COLORADO SPRINGS — Without Kain Medrano, the Pueblo East Eagles were unable to fly. And when the focus turned to the ground, Discovery Canyon was nothing short of dominant in a 52-24 win over the Eagles Thursday night at District 20 Stadium.
Kevin Pasion, Zach Anderson and Marshall Pike combined to rush for over 330 yards to completely wear down the East defense and come away with arguably the team's most impressive win of the 2018 season.
“We always want to do that," Thunder coach Shawn Mitchell said. "Obviously, we didn’t expect that kind of game tonight. I think them not having Kain made a difference for them. That’s the only way I can explain that. I didn’t expect this and certainly not off their body of work.”
That body of work lifted the Eagles (3-2 overall) to the No. 2 team in the Class 3A football rankings a few weeks ago. Now, they're riding a two-game losing streak with a much-needed bye on the horizon.
The Thunder (5-0) wasted no time in building momentum and taking the lead. They forced a turnover on downs on East's first possession of the game then Pasion got them on the board with a 47-yard touchdown run. The next possession it was Pike breaking one off, his going for 77, to put Discovery Canyon up 14-0.
Pike added a second touchdown and then Griffin Anderson drilled a 45-yard field goal to push the lead to 24-0 in what felt like a flash of lightning.
“Every game in the first quarter, we get crazy momentum," Pike said. "It fuels us and just keep going.”
Eagles quarterback Luc Andrada finally connected on a big play through air late in the second quarter as he found Kaden Bowman for a 52-yard touchdown pass.
But it was clear Medrano hanging on the sideline in a UCLA sweatshirt had an adverse affect on Andrada.
"We can’t use that as an excuse," Eagles coach Andy Watts said. "Did it hurt the team that we were without him? Yeah. Absolutely. He’s one of the best players in the state, but we can’t use that as an excuse. We have to rise to the occasion and step up and win the football game and we didn’t do that.”
Medrano said before the game that he was suffering from a fractured collarbone. He is expected to return to the Eagles lineup in two weeks for the start of league play.
But he could only watch Thursday's game on the sideline, eventually by himself on one knee. He's seen this sight before. The one where the Eagles take on the Thunder in the regular season and head back to Pueblo empty-handed.
It's a game that the Discovery Canyon players look forward to annually. They also enjoy the success that they've had against East in the regular season.
“We try to look at every game as the same, but we can’t help it," Anderson said. "This is Pueblo East. This is a rival. We always play against. This is always one you circle on the calendar.”
Anderson also went 6-for-7 through the air for 95 yards.
The previous playoff meetings between the two teams are a different story. When the stakes become win or go home, it has been the Eagles who have emerged successful. And Mitchell is among those who knows that those who fail to learn history are doomed to repeat it.
“Now I just start thinking about what happens seven weeks from now," he said. "That’s us and we’ve repeated it four times at every level you possibly can. If we see them again, we have to take a look at what we do, what they do and obviously the impact that someone like Kain could make.”
For now he and the Thunder will move on to Littleton, the next team on their schedule. A second game against East is a bridge they'll cross when they get to it. And judging by the result of Thursday, they'll have every bit of confidence that they can safely navigate that bridge.