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Football: 3A top-seeded Mead opens playoffs in style

Mavericks allow Harrison just one score

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“Always Earned. Never Given. Maverick Football.”

The block letters, painted on top a thin sheet of paper and taped to a chain-link fence, spell out in certain words the philosophy of Mead football. It can be seen through the head coach’s demeanor, the crowd’s passion, their bruising offensive scheme. And while the play was less elegant than the final tally would suggest, the Class 3A top-seeded Mavericks earned every bit of their 41-7 first round victory over the 16 seed Harrison Panthers.

“I think, emotionally, we had a tough time getting up for this one.” Mead head coach Jason Klatt said.  “(There are) ebbs and flows to every season. Glad we were able to grind through it like we did.”

Mead entered Saturday riding an undefeated regular season and the atmospheric clinching of the Northern Metro League title against rival Frederick last Friday. Awarded the first seed for the second time in three years, the Mavericks carry with them one of the top rushing offenses in the state and a defense allowing less than nine points per contest.

Harrison was no slouch. A 9-1 record capped by their second straight Southern League title, the Panthers boasted their own undefeated record just last year before falling in the quarterfinals to the eventual state champions, Palmer Ridge. Harrison traveled a balanced offensive attack to Mead led by seniors Seth Fuller and Romeo Wells and an opportunistic defense averaging over two turnovers a game.

Penalties stifled any offensive momentum for much of the first half before Mead broke through on a 55-yard drive, featuring six flags between the teams and capped by a 3-yard Eli Mackey rushing touchdown.

“We need to cut down on penalties going forward. We keep hurting ourselves,” Klatt said. “We need to play a little more unselfish.”

The Mavericks were able to beat Harrison with opportunity on mistakes, creating three turnovers and turning them into 14 points before the end of the half, including a pick-six by senior cornerback Trey Ward with less than a minute on the clock.

“It was déjà vu,” Ward said. “I’ve been in that situation before. Once I caught it, I just ran as hard as I could.”

Ward finished with two takeaways on the day, overtaking the school record for interceptions in a career.

“Leading up to it, coach [Scott Martenson] told me he wanted me to take it over. He told me he was very proud of me,” Ward added.

Senior quarterback Brady Veltien built upon a solid outing in the Frederick finale, hitting Ward on a 41-yard score before the half and finishing with over 100 yards passing.

“It’s important to be able to throw when we need to, especially from here on out.” Veltien said. “It’s just good complementary football.”

While the Panthers defense held their own during the first half, containing a sweeping Maverick rushing attack, they struggled to stop a collective effort by the Mavericks backfield after halftime. Mead was able to wilt away time and apply the running clock in the early fourth with a 9-yard scamper from Devon Edwards.

“We lost the war of attrition,” Harrison head coach Al Melo said. “We missed some assignments and it cost us in the end.”

Melo is excited about the youth Harrison boasts, and is looking forward to building upon another successful season.

And with that, Mead moves on. Traversing the signature mass of the Mead faithful on the field following a Maverick win, Veltien was smiling for photos but focused on moving forward.

“We have a routine set out and ready to go,” Veltien said. “It’s always a little hectic coming off of a Saturday afternoon [game], but we’re a mature team. We have a lot of older guys, so we’ll be ready to go.”

The Mavericks will face Green Mountain next weekend at home in the state quarterfinals.