a pregame ceremony on Senior Night as the Bluejays prepared to face Sanford.Ben Bradley/Special to The Journal
Star-studded senior class eyeing deep postseason run

Mountain League title: Check.

Mancos cleared one of their big regular season hurdles, winning their league title on Senior Night, and in impressive fashion to boot.

In a rivalry game against Sanford, the Bluejays posted the most lopsided scoreline between the two squads in at least two decades, overpowering the Mustangs from the opening kickoff to pick up a 58-0 exclamation point on their conference crown.

Senior quarterback Kail Wayman raced into the end zone five times before the night was through, helping the Jays put the game out of reach by halftime, and allow the celebrations to begin in earnest.

“Winning a league title is something important to us,” said senior Chris Medina. “This has been one of the best leagues in the state for years, and so winning the league really sends a message that ‘we’re here and we’re ready.’”

Mancos senior Chris Medina joins his family in a pregame ceremony on Senior Night as the Bluejays prepared to take on Sanford.Ben Bradley/Special to The Journal
Mancos senior Elliott Sam and his family are honored in a pregame ceremony on Senior Night as the Bluejays prepared to take on Sanford.Ben Bradley/Special to The Journal

Nine Bluejays joined family and friends on the field before the game to honor the achievements and aspirations of the Class of 2024. After flowers and embraces, the Bluejays (7-1, 4-0 Mountain League) turned their focus to Sanford, and ensuring the emotional night wouldn’t keep the home team from making an early statement.

Plenty of seniors had their hand in the dominant performance, and while the offense scored on every possession, it was the defense that really established the tone for the blue-and-white. Medina and the Bluejay linebackers punished a strong Sanford (5-3, 1-2 Mountain League) ground game, limiting the Mustangs to a single first down on their opening four possessions.

Senior defensive lineman Cole Dainty-Guilfoyle found himself in the backfield on plenty of occasions, joining junior Brandon Vannest and sophomore Jacob Martin in keeping Sanford’s dual threat quarterback Trason Gartrell under wraps for the majority of the night.

“We recognized that they were wanting to run ‘big-man football’ between the tackles,” said Medina of the defense’s success, “but our guys up front kept them from doing that, which forced them out wide and into the pass game, which is where we’re really good on the back end.”

Three straight three-and-outs produced by the defense set the Bluejay offense up with short fields, and the Mancos ground game took care of the rest.

Wayman and senior tailback Levi Martin accounted for seven touchdowns, following behind the sure blocking of senior Elliott Sam and sophomores Adam Martinez and Colten Vannest. Junior tight end Kaiden Wyatt aided the dominant ground game, and also collected his fourth receiving score of the season on the Bluejays’ lone passing touchdown early in the second quarter. Martin’s second score of the half put the Jays in front 36-0 at the intermission.

“I’m so glad to call these guys my brothers,” said Elliott Sam after the victory, “and when the offensive line gets going, we’re like a train heading downfield.”

Seniors Broc Imel and Andrew Jaime made sure that Sanford’s attempts to go to the air to get in the game were futile, while Wayman’s third touchdown pushed the game to running clock on the first drive of the second half.

Strong technique, for many of the Mancos football players, gets reinforced on the wrestling mat, where the Jays have several all-state wrestlers translating their skill to the gridiron.

“Our footwork has definitely benefited from wrestling,” said Sam, “but even more, we have that wrestler mentality – that grit to never give up on any play.”

Mancos’ domination of the Mountain League this season saw them outscore league opposition 186-14, which doesn’t even include their forfeit victory over Sargent.

Many of the seniors on this year’s Bluejay squad were either on the field or sideline the last time Mancos advanced to the state final two seasons ago. Now, a return visit is squarely in the sights of a hungry group.

“It’s amazing to win in front of everyone who’s supported you through your entire career,” added Sam, “there’s a lot of emotion – both the excitement of finishing high school, but also the sadness of not getting to experience this again.”

“We sat down and talked about what this meant to us,” said Medina of the lead-up to senior-led team’s goals, “this is some special for us – this group of seniors has been playing together for over the past eight years together.”

The Jays have one more regular season home game remaining – next Friday night against Norwood – but have plans of playing on their home turf for weeks to come into November. Their current seeding could see the Jays at home for multiple postseason games, should they continue their red-hot tear into the eight-man playoffs.