BROOMFIELD -- Both the Mead and Holy Family football teams have made it a habit of qualifying for the state playoffs. But both have also been left out of the postseason recently enough that they appreciate what it takes to make the Sweet 16 in Class 3A.
Mead coach Jason Klatt can still remember being left off the playoff bracket after starting the 2013 season 7-0. And Holy Family missed the postseason last year -- and had a losing record for the first time in coach Mike Gabriel's first decade coaching the Tigers -- after winning its first four games.
Which brings us to Friday night's Mead-Holy Family matchup, the third-to-last game of the regular season. Both teams came into the contest in the top 16 in the 3A RPI standings, a major factor in setting the state playoff bracket. But it's getting to be make-or-break time in the schedule.
With both a Northern Metro League title -- which brings with it an automatic playoff berth -- and overall postseason spots in play for each team during the stretch run of the regular season, a close, hard-fought contest seemed likely on Friday. The game was anything but as Mead forced two turnovers in the first four minutes of the contest and four in the first half en route to a 56-7 rout at Holy Family's Mike G. Gabriel Stadium.
"That was one of the best performances I've seen by our team," Klatt said after the Mavericks' third-straight victory. "You could kind of feel some momentum building, and I felt it. They're young kids, so you don't really know. But man alive was that fun.
"Our kids were awesome. I kind of noticed a glimmer in their eyes two days ago and we had some really good practices. We've just been waiting for it to spring (loose). And it sprung tonight in a big way."
Indeed, Mead, No. 15 in the 3A RPI coming in, cruised to a 42-7 halftime lead. Trey Ward set the tone with a 40-yard pick-six off Holy Family quarterback Kyle Helbig with 8:19 left in the first quarter after Helbig had fumbled the ball away earlier in the game.
Holy Family lost three fumbles in the first half overall. All in all it was a nightmarish performance for a Tigers team that came into the contest No. 5 in the 3A RPI standings. They've now dropped two straight games to fall to 5-3 overall and to 1-2 in league play.
Meanwhile, Mead has not only won three straight, they've all been by blowouts, with the cumulative scores being 135-21 in those games. The Mavericks are now 5-3 overall and 3-0 and in the lead in the Northern Metro League, though Frederick can match their record with a win on Saturday against Denver North.
In addition to forcing four turnovers before halftime, Mead ran roughshod over Holy Family before intermission. Sophomore Nathan Bailey had 151 yards and two touchdowns by halftime, with junior Jake Wachter adding 70 yards and two TDs of his own.
When Bailey broke a 71-yard touchdown run on the third play from scrimmage in the third quarter, it made it 49-7 and the mercy-rule running clock kicked in.
Bailey finished with 222 yards and three TDs on just a dozen carries, making for a remarkable 18.5 yards per run.
"We played at our peak performance and we smashed it down their mouths," Bailey said. "We played some good old football."
The Mavericks ended up with 426 yards rushing as 11 runners carried the ball. With that and four forced turnovers and no giveaways, that was a big-time winning formula on Friday.
"We were waiting all year for that belief to surface, and it did tonight," Klatt said. "As long as that belief in there, you've got something, and you can kind of push it downhill."
Meanwhile, Holy Family will need to rebound after consecutive losses, and this one of the extremely lopsided varsity.
"We just didn't play our brand of football tonight," Gabriel said. "We're beat up. I never make excuses, but that's affecting us more than I let on sometimes.
"We preach big picture. We know the season is long. We know there's ways into the playoffs other than league championships. We did ourselves a lot of favors in our non-league schedule. We'll figure it out. We've just got to get our swagger back and get mentally prepared for next week."
Friday marked the second straight year Mead has dominated Holy Family as the Mavericks prevailed 45-0 last season.
Up next, Mead hosts Denver North next Friday at 7 p.m., while Northfield visits Holy Family on the same day.
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Mead 56, Holy Family 7
At Mike G. Gabriel StadiumMead (5-3, 3-0)1428140—56Holy Family (5-3, 1-2)7000—7
Mead — Trey Ward 40 interception return (Taylor Kamigaki kick). Mead — Nathan Bailey 6 run (Kamigaki kick). Holy Family — Devin Doroff 37 pass from Kyle Helbig (Liam Gray kick).
Mead — Jake Wachter 13 run (Kamigaki kick). Mead — Wachter 13 run (Kamigaki kick). Mead — Bailey 52 run (Kamigaki kick). Mead — Brady Veltien 1 (Kamigaki kick).
Mead — Bailey 71 run (Kamigaki kick). Mead — Jason Pelzel 19 run (Kamigaki kick).
RUSHING — Mead: Bailey 12-222, Wachter 9-79, Mackey 4-35, Pelzel 6-22, Veltien 5-19, Domenico 2-17, Edwards 5-11, Keys 1-7, Bullock 3-6, Sewczak 2-4, Borger 2-4. Holy Family: Peters 6-22, Dalton 5-13, Johnson 2-11, Martinek 1-4, Helbig 3-(-8).
PASSING — Mead: Veltien 2-4-0-22, Wachter 0-1-0-0. Holy Family: Helbig 5-12-1-79, White 0-1-0-0.
RECEIVING — Mead: Bullock 1-13, Jacobs 1-9. Holy Family: Doroff 3-66, Peters 2-13.