FAIRPLAY – Autumn hasn’t officially started yet, but Mancos and Haxtun put together a performance worthy of a Game of the Year.
In a contest that had all the makings of a late-November clash, No. 3 Mancos posted a second-half rally and had No. 1 Haxtun on the ropes, only to see the Bulldogs score twice in the final three minutes, including a tiebreaking interception and return on the game’s final play, to steal a breathtaking 28-22 win over the Bluejays.
With Mancos (3-1) driving into Haxtun territory in a 22-all contest inside the final 30 seconds, Bluejays senior quarterback Kail Wayman fired a pass that Bulldogs junior standout Ryland Wolff swiped out of the air, then raced over 70 yards the other way as time expired to break the Bluejays’ hearts.
The interception brought to a shocking end a second half dominated by the Bluejays.
Mancos had overcome a 10-point deficit to take a 22-16 lead on Wayman’s second touchdown of the afternoon, a 1-yard effort with just over three minutes remaining in the fourth quarter.
Haxtun (3-0) answered with a quick-strike bomb, as Wolff connected with senior Keegan Colglazier for a 59-yard score to tie the game, just 40 seconds after Mancos had claimed the lead.
Mancos’ ensuing possession resulted in a punt, but Haxtun muffed the return, and Mancos pounced on the loose ball to give them an opportunity in Bulldog territory to win the game on the final possession.
After a pair of first downs pushed the Jays inside the Bulldogs 30-yard line, and with the clock winding down, Mancos went to the air one final time to look for the winning score themselves – only to see the Bulldogs piling in the end zone to celebrate their shocking come-from-behind win.
The Jays struck first after a scoreless opening period in which both defenses showcased their might. Bluejays senior defensive lineman Cole Dainty-Guilfoyle proved to be a menace for the Haxtun O-line, leading to several backfield stops for head coach Josh Gardner’s defense.
Senior defensive back Andrew Jaime picked off a Wolff pass, setting up the Jays with premium field position. Early in the second quarter, Wayman punched in the game’s first points on a 2-yard run.
From there, Haxtun got its offense in gear, driving inside the Bluejays 3-yard line and appearing poised to tie up the game. However, Mancos turned away the Bulldogs on a fourth-down effort.
The celebrations would be short-lived – Mancos would have to punt, and Haxtun would capitalize on the short field as senior Kailin Kelley broke free for a 32-yard score. Right before half, Haxtun added to its advantage with Wolff’s 27-yard run, making it 16-6 at the break.
Out of the intermission, Mancos responded with intensity, controlling the tempo of the contest, and making good on their scoring opportunities with an 8-yard run from senior Levi Martin to close the gap to 16-14 midway through the third.
Wayman’s touchdown late in the fourth quarter had the Bluejays tasting their first-ever win over Haxtun, but the Bulldogs pulled out the incredible rally to move to 3-0 against Mancos.
While each team will head to their opposite corners of the state to being their respective league schedules in two weeks, the heavyweight clash presented an enticing preview of a potential postseason rematch. The Bluejays will collect themselves with a bye this week, before opening Mountain League play against Sargent on the road on Friday, Sept. 29.