PUEBLO – Wiping away the disappointment of 2021, Mancos dominated Haxtun 40-0 on Friday night to win their first state title in football.
As temperatures dipped into the low 20s at the CSU-Pueblo Thunderbowl, the Bluejays left the Fightin’ Bulldogs in the cold all night long.
Mancos scored on the opening possession, then added three scores before halftime. Senior Kail Wayman’s six touchdowns earned the Most Outstanding Player award, but the championship will belong to the team, coaches, school and community.
After a narrow defeat to Haxtun (11-2) in mid-September, Mancos on Friday quickly showed the title game would not be in doubt.
Wayman scored first on a 50-yard burst after a couple of Bluejays first downs. Strong blocking from the offensive line of sophomores Adam Martinez, Colten Vannest and senior Elliott Sam opened up a crease for the senior quarterback.
“We’d been game-planning ever since we lost to them in the regular season every night at practice,” said Vannest. “We just wanted to run right down the middle behind us big guys.”
The Bluejays defense followed with back-to-back stops on fourth downs with Haxtun in Bluejays territory, as sophomore Jacob Martin brought down Bulldogs quarterback Ryland Wolff for a loss.
Mancos then churned out a drive with runs from senior Chris Medina to set up coach Josh Gardner’s offense inside the 10-yard line late in the first quarter. Wayman scored from 2 yards out to double the lead.
“We followed our game plan,” said Medina. “Our defensive line gave Wolff no time to throw the ball. Our outside did a good job containing.”
The second quarter began with another defensive stop, and taking over at their own 35, Mancos took five minutes off the clock during a methodical drive down the throat of the Bulldogs defense.
With Haxtun expecting a run up the middle, Mancos ran an option play, and Wayman pitched to senior Cole Dainty-Guilfoyle, who took the ball to the 7-yard line. Two plays later, Wayman scored his third touchdown from 5 yards out.
As if an 18-0 lead wasn’t enough, senior Broc Imel blew up a screen play, and his teammates forced a fumble deep in Bulldogs territory. After the lone takeaway of the night, Mancos followed with one of its two completed passes, as junior Brandon Vannest got free for a reception inside the 10-yard line. Wayman capped it with a 3-yard score, and the Bluejays ended the half with a 26-0 lead.
“Our mindset for every game is that we’re going to come out and pitch a shutout, and that wasn’t going to change tonight just because it was the state championship,” said Wayman. “We had a lot of changes up front from the first time we saw them – it was the same on defense.”
The Jays stopped Haxtun on the opening drive of the second half, with junior Kaiden Wyatt stuffing Haxtun senior Kaiden Kelley on a fourth-down run. Mancos marched down the field behind a couple of nice runs from sophomore Jonah Ritter, before Wayman’s zigzagging run from 22 yards made it 32-0 midway through the third.
Wayman then scored from 10 yards out and added the two-point conversion, forcing the game to the mercy-rule running clock. Senior Andrew Jaime’s coverage of Haxtun receiver Keegan Colglazier kept the Bulldogs’ pass attack at bay.
The championship run had deep roots.
“We’ve been working ever since April, all through the summer,” said Vannest. “We talked about not making too big of a deal about this one game – getting to play with our brothers. It’s a big deal for the community and for the Western Slope – we’re super-happy about it.”
Three years ago, Mancos had never been to a state semifinal football game. Friday, the Bluejays advanced to that level for the third consecutive year.
Sixth-year head coach Gardner’s 52nd win will undoubtedly go down as memorable.
“It was all about us doing things the right way,” said Gardner. “We decided a long time ago that we were going to be a first-class team, and not be individuals, and our boys really showed that today.”
“Sophomore year, we came here and lost by the same score,” said Medina, “and to come back in our final year and beat them means everything to us seniors.”
“It’s like a dream come true,” said Wayman. “It’s something I’ve always had my mind on, and we’re just so happy about it.”