Mead football can do a little bit of everything on the field and that has served the Mavericks well throughout the regular season and the first round of the Class 3A state playoffs.
It’s crunch time now, and they’ll have the chance this Saturday to test what they can truly do. Quarterfinal matchups will do that to any team. This week, the fifth-seeded Mavericks will have to head south to take on No. 4 Durango. The trip, in itself, poses a unique hurdle for the northern Colorado squad.
“All week, it’s been a mental preparation of what it’s going to be like going seven hours down there,” head coach Jason Klatt said. “We got to stay in a hotel, we got to do things that we’re not accustomed to doing. Mentally, we just have to be mature and handle it like we would a home playoff game, but sometimes this is good because you can get the group away from their home setting and you can really prepare them.”
The two teams look very similar on paper, but that’s nothing 8-2 Mead hasn’t seen before. Mead has been led by senior quarterback Gavin Garrettson, who’s thrown for 1,407 yards with 20 touchdowns through 10 games. Durango’s quarterback, sophomore Tyler Harms, has collected 13 touchdowns and 1,033 passing yards.
The Demons have excelled far more in their ground game, as running back Zach Haber has cut through defenses with a knife all year long. He owns 1,277 of the Demons’ 2,929 rushing yardage as Nate Messier serves as his closest second with 531 yards of his own. The Mavericks, by comparison, rely a little bit less on the run with 2,210 yards in total. Senior running back Evan Morris has shined in that realm of the game with 977 yards on 144 carries.
He owes it all to his boys in the trenches.
“It’s really nice to have versatility,” Morris said. “When they’re stopping our run and we are able to pass it, then it opens up the run again. I would really have to say that the focal point of our offense is our offensive line. They’re the ones that are blocking for us and when they move people, we move down the field.
“That’s really all there is to it. When they’re moving guys and I’m running behind them and I’m able to get five yards a carry, that’s easy first downs.”
That strategy has worked well for a team that’s blown out half the teams it’s played so far this year. In the past month, though, the boys have learned how far their hard work and character can take them as they’ve played in three tough contests: a 35-32 win over Holy Family, a 45-19 loss to Frederick and a 21-20 escape over 12th-seeded Northridge.
If the Mavericks can stick to their game and bank on the confidence they’ve been depositing since day one, they just might be able to pull off a win over one of their toughest opponents all season long. After all, it only gets harder from here on out.
“I think the second that you get into only eight teams left in the whole state, you have to play a pretty perfect game from your own standpoint,” senior running back Corby Tecu said. “It’s more about a perfect game effort-wise than even technique or skill-wise. It’s who wants it more at the end of the day and that’s what’s going to happen when there are only eight teams left.”
No. 5 Mead at No. 4 Durango
Details: Saturday, 1 p.m., at Durango High School
Forecast: After surviving a strong test from 12th-seeded Northridge during the first round of the Class 3A state playoffs with a 21-20 finish, the fifth-seeded Mavericks will face an even tougher test when they travel seven hours to No. 4 Durango. The Mavericks did well to hold the Grizzlies to just 20 points, but they haven’t exactly been high rollers in the scoring column this season. The Demons, on the other hand, know how to score and when they do, they score big. Mead’s offensive and defensive line will have to play to near perfection if they hope to escape with a win. More than that, they’ll have to find a way to shut down running back Zach Haber (1,277 rushing yards in 10 games) from the moment the clock starts rolling.
Difference-maker(s): Joe Strizki and Christian Ayers. In a game of two statistically-similar offenses, defense will play a key role in who walks away victorious. Strizki and Ayers lead that side of the game for the Mavericks by far, as they’ve collected 89 and 66 tackles, respectively, throughout the season. Additionally, Strizki has four sacks to his name.