When the football schedules were released during the summer, you can bet that plenty of people circled Friday, Oct. 7 on their calendar.
With a pair of top five teams and a potential league title on the line, Mancos (5-1, 1-0 Mountain League) gets set to host Dove Creek (6-0, 1-0 Mountain League) under the Bluejay Field lights this week for a 7 p.m. meeting between the eight-man powerhouses.
Both the Bulldogs and Bluejays comfortably cleared their final hurdles – and league openers – in the leadup to their exciting encounter. Dove Creek blasted No. 10 Sanford 50-8, while Mancos made short work of Sargent, 60-6, in the each of the program’s respective homecoming games.
Dove Creek brought the game to the Mustangs (4-2, 0-1 Mountain League) right from the opening kickoff. After stuffing the opening Sanford drive, Dove Creek required one play to provide the game’s first points. Senior Kendall Gardner raced along the sideline 65 yards behind a convoy of blockers to give the hosts a 6-0 advantage.
On the subsequent Sanford possession, junior Taber Dejane stepped in front of a third-down pass from Sanford quarterback Cash Caldon, taking the interception back 40 yards to double the lead.
From there, the Bulldogs pulled away – senior quarterback Kade Hankins slipped free for a 13-yard score midway through the opening quarter to build an 18-0 lead, before Gardner broke free for his second long run of the afternoon – a 70-yard sprint – to make it 26-0. Head coach Shane Baughman’s Bulldogs would add one more score before the break, a 15-yard pass from Hankins found senior Cole Taber, and Dove Creek held a 34-0 lead.
Sanford scored their lone touchdown right before halftime on a Caldon rush, but the Bulldogs headed to the intermission on top, 34-8.
Homecoming court – Hankins as king, and senior volleyball standout Trista Barnett as queen – were named at halftime, before the Bulldogs returned to the field to finish off the Mustangs.
Junior Tyson Beanland blocked a Sanford punt in the third quarter, and senior Audric Chadd fell on the ball in the end zone, before Hankins connected with Dejane from 37 yards to push the Bulldogs to the half-century mark on the scoreboard.
Dove Creek’s defense dominated all day, led by seniors Quaden Huffaker and Dustin Glover, who both piled up huge tackle numbers.
Meanwhile, in Mancos, junior Kail Wayman found the end zone four times in a decisive first half, as the Bluejays got everyone into the act in their comprehensive win over Sargent (2-3, 0-1 Mountain League).
Across the board, the Bluejays and Bulldogs appear to have a tremendous number of great match-ups when they line up next Friday night, featuring strong offensive and defensive lines, effective ground games, and seasoned signal-callers. The Bluejays have taken five of the past six meetings with Dove Creek, but each of their past three encounters have been decided by one score, including Mancos’ 22-14 road victory in 2021. Dove Creek’s last trip to Mancos resulted in a 18-14 Bulldog victory in 2020. In fact, the road team has won the past three match-ups in the series.
Bluejay Field will be expecting a packed house on Friday night, and for those who can’t make it in person, the contest will also be carried on local radio station 98.7 FM KRTZ and on krtzradio.com.