Steve Lewis/Durango Herald file photo
One, 2, 3, Durango!
The cheer the Durango High School football team closes its practices with could have doubled as a set of instructions in this case.
Three wins and Durango likely assures itself of a return trip to the playoffs. But the Demons want to take each one as an individual challenge, starting tonight with a Fruita Monument team that’s 3-5 but also owns a win over Grand Junction.
Durango’s coming off a critical victory over Grand Junction Central as the Demons (3-4, 1-1 Southwestern League) seek their fourth consecutive playoff berth. Like a cornered animal, they came out clawing after falling behind 13-0 in the first quarter, shutting out the Warriors over the final three quarters thanks to a stingy defense and a pair of interceptions from Casey Dunlap.
“We knew that that’s what we needed, and we knew that we needed a win,” said linebacker/tight end Demetre Cullison, son of Wendy and William O’Neal. “We know that we need a win this week, and hopefully we can come up big this week.”
DHS head coach Greg Wyatt said his defense is playing with a load of confidence coming off that 27-13 victory. The Demons’ D will take on the stiff ground game of the Wildcats, who average 155 yards rushing per game.
“We’re just starting to play better assignment football,” Wyatt said. “Defensively, when everybody does their job, you have a chance to do great things.”
Durango will counter with an offense that got right in the passing game last week by utilizing the tight ends. Jeremy Szura threw for 150 yards, 92 of which went to tight end Lane Joseph, including a key touchdown pass on fourth-and-goal. Cullison, also a tight end, had 40 yards receiving.
After Fruita Monument leaves town, Montrose will come in before the Demons finish the regular season with a trip to Montezuma-Cortez. But, ever the coach, Wyatt said his focus hasn’t strayed beyond the Wildcats. His goal all week has been trying to carry over the good vibes and quality play from last week’s victory into what could be another must-win for DHS.
“It can be a challenge from week to week when you’re talking about 16- and 17-year-old kids, but, you know, we emphasize day after day after day that everybody’s got to do their job,” Wyatt said.
Still, it’s nice to have your destiny in your own hands. DHS currently sits 20th in wild-card points but would qualify automatically by virtue of their league standing if the season ended today. It makes things simple: Win, and you’re in.
“That’s how it is right now, but we want to be on top,” Cullison said.