Just over a year after it suffered a shocking loss to Merino High School in the opening round of Colorado’s 8-man playoffs, the Mancos High School football team is set to return to its home field and put its postseason bygones behind it.
Standing opposite of the Bluejays for this year’s first-round playoff, which will take place in Mancos on Saturday, will a team from Caliche High School that will enter the contest with a 6-3 record overall and a 3-3 record in the A-8 Plains League.
Known for a power rushing style that is typical of teams in the northeast corner of the state, the 11th-seeded Buffaloes figure to give the 6th-seeded Bluejays all they can handle throughout a contest that figures to be hard-fought and physical.
While several factors figure to determine the trajectory of the contest, the game’s final result could come down to which team is able to dictate the pace of the game and get its star players loose in the open field.
Below are some things for fans to watch for as this Saturday’s playoff game on the Bluejays’ newly renovated home field unfolds:
Can the Bluejays shake their playoff jitters?Coming off a regular season that saw it outscore its opponents 380-131 and lose only one game, Mancos should not be lacking in confidence when it struts onto its home field for Saturday afternoon’s contest.
In the back of the minds of many of the Bluejays’ players, however, figures to be last year’s 40-0 opening-round playoff loss to Merino High School in a contest that many regarded as the most surprising upset of the 8-man season.
“I think (our loss to Merino) definitely made the team work harder during the offseason,” Bluejays’ quarterback Breccen Morelli said earlier this season. “We got some kids to show up to the summer stuff and we’re going to build on that as we move through the season.”
Although it would not be altogether surprising to see Mancos players experience some butterflies early on against Caliche, do not be surprised if the Bluejays play with a new level of focus this Saturday as the team tries to put last season’s playoff experience in its rearview mirror.
How will Caliche handle its long road trip?When Buffaloes’ players step onto Mancos’s home field on Saturday, they will do so less than 24 hours after what figures to be a nine-hour, 515-mile bus trip from their school in Iliff, which is located in the northeastern most portion of the state.
While long bus rides have a tendency to adversely affect high school teams, the Caliche squad opposite Mancos may be fresher than expected thanks to a roster that is laden with seniors who have plenty of experiences traveling long miles along baron roads.
Chief among the Buffaloes’ seniors who figure to have an impact is senior dual-threat quarterback Dylan Huss, who has passed for 679 yards and five touchdowns this season and run for 1,344 yards and 18 scores.
Which Bluejays’ players will rise to the occasion?Featuring experience and speed at the skill positions and talent and depth on the defensive side of the ball, Mancos will have plenty of playmakers on both sides of the ball when its team takes the field.
Which of the players takes on the role of superstar could very well depend on Caliche’s game plan, as the Buffaloes will likely be forced to choose to focus on one or two Bluejays it hopes to contain.
Among the most likely heroes for Mancos will be running back Chase Moore, who has rushed for 1,658 yards and 27 touchdowns this season. The talented sophomore has also amassed 261 receiving yards and caught a team-high four touchdowns.
Other key players on the Mancos offense figure to be Morelli, who has rushed for 456 yards and eight touchdowns this season and thrown for 365 yards and three touchdowns. Senior running back Anthony Medina could also play a starring role while adding to his season rushing totals of 416 yards and five touchdowns.