Swamped inside a joyous mass of orange-cladded students and fans that had bled onto the field following Mead’s upset win over Roosevelt in last Saturday’s Class 3A state semifinals, coach Jason Klatt did his best to put the moment into perspective.
“Hey, I’m just happy to be along for the ride,” Klatt said as the Mavericks now head into their first state title game appearance, this Saturday against Fort Morgan in Pueblo. “Let’s just say that.”
The last 12 months of the 10th-year coach’s tenure with the Mavs hasn’t been without its share of turbulence.
The COVID-19 pandemic spared little in the 2020 season, from its inauspicious and delayed start that only came after state leaders wrestled with the idea of playing in the fall at all, to games across the landscape getting canceled on a weekly basis as part of an already condensed slate.
As for Mead, it had its postseason nixed just hours after it was officially placed inside the bracket. The team this year would play in part for those seniors who didn’t get a proper finish to their high school careers. They’re cherishing every moment.
“When something is taken away from you like that, it puts everything into perspective that it could be your last,” senior Corby Tecu said at practice Wednesday. “Every single time you step onto the field, every time you’re in the locker room, every time you’re in the weight room, whatever it is you’re taking it all in and going ‘Man, we could easily not have this right now.’”
Added quarterback Gavin Garrettson: “It’s an honor to play with these guys and have the coaches that are coaching us. It’s just a great way for us to go out. And this Saturday could be an even better way to end it.”
That’s been the rally cry for the fifth-seeded Mavericks.
Last weekend in a 38-21 win over No. 1 Roosevelt — a team that beat them by 30 seven weeks prior — both Tecu and Garrettson rushed for more than 100 yards and scored. Sean Medlock added a 46-yard TD run on fourth-and-inches and caught a 41-yard score. And in a snapshot of the dominant performance, Evan Morris (who has rushed for 326 yards and totaled 11 tackles in three postseason games) barreled through defenders on rushes and was part of a defense that limited the Roughriders to a season-low 130 yards on the ground.
“We’ve gotten much better — even in the four weeks in the playoffs — every single week we’ve gotten better, better and better,” Klatt said. “That’s always the goal as a coach. You want to hit and be the best at the end of the season … I told the guys the other day, I said if we are better than we were last Saturday, we will be just fine. That’s what we’re trying to do. We’re trying to be better than we were last Saturday in terms of our effort, our execution and the way we play together.”
Standing in the way of the team’s first state title is No. 3 Fort Morgan. The last time Mead faced the Mustangs was Oct. 23, 2020. In it, Garrettson threw for three scores and the defense allowed less than 175 total yards in a 35-0 win.
The Mavericks know better than anyone, though, how much can change in a year.
“I think this is a totally brand-new situation, it’s a new year, a neutral field,” Klatt said. “Given all that and being the last game of the year, I think both teams are going to fight really hard and I’m hoping for a really good game.”
No. 5 Mead vs. No. 3 Fort Morgan
Details: Saturday, 1 p.m., at the ThunderBowl on the CSU-Pueblo campus
Forecast: Much like Mead, Fort Morgan has been sound defensively in the postseason. The Mustangs shut out Green Mountain in the opening round, then held the high-powered offenses from Frederick and Lutheran to 14 and 21 points, respectively. The Mavericks held down Durango before giving up just one first down in the second half to Roosevelt before its final drive of the game.
Difference-maker: Brenden Castanon. The junior leads the team with three interceptions this season. He picked off Roosevelt’s Brock Saya in last weekend’s semifinals win.