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Dove Creek Bulldogs drop quarterfinal football game in Holly

Audric Chadd (52) of Dove Creek pursues Holly quarterback Dakota Eaton (18) Saturday in Holly. (Courtesy of Katti Gardner)
Host Wildcats keep Dove Creek from a return to state semifinals

Few teams have been able to move the ball against Dove Creek in recent years.

A staunch, hard-hitting core of Bulldogs have punished opponents all season, making opponents earn whatever points they can scrape out.

A trip Saturday to Holly in the state quarterfinal, however, pitted the ‘Dogs against one of the best offenses in the state, and in a battle of strength against strength, the Wildcats dialed up the right combination of plays to unlock the Dove Creek defense and pick up a 66-22 victory.

Making the lengthy trip to the Kansas border, Dove Creek knew that their task would be challenging against the Arkansas Valley League champions, with hopes that their offense would be able to take care of their second consecutive southeast Colorado opponent in as many weeks.

Dove Creek carried a four game winning streak into the meeting, while their hosts had posted eight straight wins – so something had to give.

The Bulldogs (7-3, 3-1 Mountain League) found themselves in a hole from the outset, as Holly senior quarterback Dakota Eaton began a career day through the air and on the ground. The Wildcat signal caller finished with over 460 yards of total offense, including nearly 350 through the air, as the hosts built a 25-6 first-half lead.

Kade Hankins (11) and Gage Buffington (5) play Saturday in the quarterfinals of the eight-man state football tournament in Holly. (Photo courtesy Katti Gardner)

Dove Creek battled back in the third quarter, scoring a pair of touchdowns to keep within range, but eventually ran out of steam, as Holly answered every Bulldog surge with one of their own. Holly (10-1) scored three touchdowns in the third quarter, and two more in the fourth to put the game away.

While it wasn’t the way that head coach Shane Baughman had drawn up for the contest to go, Dove Creek once again announced themselves as a yearly contender in both their league and state title races. With a wealth of talent rising through the underclassmen ranks, the past three seasons’ worth of playoff appearances, after snapping a three year hiatus, appear to have the Bulldogs on a trajectory to contend again in 2022.

The Bulldogs lone seniors, quarterback Chorbin Cressler and lineman Blane Johnson saw their final action in blue and yellow, capping off careers with a 22-14 overall record. Cressler, behind the steady blocking of Johnson, capped off one of his best years in his four seasons as a starter, amassing over 1,000 total yards of offense, and accounting for over 20 TDs on the ground and through the air.

Holly advances to take on Haxtun in the state semifinal next Saturday, Nov. 20 at 2 p.m. in the northeast corner of the state. The winner of that contest will face the winner of Mancos and Sanford in the state title bout, to be played over Thanksgiving weekend at the ThunderBowl on the campus of CSU-Pueblo.