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May 24, 2022

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Bonanza secures playoff spot with Durango win

Durango vs. Bonanza

Melissa Arseniuk

Bonanza senior Tim Kennedy cheers after his team scores yet another touchdown during Friday night’s homecoming win against Durango.

Bonanza defeats Durango

The Bonanza defensive line sets up to take on the Durango offense during Friday night's homecoming matchup. Launch slideshow »

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For Bonanza High's football team, matching a team record of five consecutive victories with a 34-6 win over Durango on Friday was nice.

Qualifying for the playoffs for the first time since 2004 made the result twice as sweet.

Antonio Beals and Aaron Simon led the Bengals to a 5-2 overall record and a 4-0 mark in the Sunset Southwest, guaranteeing the team a spot in the postseason.

"We talked about it all week, and we thought we had a chance to do this," Bonanza second-year coach Shawn Dupris said. "In a short period of time we've made a lot of changes, and the kids have responded. I'm just really, really, really happy for the kids and the people who've attended Bonanza High School."

As he often does, Beals carried the heaviest load for the Bengals, rushing for 200 yards on 37 carries. His second straight game of 200 or more yards on the ground (and third overall) pushed him past the 1,100-yard mark for the season, and his 11-yard scoring run in the fourth quarter gave him 10 touchdowns.

Along with Beals' own hard-nosed running and second (and third and fourth) efforts, Simon's presence on the field helped the senior running back put up big numbers yet again.

Durango's defensive coordinator kept a close eye on where Simon lined up all game, but the senior receiver was still able to get loose for three catches for 87 yards, including both of Bonanza's first-half touchdowns.

Simon's first score was a 60-yard catch-and-run from Sterling Sprau in which Simon broke two tackles on the left sideline before outracing the defense. On the Bengals' next possession, Simon scored his second touchdown — a leaping, spinning grab over a defender — giving the team a 13-0 lead.

Add in three carries for 13 yards and a number of plays where Simon went in motion as a decoy, and it was difficult for Durango's defense to key too heavily on Beals.

"It puts teams in a difficult position because he's an athlete," Dupris said of Simon. "A lot of time we get him out in space and he does a lot of nice things for us out there. We can use him a lot of different ways. It's just another weapon for us, so people can't stack up against the run all the time. He's come a long way since last year. He's developed and we've given him the ball and he's responded. He's done really well."

The Trailblazers (1-6, 1-3) had a chance to cut the halftime deficit to just six points after a late interception by Anthony Blankes in the second quarter, but a low snap on the final play of the first half was recovered by the Bengals as the clock expired. That turnover followed back-to-back interceptions by Durango quarterback Chase Roberts, and things didn't get much better early in the second half.

Three plays after Bonanza extended its lead to 21-0 on a 25-yard pass from Sprau to Delano Helmuth, Roberts hit Nathan Weaver for an apparent 69-yard touchdown pass. However, the play was called back because of a penalty, and Durango punted two plays later.

Even when the Bengals handed the Trailblazers first downs thanks to 15-yard penalties on back-to-back fourth downs on Durango's next drive, the Trailblazers still couldn't get the ball in the end zone, turning it over on downs on an incomplete pass.

"We couldn't get any momentum going," Durango coach Gary Maki said. "They were playing well. My hat's off to Bonanza. They're a good football team. I thought we'd match up better, but those key mistakes at inopportune times just set us back."

The Trailblazers were coming off their first win of the season, a 62-13 triumph over Pahrump Valley, but didn't enter Friday's game with the same enthusiasm or emotion.

"It was a let down on our part," Maki said. "As coaches we were very disappointed. We practiced it all week long, but when it came game time we just made mistakes."

Sprau finished 7-of-16 passing for 145 yards with three touchdowns and one interception, and had 15 yards and a touchdown on four carries. Ryon Martin rushed four times for 50 yards, and Helmuth caught two passes for 51 yards.

Julio Mora led Durango with 58 rushing yards on five carries, including a 65-yard touchdown on the first play after Beals' scoring run.

Roberts finished 5-of-30 passing for 99 yards and two interceptions, with just one of those completions coming after halftime. Keiffer Moreno caught two passes for 19 yards, and Thomas Flanagan had seven carries for 8 yards and one catch for 36 yards.

Bonanza will attempt to keep its unbeaten league mark next week against Clark.

"We just have to continue to get better each week," Dupris said. "We're looking at the playoffs now. We're not looking ahead by any means, but we're looking to get better each week and reach our peak by the time playoffs come around."

Durango will look to get back on the winning track against Spring Valley.

"We're trying to regroup and realize that if we win our next two games we're still in the hunt for a playoff spot, and we can do that," Maki said. "It's just who shows up to play on any given night. Tonight Bonanza showed up to play and we have to hope next week we show up like we did against Pahrump."

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