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Monday, March 19, 2018

Jamie Ausk Crisafulli photosJamie Ausk Crisafulli photos

Hamilton puts cold stop to Red Devils' season (Slideshow 2)

By Jason Stuart

Ranger-Review Staff Writer

The Dawson County Red Devils’ storybook season came to an end Saturday on a cold, snowy field some 600 miles away from home, as the visitors were overpowered by the top-ranked Hamilton Broncs 47-0 in the quarterfinals of the Class A state football playoffs.

The Red Devils simply had no good answers for either Hamilton’s offense or defense in a game that the Broncs had well in hand by halftime. DCHS head coach Ryan Buckley said the Broncs simply outmatched the Red Devils in many aspects.

“They’re a very good team. They’re big up front and they’re physical and they have some very good skill position players,” Buckley said. “They’re a good team, and we just ran into a bit of a buzzsaw, I guess.”

One Hamilton player in particular, senior wide receiver/defensive back Tyler Chouinard, gave the Red Devils fits all game in every possible way on offense, defense and special teams, helping lead the Broncs to racking up 560 total yards of offense. Buckley said he was aware of Chouinard’s abilities going into the game, but was a bit taken aback by how much of a one-man wrecking crew he proved to be.

“We knew that he was a good player, but maybe not to the extent that he did,” Buckley said.

As much as the Red Devils struggled to hold back the Broncs offense or move the ball against the Hamilton defense, Buckley said that he felt the final score looked worse than it actually was on the field, praising his team for continuing to play hard even after the final outcome was no longer in doubt.

“I’m proud of our kids though, they still played hard,” he said.

Hamilton opened up the scoring on the game midway through the second quarter. The Red Devils had turned the Broncs away the first time they had the ball, after Hamilton had been set up inside the DCHS red zone by a long punt return by Chouinard, but the Broncs wouldn’t be denied after getting a second long punt return to set them up deep in DCHS territory. It only took a couple of plays for senior running back Bridger Brauder to plunge in from three yards out. Brauder did fumble on the play, and there was some confusion as to who recovered the ball, but it was ultimately ruled a Hamilton touchdown.

The Broncs struck again after picking off DCHS quarterback Cade Dockter on the ensuing Red Devils possession. Hamilton pulled some trickery out of their hat on the first play after the pick, as Chouinard took the pitch on what looked like a reverse play, but then pulled up and aired it out downfield, where it was hauled in by junior wide receiver Tyler Barnes, who took it to the house for a 63-yard scoring play.

Sophomore Broncs quarterback Carson Rostad added two short touchdown runs before the end of the first half to make the score 26-0 at halftime.

It looked for a moment at the start of the second half like the Red Devils might get back in the game. Hamilton fumbled the opening second half kickoff and it was recovered by DCHS inside Hamilton territory. Two plays later however, senior DCHS running back Karsen Kelly was fighting for yardage inside the Broncs’ 10 yard line when he fumbled the ball and the Broncs recovered. Hamilton then took the ball 90 yards down the field, capped off with a pass from Rostad to Barnes for another touchdown. The rout was on after that, with a running clock started at the end of the third quarter to bring the game to a swift end.

Looking Forward

Though the season may not have ended the way Buckley or DCHS fans would have liked, the head coach said there’s still plenty to celebrate from this season, given that the Red Devils made the football playoffs for the first time in 21 years and won their first playoff game in 22 years with their first round upset win over Laurel. First and foremost, Buckley said he is happy that his players had the opportunity to experience what that was like.

“I’m excited about it. I’m happy for the kids to get the experience,” he said. “That’s what it’s all about in the end is making good experiences for the kids that they can carry forward with them as they get older.”

Next year’s Red Devils squad is shaping up to be a young one, as 15 seniors will be moving on from this year’s team. Buckley only has eight players currently on the team who will be seniors next year. That will require a lot of young players to step up, he said, though he added he has several sophomores who either started much of the year or saw significant playing time, which he believes will help.

“We’re gonna have some kids who are going to have to get together and get themselves going,” Buckley said. “We’ll be young, we’ll be a little bit inexperienced, but we had some kids as sophomores who got to play and hopefully that will help them moving forward.”

Having just shaken off two decades of football futility, even with the prospect of a young team next year, Buckley is hopeful that next year’s team can build off of this year’s accomplishments, and that an attitude and culture of winning and pride in the football program may finally be revitalized at DCHS.

“I think we’re headed in the right direction, and hopefully from here we can get better and continue to build off the success of this season into the future for years to come,” he said.

Reach Jason Stuart at rrreporter@rangerreview.com.

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