LONGMONT — Two months ago the young Mead Mavericks walked off the football field in Evergreen after getting pushed around by the Cougars.
Saturday they pushed back, and it came in their biggest game of the season. Mead ran all over the field, rushing for 402 yards and eight touchdowns to beat the No. 8 Cougars 56-14 in the first round of the 3A playoffs.
Mead (8-3) advances to play No. 1 seed Palisade next Saturday at 1 p.m. It is a tough matchup for the No. 9 Mavericks but they showed Saturday they're hitting their stride at the perfect time. Mead has won six straight and has outscored its opponents 270-52 during the streak.
Being in the state quarterfinals didn't seem possible when the Mavericks were 2-3.
"Amazing growth," coach Jason Klatt said. "The week of Holy Family a bunch of guys started to not care about who got the credit, everybody started to be unselfish, they started to take ownership of what they needed to do, and they started gaining belief. When that mixes together you've got something good."
They were good Saturday, scoring on their first three drives and building a 21-0 lead that Evergreen (6-5) could not overcome. Ryan Bullock led the way with 130 yards on 14 carries and scored three touchdowns.
Nathan Bailey had 114 yards rushing and a touchdown, Jake Wachter ran for two touchdowns to go with 78 yards and backup quarterback Jason Pelzel capped the day with 63 yards rushing — including a 40-yard touchdown run — on the final drive.
The multiple, effective runners wreak havoc on opponents.
"It opens up the game for everyone," Bullock said. "We'll run Jake to the outside and it will open up the middle for me, or we'll run it up the middle for me and open it up for Bailey and Jake."
That wasn't the case on Sept. 7 when Evergreen held Mead to 137 yards on the ground and forced quarterback Brady Veltien to throw 14 passes. Veltien threw one pass Saturday, a meaningless one at the end of the first half when the Mavericks were up 28-14.
The Cougars got within two scores on broken coverage late in the second quarter that resulted in a 79-yard touchdown pass. They got the ball at the start of third quarter but Trey Ward intercepted Griffin Lauritano on the third play of the drive. Three plays later Bailey scored to make it 35-14 and the rout was on.
It was a much different result than the 8-7 setback in September.
"We were a young team back then and they caught us on an off night," Bailey said. "But today we were ready and we were prepared."
And now instead of packing up for the season the Mavericks are preparing for another playoff game.
"We're in the final eight and it's a great day to be a Mead Maverick," Klatt said.
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Mead 56, Evergreen 14
At Mead HSEvergreen (6-5) 0 14 0 0 — 14
Mead — Jake Wachter 5 run (Taylor Kamigaki kick). Mead - Ryan Bullock 4 run (Kamigaki kick).
Mead - Brayden Keys 7 run (Kamigaki kick). Evergreen - Gavan Foote 36 pass from Griffin Lauritano (Cullen Freeman kick). Mead - Wachter 2 run (Kamigaki kick). Evergreen - Carter Cassin 79 pass from Lauritano (Freeman kick).
Mead - Nathan Bailey 16 run (Kamigaki kick). Mead - Bullock 1 run (Kamigaki kick).
Mead - Bullock 28 run (Kamigaki kick). Mead - Jason Pelzel 45 run (Kamigaki kick).
RUSHING — Evergreen: Benjamen Haefeli 9-50, Beck Barrett 8-20, Phiip Yaro 5-18, Griffin Lauritano 1-6, Carter Cassin 3-4, Cameron Morian 1-3, Beau Hebert 1-(-8); Mead: Ryan Bullock 14-130, Nathan Bailey 15-114, Jake Wachter 12-78, Jaon Pelzel 3-63, Brady Veltien 4-16, Brayden Keys 3-15, Brady Borger 1-2, Eli Mackey 2-1.
PASSING — Evergreen: Lauritano 7-13-1-142; Mead: Veltien 1-1-3.
RECEIVING — Evergreen: Cassin 2-89, Gavan Foote 1-36, Parker Leek 1-9, Cade Carroll 1-6, Morian 1-2; Mead: Wachter 1-3.