LAKEWOOD — It seemed like the entire town of La Junta came to Trailblazer Stadium for the Tigers’ Class 2A state football quarterfinal game against D’Evelyn.
No. 1-seeded La Junta didn’t disappoint its loyal fans that made the 3-hour drive to Lakewood. The Tigers (11-0) moved into the semifinals for the second straight season with a dominating 41-7 victory over the No. 9 Jaguars.
“They are good. They are No. 1 for a reason,” D’Evelyn coach Jeremy Bennett said of La Junta that has won 21 of 22 games dating back to last season. “We knew we had to play perfect and we didn’t, not even close. They are good and we didn’t play well.”
La Junta sophomore Jon Nuschy was more than just good Saturday afternoon. The Tigers’ quarterback had 17 carries for 116 yards on the ground and a touchdown. He was even more impressive through the air going 9-for-11 for 154 yards and four touchdowns.
“It’s just our offensive line,” Nuschy said. “They block good and we just on point today.”
Nuschy broke the game open late in the second quarter with a 73-yard touchdown pass on a screen play to senior Deron Bletson with 1:43 remaining before halftime to push the Tigers’ lead to 21-0.
After a quick 3-and-out for D’Evelyn (8-3), La Junta got the ball back in good field position. Nuschy connected with junior Kain DiRezza for a 3-yard touchdown five seconds before halftime.
“We had some big plays when we needed them,” La Junta coach Clint Buderus said. “That score right before halftime to make it 28-0 was really the nail in the coffin.”
D’Evelyn had just one first-down in the opening half, which came on a pass interference call. The Jaguars did have an offensive highlight early in the second half. Junior quarterback Chad Dines hooked up with junior Cody Bell for a 67-yard touchdown in the opening minute of the second half.
However, La Junta scored back-to-back touchdowns within 30 seconds early in the fourth quarter to stretch the lead to 41-7. Nuschy hit senior Izahiah Peteque for a 39-yard touchdown strike.
Following D’Evelyn’s second turnover, Nuschy connected senior Apela Furtado-Tom for a 10-yard touchdown.
“He (Nuschy) does a good job. Every game he gets a little bit better and makes better decisions,” Buderus said of his sophomore quarterback. “He has great kids around him. He doesn’t have to do it all.”
Beside the 73-yard touchdown catch and run by Bletson, he had 12 carries for 102 yards on the ground. Peteque also had an interception to go along with his touchdown catch.
“I don’t know we expected it,” Buderus said of the easy victory. “D’Evelyn is a good football team. They present a lot of challenges with how well they throw the football and mixing in the running game. They are tough.”
La Junta turns its attention now to No. 5 Bayfield. The Wolverines blanked No. 4 Sterling 41-0 in another quarterfinal game Saturday. La Junta will host Bayfield in the semifinals next Saturday in what will be a rematch of last year’s 2A state semifinal.
Bayfield defeated La Junta 47-7 on the way to the 2A championship.
“I know Bayfield is good again,” Buderus said of the defending state champs. “They have some great kids and are very well-coached. They stuck it to us last year, so we have to get to work tomorrow.”
D’Evelyn closed out its first season playing at the 2A level. Bennett will have to replace 17 seniors from this year’s squad. The Jaguars have made the postseason in back-to-back years.
“I lose some legacy kids. The Kehoes have been around forever. The Balbins have been around forever. Now those kids are gone. That’s hard,” Bennett said reflexing graduating some of the youngest brothers — Justin Kehoe and Nolan Balbin — of families that have come through D’Evelyn’s football program. “We’ll all heal from this and be better people for it. It does stink right now.”