Ahead of the Class 3A football state semifinals, Mead coach Jason Klatt took a few snaps at practice Tuesday.
Hat, shades, whistle in mouth, the Mavs coach since 2012 was standing in at quarterback on this particular drill. On one snap, he took it himself before halted by a standing wrap-up. He blew it dead from there, playfully slapped a defender’s helmet, and reset to go again.
Call it an injection of energy on a cold, windy early afternoon practice with students on Thanksgiving break.
Simpler maybe, it was a sense of joy for a program that felt stripped of it this time a year ago.
“Last year was a big bummer that we got shut down and didn’t have a chance to compete in the (3A) Final 8 game,” said Klatt, whose team was cut out of last year’s condensed playoff field due to COVID-19 exposure inside the program. “This year, the kids really took it upon themselves that we were going to finish what that group of seniors didn’t get the chance to finish.”
Mead, seeded fifth in 3A, will host No. 1 Roosevelt Saturday afternoon with a chance to punch its ticket into the championship game for the first time in program history. It will be their second meeting of the season after the Roughriders walloped the Mavs 37-7 on Oct. 8.
The lopsided loss is something “we’re definitely not going to forget,” senior Jeremiah Strizki promised.
This go-round, a motivated Mavs team is coming off perhaps the most impressive win of its season, shutting down red-hot No. 4 Durango on the road, 14-13. In it, they stopped a potential go-ahead, two-point conversion try by the Demons in the fourth quarter and didn’t give the ball back over the final 8:33.
“The guys really picked up their effort,” explained senior Evan Morris, who helped finish bringing down the ball carrier on the decisive two-point try following safety Ka’ili Casco’s initial hit and secondary crack by Corby Tecu. “I don’t know what we held them to, but they didn’t get 400 rushing yards or 40 points.”
Mead’s defense came up big for a second straight week in the playoffs.
In the first round, it held Northridge to less than 100 yards on the ground while putting up 256 of its own in a 21-19 victory. Then it tamed a Durango team that had put up rout after rout. The Demons had outscored teams in their previous six games played, 314-10. They had also rushed for around 400 yards in three of their prior four.
Now the Mavs will need more against the classification’s second-highest scoring team in Roosevelt. The undefeated Roughriders average 46 points while putting up more than 200 passing yards and rushing yards a game.
“We’ve been seeing our defense trending upward for a number of weeks,” Klatt said. “A lot of it early in the year was that sometimes you don’t know the combination of guys that you have in the program. And we knew the guys we had in the program, but we really didn’t know what they did well and what they do well.”
Adding, “I think we finally found a formula where we’ve tweaked things schematically so that our guys are in better positions.”
Mead announced via Twitter that Ziggi’s Coffee will pay admission for the first 100 Mead students Saturday. Gates open at 11:30 a.m.
No. 5 Mead vs. No. 1 Roosevelt
Details: Saturday, 1 p.m., at Mead High School
Forecast: The route to the semifinals has looked different for each. The Mavs have found a way to win close in the playoffs, beating Northridge and Durango by a combined three points. Roosevelt, meanwhile has continued its onslaught by beating Thomas Jefferson and Holy Family, putting up more than 50 points in both.
Difference-maker: Including last week’s quarterfinals win, Evan Morris has five games this season where he’s ran for more than 100 yards. The Mavs are 5-0 in those games.