Home or away, it’s the start of the most wonderful time of the year.
The holidays? Hardly. It’s time for high school playoff football.
And Durango High School is back at the party after taking a year off.
DHS is seeded ninth and will visit defending Class 4A runner-up Denver South at 1 p.m. Saturday at All City Stadium.
If there’s any disappointment from not opening the postseason at home, first-year DHS head coach David Vogt didn’t show it Thursday. A No. 9 seed doesn’t provide the easiest road – with the potential for a matchup with top-seeded Montrose looming in the quarterfinals – but, as Vogt sees it, in order to get to a state championship, you’ve got to beat the top teams at some point.
So if you’re good enough to win it all, you’re good enough to take down the No. 8 seed on the road and the top seed the next week.
“Like I told the boys going into it, we’re going to have to play everybody, so it didn’t matter who we play,” Vogt said. “We’re going to have to play everybody eventually.”
Playoff victories, however, have been tough for Durango to come by in recent years. The Demons’ last playoff triumph was a 31-28 win over Hinkley in the first round in 2000, which set up Durango’s most recent home playoff game the next week.
To break that streak, Durango will have to slow the high-powered running attack of the Rebels. Denver South averages 311 rushing yards per contest, led by Zachary Lindsay’s 1,570 yards and 11 total touchdowns. The Rebels also boast the big, bruising Trevonte Tasco, who had 940 yards and scored eight touchdowns.
The Demons, meanwhile, boast a stellar defense, particularly against the run. And that defense has yielded an average of just 12.5 points per game so far this season. And they’re looking forward to the challenge the Rebels’ running game presents.
“It’s a grudge match. We have to get out there and hit them in the mouth,” said senior defensive lineman Daniel Gustavson, son of Catherine and Dan Gustavson.
Denver South allows 16.4 points per game, and its two losses came to No. 16 seed Montbello and 10th-seeded Broomfield.
The Demons, meanwhile, have used several primary runners to average 198.5 yards on the ground per contest and average 32.2 points per game. Against fellow Colorado playoff teams, DHS scored 21, 34 and 10 points, respectively, and added 42, 35 and 21 against its New Mexico foes who combined to go an aggregate 21-6.
A victory Saturday would give DHS a home game in the second round against either Montbello or Montrose, the latter which clipped Durango 14-10 two weeks ago in Montrose to keep DHS from an outright Southwestern League title.
Despite having to open the playoffs on the road, a potential chance at redemption at home isn’t a bad consolation prize.
“I don’t know. I would say I’m excited because after this, when we win, we play Montrose at home,” said Gustavson, speculating, of course. “That’s what I’m excited about.”
But there’s work to be done first in Denver. And controlling emotions will be key to moving on, an area in which Vogt, a head coach in the playoffs for the first time, plans to set an example.
“Just, really, just prepare how we’ve prepared all year. It seems to work,” Vogt said. “So I’m trying not to make it too much of a hype, and hopefully the kids will feed off that and just know it’s just the next game on the road to our last game, the state (title) game.”