Beat up physically but not defeated mentally by last week’s 35-34 loss at No. 3 Pueblo South, the No. 7 Durango High School football team is ready to get back to work tonight.
It’s yet another trip to Pueblo, perhaps the last of the season and foreseeable future, this week for the Demons. This time, it’s the Pueblo County Hornets (2-6, 0-3 3A South Central League) that await DHS for a 6 p.m. Friday matchup at Pueblo County High School.
It’s the same city where Durango (5-3, 2-1 SCL) saw its 34-27 lead in the final minute of the fourth quarter last week evaporate in the blink of an eye in a critical matchup with the Pueblo South Colts (7-1, 3-0 SCL).
“That was the most physical team we’ve played all year,” DHS head coach David Vogt said of the Colts, a big statement after the Demons were in other hard-hitting matchups this season with Montrose and Palisade. “So, our kids are definitely feeling it. I know (Pueblo County) didn’t practice all week because of snow. So, we’ve taken it light this week with a lot of film and walk-through stuff and cleaning up mistakes from last week.”
Snow slammed the Front Range early in the week and caused the Pueblo schools off the field. Though it will be cold Friday night with a forecasted low of 13 degrees and a light wind expected to make that cold bite even deeper, the teams are expected to meet without the threat of any postponements, with no more snow in the picture.
That cold could make some of Durango’s lingering injuries feel a bit worse. The goal for the Demons will be to establish a commanding lead early and get starters some rest going into next week’s regular-season finale at home against a Pueblo East team that will fight tooth and nail to get into the state playoffs with a win against the Demons.
“It’s a blessing that this is our last road game,” Vogt said. “We’ve had some long trips this season, and it feels like we haven’t been home in forever. After this, if we take care of business these next two weeks, it looks like we could have a first-round home game. We really need it.”
After another four-touchdown performance last week with two on the ground and two through the air, Durango junior quarterback Jordan Woolverton’s eye-popping season will continue Friday. He has completed 71.4% of his passes for 1,275 yards, 19 touchdowns and only one interception. He’s also close to a 1,000-yard rushing season with 706 yards and 11 TDs on only 61 carries this season.
The Demons already boast a 1,000-yard rusher in Everett Howland. He has 1,026 yards and nine TDs on 84 carries, and he has added two more receiving TDs this season.
Ben Finneseth and Gage Mestas continue to lead the Durango receivers, as Finneseth has 29 catches for 534 yards and seven TDs, while Mestas has 400 yards on 21 catches and six scores.
“In the past, our offense hasn’t been the strong point for us,” Vogt said. “This year, the coaching staff has done an amazing job preparing the kids, and they’ve taken ownership of that side of the ball. The kids know that with our offensive line and skill guys, we can put points on the board really fast against any team in the state.”
Indeed the Demons can, as they’ve scored an average of more than 40 points per game this season and more than 48 points per game during the last five contests. Meanwhile, the defense has allowed only 14½ points per game this season.
Pueblo County is led by the rushing of senior Jose Handford, who has 1,028 yards and nine TDs on 166 carries, good for an average of 6.2 yards per attempt. Quarterback Chase Hartman is the running game’s complement with 385 yards and four TDs on the ground to go with 593 yards and three TDs through the air. He has completed 50% of his passes and has thrown three interceptions.
“They are a hard-nosed team that wants to run the ball,” Vogt said. “For us, it’s about making sure we get lined up. They will do three backs in the backfield, do double tight ends and a bunch of different formations. We have to make sure we are lined up properly against those and play hard, fast and downhill.”
Last season, Durango throttled the Hornets 54-7. Durango has won all three of the previous league matchups with Pueblo County.
“We need to establish the line of scrimmage and take care of business,” Vogt said. “They are pretty much the same Pueblo County team we’ve seen the last two years. Not a lot of changes. It’s up to us to execute.”