By TOMMY WELLS
Special to the Index
TRENT – For years, the Strawn Greyhounds rode the legs of Trey Doyle, Parker Purvis and a high-octane offense to deep runs in the state playoffs.
On Thursday night, the Greyhounds rode the strength of a stifling defense to gain a resounding 52-6 rout of the Jayton Jaybirds in the area round of the six-man football Division II state playoffs.
The win vaulted Strawn into the state quarterfinals for the fourth time in the past five seasons.
The Greyhounds will face Newcastle, a winner over Guthrie, at 7 p.m. Friday (Nov. 29) at Ram Stadium in Mineral Wells in the state quarterfinals.
How dominating was the Strawn defense? The Greyhounds limited Jayton to minus-24 yards rushing and just three first downs – two of which came via penalties – in a game that was called with 7:43 remaining in the third quarter. Oh, and they forced three turnovers.
That’s pretty dominating, especially in six-man football.
“Our defense is playing a lot better, and we are excited about that,” Strawn head coach Dewaine Lee said. “The guys have gotten more comfortable with what we want them to do and are playing a lot faster.”
Of course, Strawn got plenty of star power on the ground in the win. Sophomore running back Coletyn King rushed for 125 yards and a pair of touchdowns, while junior spread back Harrison Nowak ran for 81 yards and another score.
“We had to switch a lot of guys to different positions on offense earlier in the year and they are starting to play well together,” Lee said.”Our running backs are seeing the field very well.
“The backs are also getting great blocking.”
Amazingly enough, Jayton provided the first spark in the second-round showdown, which was played at Gorilla Stadium. The Jaybirds managed to score the game’s first touchdown just 1:26 into the contest when spread back Slade Colter hit Sheldon Burch with a 48-yard TD pass on a third-and 21 play.
That was the end of the Jaybirds’ heroics.
After spotting Jayton a 6-0 lead, Strawn took the ensuing kick-off and marched 44 yards in nine plays to begin in a 52-0 run. Izaac Velsaquez capped the Greyhounds’ first offensive possession by hauling in a 4-yard touchdown strike from Nowak with 5:43 left in the first quarter.
The SHS defense took charge from there, Grayson Brandenburg and Xavier Olivio both came up with key tackles on Jayton’s ensuing series, and forced the Jaybirds to turn over the ball on downs.
It didn’t take long for Strawn to capitalize on the situation. After a 14-yard pass reception by Velasquez on first down, Strawn marched to the Jayton 6. Two plays later, King plowed his way into the end zone for a touchdown. Jacon Trujillo’s PAT try gave Strawn a 14-6 lead with 1:57 left in the opening frame.
The Greyhound defense came up big again moments later. Olivio recovered a Jayton fumble on the second play of the team’s next series. Olivio’s recovery gave Strawn the ball at the Jayton 36.
Two plays later, Nowak took a pitch around the right end, picked up a block from Tyler Bays and raced 43 yards for a touchdown and a 22-6 cushion.
Jayton, which was ejected from the state playoffs a year by Strawn, saw its fortunes go farther south early in the second.
After Chase Mackey had helped the Greyhounds defense make a thrilling goal-line stand at their own 3 on Jayton’s next series, King struck fear into the Jaybird Nation.
On Strawn’s first play, King raced around the right end and scrambled 75 yards to the Jaybird 2. Two plays later, he plowed his way into the end zone from a yard out to push the SHS lead to 30-6.
Surely things couldn’t get worse for Jayton, right?
Jayton’s offense began going backward faster than a Michael Jackson Moonwalk on its next series. After the Greyhounds’ ensuing kick had sailed into the end zone and left the Jaybirds starting its drive at its own 20. On first down, Jayton was flagged for holding, moving the ball back to the JHS 10, setting up a 1st-and-25.
On the ensuing snap, Burch misplayed a pitch in the end zone. Strawn’s Abram Jaramillo plowed through to cause a fumble that the Greyhounds recovered for a touchdown.
Strawn tacked on another touchdown later in the second quarter, stretching its lead to 46-6 on a 6-yard scamper by Anthony Garcia.
The SHS defense set up Garcia’s TD run moments early. Jaramillo batted down a pass on a 4th-down try gave the Greyhounds the ball at the Jaybird 6.
Strawn, now 10-2 overall and ranked third in the latest www.sixmanfootball.com poll, closed out the game on its first possession of the third quarter. The Greyhounds marched 52 yards in six plays before Trujillo plunged in from the 1 to enforce the six-man football 45-point mercy rule.
“We are not looking past our next game,”Lee said.”We are just focused on getting better each week. The rest will take car of itself.”