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June 17, 2019

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Cheyenne slams Cimarron, claims home playoff date

Cheyenne vs. Cimarron

Justin M. Bowen

Cheyenne’s Marcus Sullivan dives in the end zone for one of his three touchdowns in a victory earlier this season over Cimarron-Memorial. He confirmed his commitment to UNLV on Monday.

Cheyenne VS Cimarron-Memorial

Cimarron-Memorial's Stephen Nixon pushes the ball up field.  Nixon ended up with 111 yards and one touchdown in Thursday's game against Cheyenne. Launch slideshow »

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Charles Anthony had every right to be concerned about how his team would react to Cimarron-Memorial's march down the field to start Thursday night's regular season finale at Cheyenne.

The Desert Shields coach watched as the Spartans ran the ball on eight straight plays, capped by a 23-yard shot up the gut of the defense by junior standout Stephen Nixon.

It was the first touchdown Cheyenne had allowed since a Sept. 19 loss to Palo Verde.

"The big thing is we have some seniors on the defense that kind of fly around, they kind of anchor things and keep things well-managed when things go bad," Anthony said. "This is the first time we've had more than five seniors since my first year here, and that's a big help."

And seniors were a big reason why Cheyenne allowed just 63 total yards after that Cimmaron score en route to a plentiful bounty. On top of the 34-7 win, the Shields captured the No. 2 seed in the Sunset Regional playoffs, a home date next week with Bonanza and -- most important in the immediate aftermath -- the Duel in the Desert Trophy.

Like Anthony said, seniors led the way.

In terms of putting points on the board, tailback Marcus Sullivan ran for a touchdown, caught a touchdown pass, returned a kick for a score and tacked on a two-point conversion. Defensively, linebackers Damien Proby and Greg Lawson came up with big play after big play.

"That got us very mentally focused," Proby said of the early touchdown. "We settled down a little bit, knew we had to do our role, play our position."

A big part of that was doing a better job of containing Nixon, who finished with just 111 yards after racking up 23 on the opening drive alone.

"(You have to) stay in front of him," Proby added. "He's a good athlete, I can't doubt that. You do your job, do what your assignment coaches tell you to do, you get it done."

Sullivan was a big reason why Cheyenne (9-1) was able to chip away slowly at Cimmaron's early lead so efficiently. On the Shields' first possession, the Spartan defense was caught off guard after 10 straight run plays when Kaeo Helekahi ran a play-action pass and lofted a 35-yard pass down the seam to Sullivan, who made an over-the-shoulder grab at the goal line. Nine minutes later, he dove for the pylon on a 13-yard touchdown run around the right edge of the Cimarron (6-4) defense.

"I just trusted my speed to get there," he said of his penchant for finding the edge on Thursday.

The knockout blow came not long after the band cleared the field from its halftime performance. Sullivan bobbled the opening kick, scooped it at the 10-yard line with the kick coverage closing fast, headed left for the sideline and was never touched en route to a 90-yard score.

"I had to think hard about that one," he said with a grin.

Sullivan finished with 102 total yards of offense, and his 67 yards on the ground were just a fraction of the 196 that Cheyenne racked up in a game that took just a shade over two hours to complete.

The Shields hoisted the 5-foot-tall trophy and celebrated with their fans in the immediate glow of the sound 34-7 beatdown they put on the Spartans. But that satisfaction is sure to not disappear quickly, as they now prepare to open the playoffs on their own patch of land north of the Strip. Meanwhile, Cimmaron will head off to face Spring Valley in the postseason's opening round.

"We love playing here," Proby said. "That's one of the beauties of it."

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