Another long bus ride to face a tough opponent haunted Navajo Prep.
The No. 10 Eagles (6-5) fell to No. 7 Clayton (7-4) in the first round of the 2A football state playoffs Saturday in Clayton.
The Yellowjackets scored 22 points in the first quarter and never looked back as the team rolled to a 52-6 win over Navajo Prep.
It was Navajo Prep’s first playoff appearance since the school was re-established.
“It was a good experience, and an eye-opener of how far our program has to go to compete down here,” said Navajo Prep head coach Rod Denetso. “Our kids competed and drove the ball up and down the field, but we couldn’t score on five or six trips inside the red zone.”
Navajo Prep’s lone touchdown came in the first quarter when Marcus Ancira broke a 60-yard run.
A big punt return for Clayton and overall good special teams play helped the Yellowjackets win the battle of field position.
Junior running back Mika Mauga had another big day, Denetso said, and the coach was happy with the effort from sophomore quarterback Tyler Sorenson.
“He did a phenomenal job today. He stood in the pocket, taking big shots all day. He got a lot of respect from his teammates,” Denetso said.
Denetso was also excited to see the play of junior defensive end Tate Waukazoo, who will return as a defensive leader next season.
The Eagles only graduate four players from this year’s team and most of the skill-position starters will remain intact, including stars such as Mauga and Izaac Eredia.
“We are very excited about our future. We held our own at those skill positions all year, but where we struggled was in our interior,” Denetso said. “We already have guys asking when they can get back in the weight room for football workouts. We are going to work on getting bigger.”
Denetso hopes the success of the 2012 team, which won its first district title ever, will inspire more guys to join the team next season.
“We welcome all kids academically and if they want to participate in athletics,” Denetso said. “I think the word is getting our about our program. It can be a great stepping-stone for kids, and guys always have fun running and catching the ball.”