Longtime area football coach Larry Gartrell isn't going to look at the 297 points the Mead football team has allowed through 11 games with glee.
What Gartrell, a Mavericks assistant under head coach Jason Klatt, may crack a smile at, though, is the fact the MHS defensive unit has made plenty of big stops at crucial times throughout the 2016 season. It has led to an 8-3 record, a benchmark season for the school, and still being called out to the football field for practices with something to prepare for.
Not many teams can say that right now.
Mead will play in the Class 3A quarterfinals on Saturday afternoon, at home against 10-1 Palisade, coming off their first playoff win as a school after the program was revived in 2010. The Mavericks are a team that is gaining confidence on the defensive side, especially after a 28-24 road win at Palmer Ridge in the opening round.
With an offense that gains about 450 yards a contest on average, the Mead defense has had some leeway. But that's not what they want their reputation to be.
"We've been through a lot of battles, and we've played a lot of high-powered offenses so I feel we're battle-tested," said senior Garrett Borger, who has played every game and has 70 total tackles this season. "Everything for us comes down to being aggressive as a unit, working together along that front line and getting off the football. If we function as a unit, we are successful in messing up their plays and it results in good things for us."
The season started with a 50-35 loss to Lewis-Palmer, and the Mavericks proceeded to allow at least 34 points each of the next three games. Consider this, though: in the past seven games (against four playoff teams including their first-round opponent), Mead has allowed just 20.4 points per game. Mead slowed down a Bears team that scored 48.8 points per game in their league.
"We gave up 50 our opening week, but we knew we had good kids and that we just had to re-tool a little bit," Gartrell said. "This year's kids had some different dynamics and we just had to figure out how to get the best out of them.
"We've played some pretty good teams, I mean, three of them are in the final eight. You can't shut them all out. But it's making plays when you have to, and that's something you have to do at this point, and we've done those things."
A lot of their success has come by getting pressure to the quarterback and pursuing the football aggressively. In last week's win, Mead totaled three sacks and three more tackles for loss, bringing to 20 and 36 their season totals in those two categories, respectively.
Borger said the team has been committed to gap football and just the fact the Mavericks are a very disguise oriented team. They're not that big as a group — getting smaller when 5-foot-11, 230-pound Shane Miyake was injured in the first game — but they have been fueled by their winning ways.
"We have some good athletes along the line and at outside backer, so we really just use that," said Borger, who has four tackles for loss and three sacks. "We stunt a little bit, just try and get after guys. We all are out to cause havoc."
Senior Brandon Langridge set an early tone with three tackles for loss in the season opener, and the senior has not been slowed yet. He currently leads the team with eight sacks and 14 tackles for loss. Junior Luis Miramonte is another trench warrior who has produced, securing five tackles for loss.
At 6-foot-6 and 195 pounds, Langridge is the perfect morphing player as a linebacker. He can be off the ground or in a stance along the line, can drop back into coverage or just play base. That's what the Mavericks have thrived on.
"I feel like our defense is flowing so well, and we've got some great coaches who are showing us the right way to do our (individual) jobs and our jobs only" Langridge said. "We have a lot of good rotations and the chemistry has been great with guys that can play multiple positions. Everyone who comes in has done a wonderful job."
If Mead is to get past Palisade and Pueblo East beats Holy Family, the Mavericks would get another home game. If Holy Family beats the Eagles, Mead would go to Mike G. Gabriel Stadium for a rematch with the Tigers.
But for the Mavericks, it's about defending their turf at least one more time and toughing one out against the Bulldogs.
"It was hard leaving this field our last home game, but we've worked hard to get another one," Langridge said.