Bluejays fly by Bobcats
Mancos High School 8-man football team wins big on senior night
The Mancos eight-man football team needed to bounce back.
Bounce back, the Bluejays did.
From start to finish, Mancos dominated the Ignacio junior varsity team last Thursday evening.
Ignacio, an 11-man school, made the game an even playing field, suiting up eight Bobcats on each side of the ball. Ignacio even fielded mostly junior and senior varsity players.
The only thing that wasn’t level was the competition.
Mancos scored on its opening drive, and running back Branson Mitchell and the Bluejays raced to a 30-0 halftime lead.
The Bobcats never threatened and Mancos cruised to a 50-6 home win on senior night.
“Coach preached about how we had to come back after losing two games big time,” said Mitchell about Mancos losing its last two games by a combined score of 119-12. “We had to come back. We had to make a statement. It didn’t matter if it was JV or not. We had to come out and play fundamental football and do everything right.”
Going into the game, Mitchell was second in the state in rushing yards to Rifle’s Ryan Moeller. Mitchell easily took over the top spot in rushing for the time being with another 300-plus yard game on the ground.
“The line was unbelievable tonight. They stepped up big time,” Mitchell said. “When our line blocks well, we’re successful. It gives us the chance to really run it.”
Mancos (4-4, 2-2 8-man Western League) was sound defensively, too. The Bobcats never entered the red zone and their one touchdown came on a 50-yard trick play.
It was a good night to be a Bluejay.
“This was a big game for us. We all came out and we played hard,” said senior fullback Conner Jankowski. “The game was to boost our confidence and get us ready for the playoffs. Our team did great defensively. We had a lot of great tackles and our front line blocked great.”
Igancio turned the ball over on downs its first possession and Mancos went to work. Mitchell grounded and pounded for tough yards behind a stout offensive line. The drive was capped off when quarterback Casey Rohweder faked a handoff, rolled left and threw a 9-yard TD pass to a wide open Jankowski. Mitchell ran in the 2-point conversion to put the Bluejays up 8-0 in the first quarter.
Mancos doubled its lead in the second stanza when Rohweder snuck the ball across the plane on fourth-and-goal at the 1. The QB took it himself again on the 2-pointer, increasing the Mancos lead to 16-0.
Mitchell scored his first TD on the next drive. The talented senior bowled through Ignacio’s defensive front on a 10-yard run up the middle.
Up 22-0, Mitchell marched down the field again on the Bluejays following drive. The Mancos tailback made it look easy, scoring from 11 yards out. Rohweder hit Brandon Hood-Farley on the 2-point pass for a 30-0 lead, where the score stood at the break.
Mancos kicked off to open the third quarter, as the sun went down and the lights came on. But the Bluejays didn’t back off.
Mancos scored on its opening drive of the second when Mitchell took it in from a yard out.
The Bluejays led 36-0 when the defense collected its first turnover. Ignacio running back Caleb Adams was stuffed at the line of scrimmage and fumbled the ball. Mancos defensive lineman Ty Koppenhafer pounced on the pigskin. Mitchell recovered a fumble on Ignacio’s next drive and Mancos would convert it into points.
On third-and-long, Rohweder dumped a screen pass to Jankowski and the senior had blockers in front. Jankowski got a clear path to the end zone for a 35-yard TD. Mitchell ran in the 2-point play to up the score at 44-0.
The Bobcats responded when QB Clayton Jefferson took the snap, handed off to Austin McCaw, who threw a pass to Jefferson and the QB took it to the house for 6.
Although Mancos didn’t preserve its shutout, the Bluejays certainly ended the night with an exclamation point.
Ignacio recovered an onside kick and drove to the Mancos 40-yard line.
However, Jefferson later was sacked and fumbled. Bluejays’ freshman lineman Everett Whalen scooped up the loose ball and took it the other way 60 yards for a TD in front of a raucous Mancos sideline.
“I’m proud of our boys. We had some big hits and the boys wanted to hit,” first-year Bluejays coach Adam Priestly said. “I challenged them over the week to step up and play some ball, and be that team we can be. They did that.”
Whalen’s final TD of the game definitely capped off a senior night to remember.
“It sucks. I’m sad,” said Mitchell, who is also Colorado’s leading tackler at linebacker, about his final game on the Mancos High School field. “I’m just proud of my team. I’m glad we went out with a win my last game at home.”
Mancos will play Saturday at La Veta (4-3, No. 2 8-man Mountain League) in the cross-divisional postseason game at 1 p.m.
“We just got to make ourselves fundamentally better,” Priestly said. “We got to make sure we’re taking care of our jobs individually. We’re going to challenge them next week (in practice) to make sure that they are taking care of their responsibilities.”