The Durango High School football team was perfect while its varsity starters were on the field Friday night against former rival Montezuma-Cortez. The backups held their own, too.
One week before the kickoff of the regular season, the Demons hosted a Colorado High School Activities Association Foundation Game against the Panthers in a preseason clash of southwest Colorado teams. The game was an exhibition, but it was complete with a packed stadium, referees and a scoreboard. When the game was over, that scoreboard read 56-12 in favor of Durango.
“It’s been a while since we’ve seen our fans,” said DHS junior quarterback Jordan Woolverton. “It gives me chills seeing all of them come out and support us in a game like this.”
A much smaller Class 2A Montezuma-Cortez team could not stop Class 3A Durango. Senior running back Everett Howland ran the ball twice for 70 yards and two touchdowns and held down the middle of Durango’s starting defense that didn’t allow a first down to the Panthers.
“It’s a blessing,” Howland said of his touchdown runs. “I followed my brother, Nathan, who has only played football for one year of high school, and he’s starting right now, which is awesome. Also Carver Willis. He’s going to Kansas State, so I just follow him and he takes me to the end zone.”
Woolverton was 8-for-10 passing for 188 yards and two touchdowns, one a 39-yard catch and run from junior receiver Gage Mestas, who beat the defense and ran over a safety to get into the end zone. The other Woolverton TD pass was 63 yards to Ben Finneseth, who caught a pass in stride and ran untouched to the end zone. Woolverton hit four different receivers for his eight completions.
“I love throwing touchdowns,” Woolverton said. “I felt good. It’s so great to get the first game under the belt and go big. Our line put on a show tonight and made time for me, and our receivers were awesome.”
Finneseth added TD runs of eight and six yards, the second coming early in the third quarter when he lined up as the third-string QB. He ran for 48 yards on three carries.
“There’s no better feeling than catching the ball and seeing an open field and all your guys blocking and going as far as you can take it,” Finneseth said. “It was a good opening game for us to see what we’re capable of this season.”
Montezuma-Cortez struck twice in the game, both times to end the half. The first came on a 53-yard TD pass from Ty Blackmer to Aca Dennison. A 2-point conversion was no good. The Panthers also used two timeouts in the final 30 seconds of the game and scored on a touchdown pass from Dennison to Kyler Krobb when the clock hit zero.
Also for Durango, Nate Messier, a sophomore, rushed for two TDs, one from a yard out and another from 44 yards away on his first touch of the game.
“We made some adjustments on a couple of those scoring drives. The urgency helps when you start running the hurry-up and you don’t have a lot of time to think about it,” Panthers head coach Jarrett Watkins said. “The main thing for us tonight was the playing time and getting experience because the fact we’re so young right now.”
Durango’s defense was led by some sacks from Ford Pitts and Taylen Yazzie. Chase Robertson had an interception to open the third quarter that set up the team’s seventh touchdown.
The only DHS drive that didn’t end with a TD in the first half was a missed 35-yard field goal from Caleb McGrath. The kick would have been good from 60 yards if on target. McGrath was perfect on his extra-point tries. Also making PATs were Woolverton and Niko Martinez.
Montezuma-Cortez will open the regular season at 7 p.m. Friday at home against New Mexico’s Kirtland Central.
Durango will also open at home at 7 p.m. Friday against Pagosa Springs.