COLORADO SPRINGS – The Durango High School football team was disappointed to not play a Week 1 game after top-ranked Pueblo South was forced to cancel the matchup because of a positive COVID-19 test to one player. So, the Demons put up two games worth of highlights in Week 2.
At long last, Class 3A third-ranked DHS opened its fall season Saturday in Colorado Springs against Mitchell High School at Garry Berry Stadium. It took the Demons only three plays to score their first touchdown of 2020, and the lead was 14-0 before a minute had even ticked off the game clock in the first quarter. DHS (1-0) never let up in a 64-0 drumming of the Marauders (0-2).
“It felt amazing. It’s been way too long, long time coming, but we were ready for this game, and it was a blast,” said DHS senior Ben Finneseth. “Last week, it was pretty heartbreaking not to play. It felt so good to be back on the field with the guys.”
It was a six touchdown day for DHS senior quarterback Jordan Woolverton, who passed for five scores and ran for another. He also grabbed one of four interceptions for the DHS defense against Mitchell quarterback Macy Davenport II.
“I was like a kid at a toy store,” Woolverton said. “It was nice to be out here with all of our guys. The line played great up front, I had receivers making plays around me, so it was a great feeling today.”
Woolverton was 14-of-22 passing for 268 yards and five touchdowns with two to Finneseth. Woolverton also connected on scoring throws to Chase Robertson, Jordan Stanley and Tagert Bardin while he completed passes to seven different receivers.
“They can only stop one or two guys. We’re so blessed with our skill positions this year that if they double somebody, someone else will be open,” DHS head coach David Vogt said. “There are going to be a lot of opportunities for guys to make plays in this offense.”
Gage Mestas had four catches for 107 yards for Durango. Finneseth added three grabs for 35 yards and two scores. He nearly had a third with a brilliant one-handed catch on the sideline before he broke a tackle and ran into the end zone. But a late call ruled the pass incomplete with Finneseth out of bounds when he caught it. Mestas also had a sideline touchdown run called back after it was ruled he had stepped out of bounds.
DHS only ran the ball 10 times in the game but found great success there with another 105 yards. Junior running back Nate Messier ran five times for 63 yards and two touchdowns.
“He did a great job. Such a tough kid who worked hard putting on the extra pounds in the offseason,” Vogt said of Messier. “He’s a gamer.”
Durango’s defense dominated the Marauders. Mitchell senior running back Marcus Ford was the only player to find marginal positive yardage. He ran 14 times for 31 yards. Davenport completed only 6-of-15 passes for 10 yards with the four interceptions.
“I’m happy with the way we tackled. I was kind of worried about missing tackles,” Vogt said. “The kids did a great job on that.”
DHS got the ball first and went 57 yards in three plays. A big pass from Woolverton to Gage Mestas for 38 yards set up an 19-yard TD pass from Woolverton to Finneseth to make it 7-0.
“(Finneseth) and I have worked all offseason together and a lot on our red zone work,” Woolverton said. “He is one of the tallest receivers we have, and I know I can throw it up to him and let him go get it. I let him go be an athlete and make a play, and he made me look good.”
On Mitchell’s first offensive play of the game, Luke Wesley intercepted Davenport and returned it more than 30 yards untouched for another Durango touchdown. It was 14-0 Demons only 46 seconds into the game.
“That’s a momentum changer for the whole game,” Vogt said of Wesley’s interception. “To have a guy who has never played corner in a varsity game before do it, it’s amazing for him and speaks to all the hard work he has put in this year.”
After a Mitchell punt, Woolverton would hit Robertson on a 31-yard touchdown pass, and a 2-point conversion play was successful to make it 22-0 Durango with 7:10 to go in the first quarter. It was a four-play, 56-yard scoring drive for DHS.
“It was a great feeling,” Robertson said. “All week in practice, we were running comeback routes, and that’s what that touchdown play was. I knew I would have one, at least, but probably two guys ahead of me. In my mind, that’s how I played it out all week, and then that’s what happened in the game.”
“I am really proud to be part of this offense.”
A Woolverton interception would set up Durango’s next touchdown. This time, Messier would run for a 24-yard score to make it 29-0 with 1:47 to go in the first quarter.
Durango got the ball back again a few seconds later, as Zachary Haber would haul in a long pass attempt from Davenport on the Durango 40-yard line for the Demons’ third takeaway of the quarter.
Early in the second quarter, Messier would score again on a 1-yard TD run.
Durango would try to get kicker Sam Carozza, into the end zone on a 2-point conversion attempt. Woolverton, the kick holder, threw the ball to an open Carozza, who made the catch. With nothing but daylight in front of him, Carozza got excited, dropped the ball, picked it back up but then tripped over his own feet for a failed conversion attempt.
But Carozza would get sweet redemption on Durango’s next touchdown after Woolverton threw a perfect deep pass down the sideline to Stanley, who ran a beautiful route with a double move to break wide open. He would dive over the pile on to get into the end zone ahead of a Mitchell safety.
“(Stanley) got a good release. His defender didn’t turn his hips soon enough, so I knew he was going to get past him. I let it fly, let Stanley run under it and he made the play to get into the end zone,” Woolverton said.
On the extra point, Woolverton would pitch the ball to Carozza, who ran through contact and across the goal line for a successful 2-point conversion to the delight of his teammates and the Durango fans, which outnumbered the Mitchell home crowd on a warm October afternoon.
Vogt was thrilled with the play of Carozza, as he made all of his extra point attempts. Vogt said he had wanted to run the fake to Carozza, who joined football from the boys soccer team, after Durango’s first touchdown of the game to help him get right into the mix of the game without any kicking nerves. But he showed no nerves while kicking the ball in his varsity debut.
With a running clock helping bring a quick end to the first half, Durango would get another quick strike touchdown before halftime. This time, Woolverton hit Finneseth in the end zone on a 7-yard strike to make it 50-0 before the break.
“This could be our last game. We never know what’s going to happen this season, so we went out there and played with everything we had every single play of both halves,” Woolverton said. “With how the world is right now, it’s important to take each and every play like it’s a state championship game and show that it’s that important to you.”
With a running clock the entire second half, DHS didn’t have to do much. Durango kicked the ball out of bounds to open the half, and Mitchell elected to have the Demons re-kick. Then, the Demons were offsides on their next kickoff attempt. Backed up 10 yards from the normal kick spot, DHS boomed another deep kickoff through the hands of the Mitchell return man, and a penalty had Mitchell backed up on its own 6-yuard line. Two plays later, Finneseth would intercept Davenport to give DHS the ball on the 3-yard line.
“Their quarterback was quick on his feet and could scramble, but he just threw it up,” Finneseth said. “He didn’t go through his progressions, and we took it away for that reason.”
Woolverton would roll to his left looking to pass, felt a defender closing in from behind him and decided to run untouched into the end zone to make it 57-0.
Durango’s final touchdown would come in the fourth quarter with Woolverton surrounded by backup players. He would hit Bardin on a 14-yard pass into the end zone to make it 64-0 before time expired.
“We have a huge variety of weapons,” Woolverton said. “We have so many tools, and I am excited to see what they can all do this year.”
Now with a game under their belt, DHS is eager to get back to practice to clean up a few of its small mistakes and penalties from Saturday’s win before another road trip to play Pueblo County (2-0, 1-0 3A South Central League) at 2 p.m. Saturday in the first league game of the five-game schedule.
“County always plays us tough, especially at their place. They’re big kids, so it will be a fun, tough-nosed football game like it always is,” Vogt said.