Durango High School forward Neely Surmeier had perhaps the best description of the importance of a road win over rival
Montezuma-Cortez High School tonight. So good, in fact, that it encompassed the importance not only for Surmeier and
company, but also for their male counterparts.
Not only is it important to beat them because they're our biggest rival, but, if we don't win, we potentially won't
go to state," she said. So it's essential."
Both the Durango boys, who sit at 8-12 and 3-6 in the Southwestern League, and girls, who are 11-10 and 4-5 in
league, could use a win to give their profiles even the slightest of boosts before the Class 5A playoff brackets are
filled out Sunday. While both Cortez teams may not be big wins in the scheme of playoff seeding, with the Panther
boys under .500 and the girls hovering around the break-even mark, don't bother trying to tell the players the games
aren't important. I'm super excited," Surmeier said. It's my favorite game every year, so I'm excited to play it."
One of Surmeier's aforementioned male counterparts, senior forward Austin Rochford, said that bringing their top game
is critical for the Demons, and playing well in their final tilt with the Panthers is important to the DHS seniors.
It's still pretty big for the seniors," the 6-5 left-hander said. We just gotta come out and play our game."
Of course, a win would boost the overall record for each team, which could potentially help the Demons play slightly
closer to home in the postseason. Playoff teams with records similar to both Durango teams typically get rewarded
with a tough matchup on another side of the state. Still, girls coach Klint Chandler said he'll take whatever help a
win can get for his team.
This is big for us," he said. I think we need to win this game to get a good seed in there."
Boys coach Tom Dunne said he and his players tend to downplay discussion of the postseason until it actually arrives.
Regarding the next season, so to speak, we don't talk about that too much," he said. Our focus is Cortez and
winning this game."
Regardless of postseason implications, tonight's tussles still will be, at heart, rivalry games, a fact that is not
lost on both DHS coaching staffs and teams. No parties involved for the Demons expect the welcome mat to be rolled
out for them by the Panthers' partisans.
Crowds can get pretty wild," Rochford said. The fans like to cuss us out when we run out, so we've just got to
ignore that and play our game."
While the enmity between both schools and their fans can get a bit intense, Surmeier said she wouldn't have it any
It's part of (the rivalry), it's what makes it fun I think," she said.
Despite all the hoopla that can surround rivalry games, both coaches and players said that practice this week has
been full of focus and intensity. Dunne particularly was pleased with the Demons' energy throughout the week.
Their energy level is up," the second-year varsity head coach said. The practices have been good; they've been
working hard all week."
While the practices may have been good, the strategy for both teams hasn't changed much. Dunne said the boys
continued to work on defense and keeping the Panthers off the offensive glass, hallmarks of their 46-38 win over
Cortez in January. The focal points of the defensive attack will be Cortez's Camron Tate and Corey Adams.
They're very quick, very aggressive into the paint, and they dish very well," Dunne said of the pair.
Chandler said the girls plan to work their inside-out game, with Surmeier and fellow senior Lindsay Chamblee as the
focal points. Surmeier said the DHS girls were making final touch-ups" before trying to repeat January's 59-52 home
win over Cortez, including working on breaking full-court pressure defense.
They pressed us the last time the whole game," Chandler said. I don't think it hurt us too bad, but they do press
the whole game. We've got to be ready for that."
Rochford said he thinks his team is ready for tonight's challenge, and he's hoping not to repeat last year's trip
across Cherry Creek, when Durango blew a late lead, losing 43-40 on a Darren Parker 3-pointer with less than 30
We've worked hard in practice, and it'll pay off (today) when we win," he said.