Revenge tour or early death sentence?
The Durango High School football team learned its position for the Colorado High School Activities Association Class 3A Football State Playoffs. Ranked seventh in the CHSAANow.com coaches poll much of the season and sixth in the final RPI, the Demons (7-3) were seeded seventh in the 16-team bracket after two other data points – MaxPreps rankings and Packard rankings – were factored equally into the equation. The Demons were seventh in the MaxPreps rankings and fifth in the Packard rankings compiled by a Colorado Mesa University math professor.
The result is a first-round home playoff game. The opponent is No. 10 Palisade, which beat the Demons 25-18 the second week of the season in Durango. If the Demons can get past the Bulldogs this time, it likely will be No. 2 Pueblo South (9-1), which beat the Demons 35-34 in Pueblo to claim the 3A South Central League championship, that will await Durango in the second round. Palisade and Pueblo South are the only two 3A teams to beat Durango this year.
Durango had hoped to play the first-round game with Palisade on Friday night, but the Demons will host the Bulldogs at 1 p.m. Saturday.
“A little revenge tour set up for us,” seventh-year DHS head coach David Vogt said. “It’s funny. I was thinking about it, and those are the only two teams that we have never beat since I’ve been here.”
The Demons felt they should have won both games against Palisade and Pueblo South this year. They won’t go into the playoffs scared and are excited about their route to a potential semifinal game.
“Yeah, we lost to both of these teams. But the playoffs are about winning and what you do now. It’s about going as far forward as you can with your team,” said DHS junior quarterback Jordan Woolverton, who has played at an All-State level with 1,576 passing yards with 22 TDs and two interceptions to go with 878 rushing yards and another 14 rushing TDs. “Now, we only have extra motivation. It’s about revenge for us against teams we know we can beat. Now, we just gotta go play.”
If Durango is able to win two games, a semifinal would likely come against No. 3 Discovery Canyon (9-1), which knocked off Palmer Ridge (8-2) last week to send the No. 1 team down to No. 4 in the bracket.
It was Mead (10-0) that ended up with the top seed after it beat previously unbeaten Frederick 27-20 last week. That sent Frederick (9-1) to the sixth seed one spot in front of the Demons. A second-round matchup between Frederick and Discovery Canyon will certainly move the needle of football fans across the state.
Durango was happy to avoid a third consecutive playoff matchup with Erie (7-3). The Tigers ended up the ninth seed and will face No. 8 Green Mountain (8-2). Erie had beat the Demons in the quarterfinals in 2017 and the first round in 2018. Though now without star running back Noah Roper, who plays in college for Dartmouth, the Demons didn’t have much interest in seeing the same team a third consecutive year.
The star Durango will see this week is Palisade quarterback Cam Tucker, who was injured late in the Week 2 win at Durango. The Bulldogs (7-3) lost three of their next four without him before waltzing to a 5-0 record in the Western Slope League.
Palisade scored 40 or more points in each of its final five games and never gave up more than 14, that in a 42-14 romp at Battle Mountain.
In seven games, Tucker passed for 10 touchdowns and only one interception with 90.4 yards per game. He still led the team in rushing and averaged 83.9 yards per game with nine touchdowns.
Durango’s offense has been red hot since Week 4 at nearly 40 points per game, as senior running back Everett Howland has given balance to Woolverton with 1,274 yards and 14 total TDs of his own.
“We are going to score more points this time, for sure,” Vogt said.
The Durango defense is also a much different and improved unit from the one-touchdown loss to Palisade back on Sept. 6. Battle tested in a tough league in a year in which the Demons only had four regular-season home games, the Demons believe in their team for this playoff matchup.
“Our offense has become more explosive every single week,” Woolverton said. “Our defense is smarter and more aggressive. We can take that into this game and show what kind of team we really are.”
Two losses by a combined eight points. That’s all that stood between Durango and a top-four seed. But the fact remains that Durango lost those games to Palisade and Pueblo South. To be a championship team, Durango will get a chance at redemption. If the Demons can get the job done, they’ll be two wins away from being crowned state champions.
“This team can go all the way,” Woolverton said. “Our O-line is amazing, the skill guys are amazing, and we all have that attitude, the swagger we need to take it a long way. You can feel it in the air.”