MEEKER – Strasburg shook off Meeker’s opening drive touchdown to come back and dominate the Cowboys 34-14 to earn the Class 1A football championship.
It is the Indians’ first state football title in 25 years.
“It’s going to be so much fun,” Indians coach Jeff Giger said of bringing the state championship trophy back to the folks of Strasburg.
The Indians did it in a rather interesting manner. All four playoff victories came against Western Slope Conference teams, none coming by less than 18 points.
When asked when he realized his team had the potential for a special season, Giger said, “We had a pretty good idea at team camp.”
Then again, the Indians were facing the top seed on the road in the state title game.
Meeker, seeking to become the third different Western Slope team to win a 1A title in five years, left little doubt that’s what it intended to do at the outset. The Cowboys marched 82 yards on the game’s opening drive, quarterback Logan Hughes faking a handoff and taking it in from 14 yards out.
Strasburg wasn’t fazed, however, answering with its own 60-yard drive to pull to within 8-7.
From that point, the Indians dominated the remainder of the first half, scoring twice more before the end of the first quarter and adding two more touchdowns in the second quarter.
Defensively, the Indians shut down the normally potent Meeker passing game by picking off Hughes on successive drives.
Strasburg has a number of offensive weapons but went to the well mostly to Hunter Bergstrom. The 5-foot-10, 170-pound junior running back reeled off three runs of 25 yards or more on his first five carries, two going for scores.
By the end of the first half, Bergstrom had 139 of the Indians’ 229 rushing yards as Strasburg took a convincing 34-8 halftime lead.
“I think it was mostly my blockers,” Bergstrom said in crediting his line with opening the holes for him.
Give the Cowboys credit. Playing in its first state title game since 1996, when it lost to Bayfield (also on its home field), they came out and did an effective job of shutting down Strasburg’s offense.
“We were not there mentally for a little bit,” Bergstrom said of the letdown in the second half, taking the blame for the Indians’ two lost fumbles in the second half.
But the Strasburg defense giving up some rushing yards, refused to break and continued to shut down Meeker’s passing game, holding Hughes, who entered the game completing 65 percent of his passes, to just 11 completions in 35 attempts.
The long road trip to the northwestern corner of the state seemed to solidify the team, Bergstrom said.
“We were more together,” he said of the bonding experience.
The state title was sweet vindication for Strasburg’s two previous state playoff appearances, when they lost in the 2A quarterfinals. And despite the drop to 1A this school year, Bergstrom found the competition at least as formidable.
“They were really good,” he said of the 1A teams they faced in the playoffs.
As Giger will attest, the state championship trophy is just as big, and it feels just as good to receive it.