The Demons haven’t loaded a bus for a varsity football game since Aug. 31. Finally, the team will be tested on the road once more.
Durango High School, ranked ninth in the Class 3A Colorado High School Activities Association coaches poll, will face Pueblo Central at 1 p.m. Saturday at the home field of the Wildcats.
All week, the Demons (4-2, 1-0 3A South Central League) have focused on getting off to a quick start at Pueblo Central (4-2, 0-1 SCL), as the team quickly went down 13-0 in the opening minutes of a 20-3 loss at No. 3 Palisade during the Week 2 road trip.
“We started off so slow last time we went on the road,” DHS head coach David Vogt said. “We have to make sure we’re focused and try to get a quick start.”
With the game also set for a 1 p.m. Saturday kickoff, the Demons have multiple elements to prepare for that are different than a traditional 7 p.m. Friday start.
“Even last week playing an hour earlier on the Friday night kind of spooked us and shocked us a bit,” Vogt said of the team’s 6 p.m. start against Pueblo Centennial a week ago. “We started off slow. It was a learning lesson, and I told them that if we make the playoffs, we’re going to be playing Saturdays at 1. We have to get used to this – playing in the sunlight and catching balls and punts in the sun. It’s a good opportunity to get accustomed to it.”
The Demons, who are ranked second in CHSAA’s 3A RPI standings that determine playoff seeding, are on a roll with three consecutive wins by a combined score of 109-24, including last week’s 33-8 win against Pueblo Centennial to open league play. Durango has also played the toughest strength of schedule in all of Class 3A, according to the RPI formula.
The Wildcats are coming off a 17-14 loss to Pueblo County last week in its league opener.
Pueblo Central presents another tough running team for the Demons defense.
Senior Nico Martin has rushed for 673 yards and seven touchdowns on 93 carries this year, good for an average of 112.2 yards per game and 7.2 yards per carry. Aureious Drew has another 301 rushing yards and three touchdowns, while Brandon Martin has rushed for 219 yards and two scores to go with eight receptions for 144 yards and three touchdowns.
“Their running back is so dynamic,” Vogt said. “He can beat you single handedly. All the Pueblo teams are tough. On film, you can’t always tell how tough they are, but we saw it last week when that team came and punched us in the mouth the first quarter.”
Brandon Martin also is a threat to throw the ball from his position, as he has 117 yards and three touchdown passes on only four attempts this season. Sophomore Ryley Roth is the team’s starting quarterback. He has completed only 32.7 percent of his passes for 318 yards and five touchdowns with five interceptions.
The Demons also have a running back who can throw the ball, as senior Dawson Marcum has thrown a touchdown on 3-of-3 passing for 68 yards. But most of Marcum’s damage has come on the ground, has he boasts 839 yards and nine touchdowns on 88 carries, good for an average of 9.5 yards per carry and nearly 140 yards per game.
DHS sophomore quarterback Jordan Woolverton found a rhythm last week with a pair of touchdown passes, one to senior Alex Hise and another to fellow sophomore Gage Mestas. Woolverton has thrown for 927 yards and six touchdowns to two interceptions and has completed 65.3 percent of his passes.
Another big weapon for the Demons has come via the kick and punt return duo of Marcum and Mestas, who routinely give the Demons the ball in enemy territory.
“It’s just so dangerous for us,” Vogt said. “Teams don’t know where to kick the ball between those two guys. During practice, we preach to our guys not to take the play off because our guys can score if they catch the ball. We make sure we’re focused on not taking a special teams play off because some teams will and you can catch them.”