Tribe hosts Centauri in first home playoff game in eight years

The March on Strasburg definitely deserves a spot in the annals of Yuma High School football playoff history.

Yuma’s epic, game-defining, 19-play, 99-1/2-yard drive not only resulted in the first score in the Class 1A first-round playoff game, it also:
• Led to the program’s first playoff win, 35-20, in eight years;
• Secured the program’s third straight winning season (6-4 to date);
• Ended Strasburg’s streak of five-straight 1A championship game appearances (two titles, followed by three straight losses to the Limon juggernaut), and;
• Set up Yuma’s first home playoff game since 2013 as the 10th-seed Indians will host second-seed Centauri on Saturday at 1 p.m.
“It’s going to be a beautiful day,” head coach Kelly Seward said, noting the forecast calls for a high in the mid-60s on Saturday. “I hope the atmosphere shows the kids why I have been talking about (a home playoff game) so much, because there’s nothing like it.”
Centauri, based in La Jara south of Alamosa, will make the 359-mile, six-hour trip, to the high plains of Yuma County for the quarterfinal showdown. It will be Yuma’s first quarterfinal appearance since losing at Limon eight years ago.
No doubt none of that will daunt the Falcons. They will bring a 10-0 record to town after dismantling 15th-seed Peyton, 45-6 last Saturday in La Jara. Centauri, which beat Wray 28-14 in the season opener, is one of the few teams considered to have a shot at knocking off Limon in the Badgers’ quest for a fourth straight state championship.
However, the Falcons first have to come to Yuma to take on an Indians’ squad that seems to be hitting its stride just at the right time. They have to win here first before entertaining any thoughts of playing for a title two weeks later.
“I hope it shows the kids this should be a yearly thing,” Seward said. “Everything is trending for us right now.”
The coach said the Falcons might have leading rusher Mason Claunch back after missing the past few weeks. The Indians are relatively healthy when it comes to mid-November football. The Falcons, though, have hardly missed a beat since losing their senior running back. They have continued to run roughshod over their opponents. They also beat Strasburg 48-13 in September.
“They’re not going to lay down, they’ve been in the playoffs for like 10 straight years, they’re always right there,” Seward said. The coach said Centauri runs the same exact offense as Strasburg, though often at a faster pace. “I don’t want to be naive, but when was the last time they played a really good team? Their league is not that good.”
Yuma’s win helped the vaunted North Central Conference go 3-2 in the first round of the 1A postseason.
Top-seed Limon had no trouble with 16th-seed Bennett, winning 45-0. Fifth-seed Wray (8-2) handled Highland at home, 34-9. The NCC’s two losses were one-score defeats on the road as ninth-seed Wiggins lost 38-25 in Hotchkiss to North Fork, and 11th-seed Holyoke lost 42-35 at sixth-seed Meeker.
Limon now gets to host North Fork on Saturday, while Wray travels to fourth-seed Florence, where the Eagles won in the first round in 2019. Florence (9-1) advanced with a 23-0 home win over Monte Vista.
The winner of the Yuma-Centauri game will meet the winner of the Buena Vista-Meeker quarterfinal the next week in the semifinals. (If the teams have an equal amount of away games, the higher seed automatically hosts the next round.)
Yuma let a victory slip away at Strasburg in Week 2, allowing a late Strasburg score in a 19-16 loss. Therefore, the Indians had to feel confident as they headed west on Highway 36 again for their playoff opener.
It did not start out ideally, though, as Yuma began the game’s first possession on its 12-yard line, and had to punt from their own end zone.
Strasburg took over on Yuma’s 29, but the defense forced a third-and-eight that led to Nash Richardson’s interception at the goal line. He was tackled in the end zone for what appeared to be a touchback (with the ball going to the 20), but the officiating crew marked the ball inside Yuma’s 1-yard line.
No matter, it just led to Yuma football’s longest-ever touchdown drive.
Some hard runs moved the ball to the 32-yard line, but a chop block penalty left the Tribe facing a third-and-21.
Ironically, Yuma’s only pass of the game (and only one in the last two games) saved the drive. Clay Robinson dropped back and lofted the ball down the Strasburg sideline to a streaking Jesus Ross, who laid out for a diving catch. The 29-yard gain gave Yuma a first down at midfield.
It still did not come easy as Robinson converted a third-and-nine with a 17-yard run, Ethan Goeglein ran nine yards to the Strasburg six, with the drive finally capped by Robinson’s 1-yard plunge on fourth down early in the second quarter.
The drive took nine minutes, 57 seconds. The Indians converted five third downs, the shortest being third-and-four, and scored on fourth down.
“I truly believe that is when Strasburg knew we were there for a dogfight,” Seward said.
Alex Lozano’s extra point gave Yuma a 7-0 lead.

After forcing a punt, Yuma got the ball back on its own 48. After another fourth-down conversion, Yahir Trejo (returning from an injury), ran 31 yards down the Yuma sideline, then capped the drive with a five-yard run up the middle on the next play.
Lozano’s PAT gave Yuma a 14-0 lead with 4:37 left in the second.
However, Strasburg was not going to go away quietly.
Sophomore Thomas Devlin somehow broke free from a dogpile of players to sprint about 50 yards to Yuma’s 6-yard line. Zach Marrero followed with a TD run. The extra point was no good, but Yuma’s lead was cut to 14-6 at halftime.
Besides Yuma’s long scoring drive to open the game, the next important one came at the start of the second half, but with Strasburg possessing the ball. The home team methodically marched downfield, but finally was stopped on fourth-and-12 at the Yuma 38.
The Strasburg drive ate up 7 minutes, 43 seconds, but Yuma still led 14-6.
“We were a little confused for a while out there, but then we got it together and got the turnover (on downs), “ Seward said.
Yuma took its turn driving the opposite field, but bogged down at the Strasburg 31.
What followed was the only “bummer” for the Tribe.
Lozano booted a 46-yard field goal with plenty of room to spare.
However, Strasburg was penalized for roughing the kicker.
Seward decided to take the points off the board as the penalty moved the ball to the Strasburg 14.
The decision paid off as Robinson scored a few plays later, and Lozano’s PAT gave Yuma a 21-6 lead early in the fourth.
“You have to have confidence in your team,” Seward said. “Honestly, I felt if we didn’t get the first down, Alex could always go out there and make the field goal from a shorter distance. I wanted the momentum to just keep going. We kicked the air out of them right there.”
Then came time for a pair of “Clay Special” TD runs.
Robinson broke off a 58-yard scoring run on Yuma’s next possession for a 28-6 lead with 7:30 left.
Strasburg responded with a quick scoring drive, and a 2-point conversion to make it 28-14.
Robinson, faking a handoff to the right, again broke to the left for a 44-yard TD run for a 35-14 lead with 5:14 left.
Strasburg was able to tack on one more score, set up by a 47-yard pass completion, but Kevin Hermosillo’s interception with 1:51 left finally secured Yuma’s first playoff win since blowing out Rye at home in the first round in 2013.
“The counter series has been working really well for us lately,” Seward said. “We’ve run so much ‘power’ that everyone was gaining up on that. We’ve been really focused on iso and trap lately and it’s really paid off.”
Yuma outgained Strasburg 313-270, including 284 rushing yards. The Indians again won the turnover battle, 2-0, and the time possession, 28:12-19:48. Yuma converted 10 of 17 third-down attempts, and was 2-for-2 on fourth down.
Robinson rushed for 198 yards and four touchdowns on 23 carries, but once again was helped set up by great efforts from his running backs (as well as great all-around blocking). Trejo ran for 67 yards and a score on 14 carries, Silas Baucke 23 yards on eight carries, and Ethan Goeglein 18 yards on three carries. Robinson and Ross teamed up on the one 29-yard pass completion.
The defense again came up with key stops and turnovers. Strasburg might have passed for 104 yards, but nearly half off that came on one completion late in the game. Richardson and Hermosillo came up with interceptions, and the Indians held Marrero (who tortured Yuma in the teams’ September meeting) to 24 rushing yards on seven carries. Devlin ran for 96 yards, but more than half of that came on one run.
“What’s really fun is when you look out there periodically, there is only one senior (playing defense),” Seward said. “They have just played hard. When we’re locked in and making tackles, we’re pretty good.”
Jose Ruiz was in on seven total tackles, and had a sack, John Smith six, Victor Perez five, Kallen Blach five, Daman Thornton five, Richardson four, Trey Stegman four, Hermosillo four, Christian Quezada three, Goeglein two, Carson Lynch two, and Cesar Varela, Lozano, Ross, Andre Baucke, Hugo Montes, and Adrian Carranza one each.