With each passing week, the Bluejays offense looks more dangerous. Kicking off a tough middle part of their schedule, however, the Mancos defense made a huge statement about how hard it will be to score points against them this year.
In a battle of top five programs Saturday in the eight-man classification, Mancos throttled perennial power Merino 49-8.
Fresh off a state semifinal run from a year ago, the Rams (1-1) returned a vaunted offense and aspirations to finally unseat six-time defending state champion Sedgwick County in the eight-man Plains League. Meeting for the fourth time in four years, a sense of familiarity between the two programs promised for a hard-hitting, four-quarter battle.
The Jays had other ideas.
Mancos (3-0) sent a message to Merino out the gate, pounding in two early scores to build a 14-0 lead after 12 minutes.
Bluejay opponents know that they will have to face a steady dose of senior running back Chase Moore, so the Rams made him a focal point of their defensive preparation. Compared with his normally mind-blowing numbers, Moore enjoyed more modest runs against Merino but still amassed more than 120 yards on the ground and three touchdowns.
The attempt to contain No. 13 meant that the Bluejays were able to utilize some different threats to punish the Rams. Sophomore Kail Wayman had 56 rushing yards and 64 receiving yards, and senior Evan Sehnert also collected a pair of receptions for 33 yards and a score.
Both teams scored in the second quarter, which took the Jays to the intermission with a 22-8 lead.
That's when Ayden Mathews took over. Signal caller on offense, linebacker on defense, the junior led a wrecking crew in the second half that punished Merino from all angles. Mathews tossed for a pair of TDs in a 5-for-9 outing, while rushing for a score of his own.
On defense, Mathews anchored a high-flying unit with a team-best 18 tackles in the victory. However, several other Bluejays enjoyed a sensational day, with sophomores Chris Medina and Cole Dainty-Guilfoyle combining for 24 stops. Moore chipped in with 10 tackles, while senior Mason Goodwin wreaked havoc in the Ram backfield, collecting three sacks.
Head coach Josh Gardner watched his squad add a score in the third quarter, before putting three more in the end zone in the fourth quarter to cap a resounding victory.
Mancos will get a good understanding of where they stand against the state's best this upcoming week, as Merino will turn right back around and take on No. 2 Sedgwick County. Meanwhile, the Jays will end up getting an unexpected off week, as their scheduled opponent for Saturday, Sept. 18th, South Park, has forfeited their contest.