Caliche wins 8-man, first football title since 1994

Granada Caliche football

Caliche players pose with the 8-man championship trophy. More photos. (Jack Eberhard/JacksActionShots.com)

GRANADA — The wait is over for the Caliche football program.

For the first time since 1994, the Buffaloes captured state gridiron supremacy.

Caliche ended its drought with a dramatic 34-32 victory over Granada Saturday in the 8-man state championship game before a standing-room only crowd at the GHS field.

“I’m proud of these boys,” said Caliche coach Paul Zink, who finished his ninth season leading the Buffaloes. “They gave 100 percent since day one. I’m so excited for them. It’s just unbelievable.”

Caliche was fueled by quarterback Austin Yahn who rushed for 275 yards and five touchdowns.

Caliche quarter quarterback Austin Yahn. (Tracy Renck/CHSAANow.com)

Caliche quarter quarterback Austin Yahn. More photos. (Tracy Renck/CHSAANow.com)

“This is like a dream and this feels good,” said the 6-foot, 165-pound Yahn, who had 36 carries. “We just stuck together and I can’t believe this happened. Winning a state championship is great. This just shows that our hard work paid off and we finally won state after 20 years. All season I was nervous the whole week and now it is lifted after this win.”

Zink praised the effort of Yahn.

“This was a great team effort, but Austin is an unbelievable player,” Zink said. “We haven’t put many statistics up, but I think after (Saturday) he probably has over 2,600 yards rushing on the year. There’s never any quit in that kid.”

Caliche capped its magical season with a 12-1 record and won its eighth game in a row. The Buffaloes last won state in 1994 when they beat Rye 13-0 in the Class 1A title game.

The Buffaloes lost to Dayspring Christian 35-28 in the 8-man title game last year, and also lost state to Hoehne (2010), Merino (1999), and Merino (1977).

Granada ended its season with an 11-2 record. The Bobcats were trying to win their fourth football state crown to go along with the ones it won in 1979, 1988 and 2006. Granada last appeared in the state title game in 2012, losing to Hoehne 58-38.

“We fell short, but we can’t dwell on it now,” said senior Granada standout quarterback Koy Palmer, who had 226 yards passing and 67 yards rushing.

With 10:28 remaining in the fourth quarter, Yahn gave his team a 34-26 lead with a 1-yard scoring plunge. Yahn’s 2-point conversion pass failed, leaving it a one possession game.

Granada kept its composure and marched on a 13-play, 88-yard drive that culminated with Palmer’s 2-yard touchdown run with 2:58 left.

Granada Caliche football

More photos. (Jack Eberhard/JacksActionShots.com)

That set up the all-important 2-point conversion try by the Bobcats. Palmer rolled out and had time, but his pass to Kevin Navarrete was knocked away at the goal line by Caliche safety Colby Duncan.

“There was nobody open and I couldn’t find any lanes to run into the end zone,” Palmer said. “So, I just tried throwing it to one of the open guys I saw and I didn’t see the safety come up.”

Duncan, a junior, was just thrilled to make a huge play for his team.

“Before the play I was thinking if we could stop them here that could win the game,” said Duncan, who also had 63 yards rushing. “I just dropped into my zone and we had pretty good coverage and Palmer had time to scramble and I think he kind of just threw it up for grabs a little bit and I was right there to make the play. I was in the right spot at the right time. This feels great for us and our coaches, and it makes us proud to finally be the team that gave them the state championship.”

The first half was full of offensive fireworks.

Yahn powered his team with four rushing touchdowns of 1, 18, 40 and 2 yards. Yahn had 15 carries for 176 yards in the first half alone to give his team a 28-20 halftime lead.

“It all starts with our offensive line,” Yahn said.

Granada’s offense struggled throughout the half on the ground, but the Bobcats were able to adapt and go through the air.

Palmer was 8-of-11 passing in the first half for 194 yards and three scores to Tre Jensen (86 yards), Navarrete (20 yards) and David Reyes (15 yards) to keep the game close. The Bobcats were doomed by four failed 2-point conversions.