It was a perfect situation for the Durango High School football team Friday night. The Demons were able to celebrate a big homecoming win while still learning valuable lessons ahead of next week’s highly-anticipated clash with third-ranked Pueblo South.
No. 7 Durango (5-2, 2-0 3A South Central League) could not be stopped by Pueblo Central when running the ball. Behind three rushing touchdowns and a Fynn Hyson interception returned for a touchdown, the Demons stormed out to a 28-6 halftime lead and would continue to roll in the second half to secure a 49-12 victory on homecoming night.
“It’s pretty special,” Hyson said. “We haven’t lost a homecoming since I’ve been here. It means a lot to us.”
Gage Mestas ran for two touchdowns early for the Demons, and Woolverton would tack on two more rushing scores along with one from Everett Howland. Woolverton led the trip with 178 rushing yards on nine carries. Howland added 117 rushing yards on nine carries, and Mestas finished with 41 yards on four carries.
In all, the Demons rushed for more than 350 yards in the win. Durango has now averaged more than 52 points per game during its last four games.
With all the success on the ground, the Demons didn’t need to throw much. Woolverton finished 6-of-8 for 81 yards, one TD and his first interception of the season.
“Obviously, the offensive line had an amazing night,” Woolverton said. “We don’t run like that if it’s not for the line. It was super fun to show we don’t have to pass the ball 30 times a game. We can run the ball, and we have many strengths to our team right now. I’m really happy with where we are right now.”
Durango set the tone early. After the defense forced a quick punt, Durango marched 60 yards in six plays and scored on a 31-yard run by Mestas. It came after Howland hurt Pueblo Central with a 20-yard run on a third-and-16. Only moments later, Hyson intercepted Wildcats quarterback Brandon Martin and returned it for a touchdown to give the Demons a 14-0 lead with 7:09 to play in the first quarter.
“It felt pretty sweet,” Hyson said. “I read screen right from the start and did what my coaches told me to do all week. They knew they were going to run screen, so we practiced it. I was pretty sure I would score. I had Everett blocking for me, but I think I had it no matter what because I wasn’t going to let anyone stop me from scoring.”
But after the interception, it was the passing game of Pueblo Central (5-2, 1-1 SCL) that taught the Demons a key lesson Friday night. Martin got hot and completed his next eight passes for 126 yards and a 30-yard TD pass to tight end Clay Heffron that momentarily cut the Durango lead to 14-6. Durango’s defensive lapses on deep passes, especially, were of concern, as Martin completed 10 passes of more than 15 yards in the game.
“Going into a game against a very good Pueblo South team that is going to throw the ball against us, expose us in those places, if we don’t clean that up we are going to be in trouble,” Woolverton said. “We made a lot of mistakes tonight, and we have to come into practice this week, focus up and learn to correct those mistakes.”
The Demons made adjustments to get it fixed in the second quarter, though. That came thanks to better coverage and a pass rush that recorded four sacks in the second quarter with two from Kyler Reimers.
Still, Martin finished the game 18-of-32 passing for 280 yards, two TDs and the interception for the Wildcats after he got back in a groove in the second half.
“It was some miscommunication that messed us up and gave them some long plays,” Howland said. “We have to get that fixed starting in film Saturday.”
After the big touchdown pass from Martin to Heffron, the Demons would answer right back on offense with a six-play, 65-yard drive made up of all running plays capped by a four-yard TD run by Mestas to make it 21-6 after the first play of the second quarter.
Durango would get the ball on its own 40 after a failed fake-punt pass play by Martin and the Wildcats, but Woolverton threw his first interception of the season, as Nick Krasovic stepped in front of a short pass to take the ball away. Pueblo Central did nothing with the turnover, as a Reimers sack led to another punt.
With plenty of time to work, an angry Woolverton marched the Demons down the field with runs of 22 and 18 yards before he finished the drive with a 16-yard TD run to give the Demons a 28-6 lead.
“I don’t like throwing interceptions. That’s not me,” Woolverton said. “So, when I did, that made me angry. I loved running the ball after that and put it out of memory.”
It didn’t take Durango long to add to its lead in the third quarter. After a long kickoff return by Mestas to the Pueblo Central 36, it took the Demons only two plays to score on a 25-yard TD run by Howland to make it 35-6 with less than a minute gone in the second half.
The Demons then forced another Wildcat punt and had the ball on their own 5-yard line. It took Durango only three plays to score, as Woolverton ripped off a 71-yard run followed by a 23-yard Howland run. Woolverton then scored on a 1-yard TD to make it 42-6 with 8:46 to play in the third quarter.
Martin then marched the Wildcats down the field, but the drive stalled with a turnover on downs on the 20 of Pueblo Central. In five plays, the Demons went 80 yards and scored on a 15-yard TD pass from Woolverton to Ben Finneseth, who led the Demons in receiving with five catches for 60 yards.
Martin would tack on two more TDs in the fourth quarter on a 3-yard run that cut the Demon lead to 49-12. He then hit Krasovic on a TD pass of more than 30 yards in the final minute of the game to make it 49-19.
After the Demons took care of business Friday and the Pueblo South Colts (6-1, 2-) SCL) rolled past Pueblo County 38-14, the teams will clash at 6 p.m. Friday at the CSU-Pueblo Thunderbowl with first place in the league standings on the line. The game very well could decide the league champion.
“If we play like that, we’re going to get our (butts) kicked, to be honest,” Hyson said. “We gotta come in focused, know our assignments and give it our all to beat a team like Pueblo South.”