PUEBLO — When the ball left Jordan Woolverton's hand in the third quarter, he knew the throw was on the money. Like a basketball player holding his follow through or a golfer twirling his club after a purely-struck iron shot, Woolverton took his time to watch the rest of the play, even though he knew the result.
The ball found the hands of Gage Mestas and his speed carried him into the end zone. That play lifted Durango to a 21-14 win over Roosevelt at the Neta and Eddie DeRose ThunderBowl at CSU-Pueblo, giving the Demons the Class 3A state football title - the first championship for the school since 1954 and the first outright championship in school history.
"We originally came out in a zone play and they came out in man coverage and left a big hole right where Gage was going to be," Woolverton said. "I checked the play and trusted him to be in his spot. It was amazing. I knew right when the ball came out of my hand, it was a touchdown."
The second half the game could be defined by three key plays for the Demons. Woolverton grabbed a huge interception off a Brig Hartson throw, which set up that touchdown pass to Mestas. Then Mestas, the game's Most Outstanding Player, came up with an interception of his own as the Rough Riders (7-1 overall) neared the end zone for what would have been the game-tying score.
"I was surprised I caught it myself," Mestas said. "I came down with it and thought 'what just happen?' Luckily I have stickier gloves so I was able to come down with the ball."
It was the capping play of of a memorable championship experience. He got the game going when Woolverton found him wide open for a 23-yard touchdown pass in the first quarter.
"They wanted to stop the run," Durango coach David Vogt said. "To win the game we had to make some deep catches. I'm glad we did that."
But Roosevelt came into the 3A tournament as the top overall seed for a reason.
Hartson got his offense in sync early in the second quarter as he threw the ball up for Tucker Peterson who adjusted mid-route and made a great athletic move to come down the ball in the end zone to tie the game.
The Rough Riders followed the score up on the kickoff by kicking the ball where the Demons weren't standing. The Rough Riders fell on top of it and Hartson found Keegan Sterkel on a screen pass that went for a 33-yard touchdown, giving Roosevelt its first lead of the game.
But Durango (8-0) struck back quickly. On 1st down with just 1:35 left in the second quarter, Ben Finneseth broke through the first two levels of the Roosevelt defense and outran the secondary to score from 55 yards out to lock the teams in a 14-14 tie at halftime.
That tie was broken was Woolverton made his read on the Roosevelt defense and fired that perfect strike to Mestas.
"That was a laser," Mestas said. "Great ball by Jordan, he's an amazing quarterback. He put that on the money and I was so, so happy to catch that."
As was the Durango sideline. Despite a few missteps in the second quarter, the Demons were sound defensively as it picked off Hartson three times and held the Rough Riders to just 45 rushing yards in the second half.
The effort was culminated with a crowning that the Durango seniors had been working toward since they were in third grade. They feel that they put their school on the football map and have no desire to see their efforts go to waste in the coming years.
"This is so important for the future generations coming up," Woolverton said. "We want Durango on the map, like I said a long time. To be able to get the job done today for them, for our town, it's just amazing."