MANCOS – On paper, it had all the makings of a classic. The Bluejays never let it get even close to that.
Sanford entered their meeting Friday with Mancos as the No. 4 team in the 8-man classification, according to the most recent CHSAA coaches poll. The Bluejays, meanwhile, sat as the second-ranked squad in the state, thanks to their perfect record and high-octane offense.
Nearly a year ago, the Bluejays saw their season come to an end, 36-28, in the state quarterfinals at the hands of the Sanford Indians when senior Chase Moore was stopped on a fourth-down run in the last minute of the game. It appeared as though the memory of that loss still lingered – and the Bluejays made their intent clear – they were ready for some payback.
Mancos posted a relentless rushing attack from the game’s opening possession, and stymied the high-powered Indians ground game en route to a 60-24 thrashing of their Mountain League rival.
The Bluejays (6-0, 2-0 Mountain League) churned out yards on their first handful of carries, moving the football effectively into Indians territory. Then, sophomore Kail Wayman, typically the bruising counterpart to Moore’s fleet edge running, broke through the line for a big gain of his own, flying in from 31 yards out to open the scoring, 6-0.
Wayman made his way into the south end zone again moments later, albeit by a less conventional method. After the Mancos defense forced Sanford into fourth down, Wayman broke through the special teams unit to block the punt, then scooped the ball and scored from 17 yards away to build the lead to 14-0.
Sanford (5-2, 1-1 Mountain League), without the reigning eight-man player of the year, Kelton Gartrell, who was injured in the Indians’ other loss to Vail Christian, had to rely on their senior quarterback Josh Holman to carry the load. An effective runner in his own right, Holman briefly gave the visiting fans something to celebrate, as he scored on the next play from scrimmage for the Indians, slipping free for a 75-yard run to cut the deficit to 14-6.
It only delayed the inevitable.
The Bluejays bounced right back with a sustained drive of their own, with Moore putting the final stamp on the drive with a 31-yard dash to restore the two-score lead.
Mancos would lean on its defense to shut down Holman and company, before Moore would break free for his second TD of the game, this one from 40 yards, to make the score 28-6. The Indians scored again through Holman, but the Jays would roar into the locker room, as Wayman posted his third touchdown right before halftime to take a 36-12 edge to the break.
Sanford scored on the opening possession of the second half on Holman’s third of four scores, but 36-18 would be as close as they would come.
Moore blitzed the Indians with gashing runs of 70 and 67 yards to build the score to 52-18, before capping the day with his fifth touchdown with less than two minutes remaining in the game.
Another strong game from the Bluejays offensive line set the table for Moore and Wayman to combine for eight touchdowns. On the other side of the ball, junior Ayden Mathews and the Bluejays defensive backs contained everything that the Indians tried to manufacture, limiting one of the best offenses in the state to just a few big plays.
With the win, the Bluejays remain one of three unbeaten teams in the classification, along with top-ranked Haxtun and No. 3 Vail Christian.
Mancos and Sanford head in divergent directions heading into the final two weeks. The Bluejays get set for Norwood on Thursday for a 7 p.m. kickoff on senior night, before capping off the regular season with a trip to Sargent the following Friday. Victories in both contests would sew up the Mountain League crown for the Jays.
Sanford, meanwhile, has a trip to Sedgwick County in a rematch of last year’s eight-man state title game, followed by a visit to Dove Creek for a huge matchup against the Bulldogs.