EIGHT-MAN FOOTBALL PREVIEW – QUARTERFINALS
BY: KERRY SHERMAN
A pair of double digit seeds pulled off upsets in the eight-man opening round, with both coming right down to the wire. Holly picked up its second fourth quarter victory of the year over Akron, while Merino bounced Crowley County by a touchdown. Both will be back on the road this weekend. Three of the remaining teams in the bracket call the Mountain division home. All four quarterfinals will be played on Saturday at 1pm. The games are listed in bracket order.
#1 HAXTUN (10-0) VS #8 SANFORD (7-3) SATURDAY 1PM
The defending champs had the sportsmanship clock rolling before halftime of their opening round contest against McClave, as the Fightin’ Bulldogs jumped out to a 48-0 advantage. The Cards got on the board in the fourth to avoid the shutout, but Haxtun had collected the 50th victory for its coaching staff, 48-8. It also pushed the winning streak to 23 consecutive.
Kailin Kelley (140), Michael Gerk (109), and Ryland Wolff (102) each topped the century mark on the ground, with Wolff adding 83 through the air and Gerk chipping in another 60 on his lone completion. Those three also starred on defense, with Kelley recording a team-high 11 tackles and the other two each having seven. Maclin Tempel (two sacks, blocked punt), Josh Wright (two sacks, forced fumble), Mason Bornhoft (sack), Kaiden Schelling (interception), Keegan Colglazier (fumble recovery), and Corbin Andersen (fumble recovery) all made big plays to help the unit.
The defense also stood tall for Sanford, as the Mustangs only allowed eight points to Vail Christian in the opening round. Their offense did its part, putting up 34 points. No stats were available for the Mustangs.
Despite both teams being regular postseason qualifiers, this is the first meeting between them in the MaxPreps era (2004-present).
#4 SIMLA (10-0) VS #12 HOLLY (8-2) SATURDAY 1PM
Simla posted the only shutout of the opening round, as the Cubs dominated Hayden 48-0, remaining unbeaten on the year. Caston Cox nearly had a perfect day throwing the ball, completing 14 of 17 attempts for 225 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Both scoring tosses went to Brent Bowker, who finished with six grabs for 132 yards. TJ Eurich powered the ground attack with 153 yards and two touchdowns, one covering 87 yards. Brayden Glover also had a rushing TD.
Eurich led the defensive effort with nine tackles and an interception, while Glover added eight stops (one sack), a blocked punt, and a fumble recovery for a score. Jonathan Zimmerman registered a sack and a pick-six, and Treven Kochera forced a fumble.
There’s something about second half comebacks for Holly when the Wildcats are at Akron. After scoring 20 fourth quarter points to pull off a 27-14 victory during the regular season, the Wildcats overcame a 40-29 halftime deficit in the opening round, outscoring the Rams 13-8 in the fourth, to claim a 50-48 upset.
Andre Salgado used his arm and legs, throwing for 171 yards and two scores, while also running for 130 yards and two more scores, to boost the Wildcats. Daunte Maldonado ran for 134 yards and three scores, and was also the leading receiver, hauling in three passes for 54 yards and a TD. Jacob Noriega caught two for 49 yards and the other score. Dylan Tamayo sparked the defense with 10 tackles and an interception, while Salgado added a pick and a fumble recovery. Colby Swopes tallied two sacks, and Devin Eaton (1.5 sacks) and Huston Rushton (.5 sack) added two more. Rushton’s big effort included a blocked punt, a forced fumble, and a fumble recovery.
This is the first meeting between the programs in the MaxPreps era.
#3 MANCOS (8-2) VS #6 LYONS (10-0) SATURDAY 1PM
About the only thing that went wrong for Mancos in the first half of its opening round win over Swink was allowing a kick return for a touchdown. Even with that, the Bluejays led 40-6 at the half, and a TD pass from Brandon Vannest to Broc Imel late in the third quarter got the mercy clock rolling. They would go on to claim a 46-22 victory.
Levi Martin averaged close to 10 yards per carry, racking up 187 yards and two touchdowns on 19 attempts, and Kail Wayman added 83 yards and two more touchdowns on his 12 carries. Ayden Matthews tallied 66 yards and a TD, as the Bluejays ran for 384 yards in the contest. On top of his receiving touchdown, Imel also snagged a pair of interceptions, while Cole Dainty-Guilfoyle recorded the lone sack for the Mancos defense.
Lyons cruised to a 56-6 win over Dayspring Christian in the opening round, but the Lions had to overcome an early 6-0 deficit to do so. They still have not allowed a total of 100 points on the year, as that early TD pushed their points allowed to 98. The offense got rolling with 26 second quarter points, and 22 more in the third put the running clock into motion.
Miles Dumbauld was a dual-threat in the contest, throwing for 281 yards and four touchdowns, while also running for 117 yards and another score. Finn Oetting, who ran for two more scores, also caught three passes with two going for touchdowns. Dumbauld was also one of three Lions with 10 or more tackles. His 10 stops tied Dequlyn Keller for second behind Keenan Young, who tallied 13. The defense forced five turnovers, including interceptions by Dumbauld and Oetting, and fumble recoveries from Maregu Sullivan, Henry Johnson, and Lucas Wilson.
This will be the first time these two squads have hooked up during the MaxPreps era.
#2 DOVE CREEK (10-0) VS #10 MERINO (6-4) SATURDAY 1PM
It was more of the same for Dove Creek in the opening round, as the Bulldogs kept up their domination from the regular season. They led West Grand 28-6 at the half, and a kick return for TD plus the conversion with about three minutes left to play allowed the game to finish with a running clock. Their 52-18 victory put the Bulldogs in the quarterfinals for a third consecutive season.
Kade Hankins paced the Dove Creek offense with 187 yards and a score on the ground. He also completed eight of 10 passes for another 90 yards. Gage Buffington added three rushing touchdowns, and Kendall Gardner reached paydirt once. Quaden Huffaker led all tacklers in the game with 18, one more than Tyson Beanland (9) and Hankins (8) combined. Beanland has a pair of sacks, and Gardner added one. Cole Taber recorded a pair of interceptions, and Taber Dejane had the long kick return for a TD. Gardner and Audric Chadd each registered a safety.
If there is a Cinderella team left in the bracket, it just might be Merino. The four losses by the Rams are more than anyone else in the quarterfinals, but three of those came against teams that area also still in the field. They were knotted at 30 apiece with Crowley County at halftime of their opening round game, but the defense rose to the occasion in the second half, allowing only a third period touchdown and conversion. Trailing 38-36 in the fourth, Merino punched in the go-ahead score and walked away with the 44-38 upset victory.
Merino is seeking its first semifinal berth since 2018, while Dove Creek has not made that round during the MaxPreps era. This will be the first meeting between the two since 2007.