Jordan Woolverton and the Durango Demons had the kind of first half coaches dream about.
The sophomore quarterback for Durango High School rushed eight times for 105 yards and a touchdown, and he completed 13-of-15 passes for another 190 yards and four touchdowns. Paired with a kickoff return for a touchdown from sophomore Gage Mestas, the Durango Demons rolled to a 41-7 lead at halftime against the Pueblo County Hornets.
Durango aimed to get up early to give some banged-up players from last week’s slugfest with Pueblo South a chance to rest before next week’s regular-season finale at Pueblo East with a Class 3A South Central League championship on the line. The Demons did that and continued to roll on the way to a 54-7 victory on senior night in Durango. Woolverton finished 15-of-17 passing for 226 yards and five touchdowns to go with his first half rushing totals.
“It felt great to get that W for the seniors,” Woolverton said. “The environment was great. It feels great to bounce back going into the elephant in the room, Pueblo East.
“The line was doing amazing tonight. That was their best game of the year. They did great. Obviously, I had Dawson (Marcum) make some plays for me, the wide receivers did great, and it was an all-around team effort right there.”
Two plays into the game, Woolverton hit Marcum, the team’s senior running back, on a swing pass that Marcum took 77 yards for a touchdown.
Durango’s next drive went 53 yards in five plays and ended with a 10-yard touchdown pass from Woolverton to senior Alex Hise. The extra point attempt was botched, but Durango had a 13-0 lead with 5 minutes, 8 seconds to play in the first quarter.
Pueblo County had a touchdown drive to cut the Durango lead to 13-7, as quarterback Lane Sherwood scored on a 7-yard run one play after the drive was extended by a pass interference on Durango.
Durango answered in a flash, as Mestas returned a squib kick more than 80 yards for a Durango touchdown. He burst up the middle that was left wide open by the Hornets’ kick coverage. He then bounced to the Durango sideline to outrun the final two Hornets for a touchdown to put the Demons up 20-7 with 43.1 seconds to play in the opening quarter.
“I love an opportunity to get a return,” Mestas said. “A lot of credit to my teammates; I trusted my blockers, each and every one of them, to do their job. I saw that hole and went as fast as I could.”
Mestas also had two punt returns of 15 yards in the first half. After he once again set up the Demons on their own 48, it took the Demons only seven plays to go 52 yards, as Woolverton once again hit Marcum on a swing pass that went for a 20-yard Durango touchdown, and the Demons assumed a 27-7 lead with 7:49 to go in the first half.
Marcum got to rest much of the night. The senior already had more than 1,000 rushing yards going into the game. He finished with only 10 rushing yards but had four receptions for 126 yards and two touchdowns.
“Obviously, Dawson has been a workhorse all year long,” Woolverton said. “I found open gaps my line gave me. Dawson was out there lead blocking and made it happen.”
Durango’s defense settled in to stuff Sherwood and the Hornet run game. After a three-and-out and a punt, the Demons took over on their own 46. Seven plays later, Woolverton scored on a 12-yard run to give the Demons a 34-7 lead with 3:47 to go in the half.
Durango wasn’t done in the first half. After Pueblo County punted from Durango territory, the Demons got the ball back on their own 18 with 1:39 to go in the half. Woolverton hit Marcum for a quick 23-yard gain on a first-down screen pass. Woolverton and the Demons marched down the field, and even a holding penalty on a 23-yard Woolverton touchdown run couldn’t keep the Demons out of the end zone.
A few plays later, Woolverton hit junior running back Everett Howland on a 5-yard touchdown pass. The Durango Young America Football League teams were in the north end zone getting ready to be honored at halftime, and Howland included all the elementary school players in his celebration after the score that put the Demons up 41-7 with 21.3 seconds to go before halftime.
“That was fun,” Howland said. “I always loved watching varsity football games as a kid. It was my dream to be with them. I just wanted to give them that experience because it can change their life. It was a good feeling.”
Durango’s defense forced consecutive turnovers on downs in the third quarter, and the Demon offense took over on Pueblo County’s side of the field both times. On the first drive of the second half, Woolverton hit Hise on a 25-yard TD pass to cap a four-play, 36-yard drive. The Demons led 47-7, and the mercy-rule 40-point lead meant the clock ran the rest of the night.
“It feels great to get that guy into the end zone,” Woolverton said of Hise. “He works so hard in practice and he works every day in the weight room. It felt great to get him in the end zone right there.”
Hise finished with four catches for 51 yards and two touchdowns. He returned to the game after tweaking a left ankle, but he wouldn’t let it keep him out on senior night.
“It could possibly be my last time to play on this field, and definitely my last Friday night on this field,” Hise said. “There’s nothing else like this I’ll get again in my life. I’m not playing college football or anything. It was a pretty sad feeling having the ankle injury happen to me. I wanted to bounce back from that, and I was so glad I was able to and get one more touchdown.”
Durango’s second drive of the second half started on the Pueblo County 46. When the fourth quarter began, the Demons inserted all of its backup players. Only moments later, Howland ran in for a 30-yard touchdown to give the Demons a 54-7 lead with 10 minutes to play.
“I thought about our seniors,” Howland said. “This is their last home game that they are guaranteed. I just tried to do as much as I could for those guys.”
Now, Durango will prepare to travel to meet Pueblo East at 7 p.m. Friday at Dutch Clark Stadium in Pueblo. Since Durango has been in the Pueblo-based league, it has yet to beat Pueblo East. Last year, East won 38-16 at home, and it beat Durango 24-20 at DHS in 2016.
Durango could win a league title if it beats Pueblo East by more than 11 points, but Vogt isn’t concerned about tiebreakers. He simply wants to win.
“We just want a victory, especially against these guys,” he said. “We’ve been so close the last two years. It’s about payback and getting them at their place. We have to focus, no messing around. It comes down to five big plays or so, and we have to be on the positive side of those plays.”