MELROSE — Daylan Dial has waited a long time to get back on the football field.
The Melrose sophomore sustained a dislocated left shoulder last year in basketball and reinjured it during the track season in the spring while doing the long jump.
He underwent surgery on June 2 and, although he’s practiced with the team, was held out until Friday’s 8-man semifinal game.
Dial quickly made a big splash. He returned a pass interception 50 yards for a score on the third play of the game, ran the second-half kickoff 82 yards for a touchdown, and threw a 14-yard scoring pass to Aaron Dearing in the fourth quarter as the two-time champion Buffaloes rolled into the finals with a 44-12 win over Gateway Christian.
“It felt good to have Daylan back out there,” Buffs coach Dickie Roybal said. “And having most of our (injured players back) helped.
“We got caught up in the emotion (in the first half). Once we settled down, we got after it.”
Melrose (8-3) will host Mountainair, a 52-0 winner over Reserve, in next Saturday’s 2 p.m. championship game.
“Coming in, I didn’t know what to (expect),” said Dial, who also had 117 yards rushing on 14 carries and was one of four runners in the game with 100-plus yards. “But after that pick, everything started flowing.”
As it had in its regular-season game at Roswell, the Buffs found themselves trailing the Warriors (8-4) in the second quarter. Melrose, though, drove 90 yards in eight plays, capped by junior quarterback Seaver Tate’s 2-yard TD run — one of his three touchdowns for the game — and a 16-12 lead with 2:05 left in the half.
Dial’s kickoff return gave the Buffs some breathing room, and Gateway never seriously challenged after that.
“We’ve been practicing that all week,” Dial said. “(The kick) came right through the middle, and I found a hole and made the most of it.”
Tate carried 25 times for 164 yards for the Buffs. Quarterback Mason Miller and running back David Nunez each scored a touchdown and were both over 100 yards for the Warriors.
Mountainair, ranked No. 1 in 8-man, edged the Buffs 38-36 in double overtime on Oct. 8 at Melrose.