MELROSE — Spectators aware of how an earlier regular season meeting went likely showed up early on Friday night for an eight-man playoff game in Melrose. That’s because the only time the game was bound to be close was in the opening moments.
Sure enough, Melrose thumped Gateway Christian again and the game got out of hand quickly. This time, the Buffaloes crushed the Warriors 94-12 to move into the state semifinals at Mountainair next week.
Melrose (11-0), defending 8-man champs, scored 54 points in the first quarter alone. That spread was achieved when freshman Daylan Dial picked off a pass by Gateway Christian (5-6) and raced 55 yards to paydirt.
“We came in here pretty confident, but kept our head and played hard,” Melrose senior center Kole Tatum said. “If you try to overlook somebody, that’s when you get beat.”
Buffalo senior quarterback Clint Barnard scored four TDs in the first half as Melrose went up 70-0 at intermission. Barnard sat out the second half, but while he was in, the Buffs did a little experimenting.
Senior Colby Sneller, a 348-pound lineman, was inserted at fullback and was the lead blocker for Barnard’s 30-yard run out of the tailback position as Melrose went up 38-0 in the first quarter.
“We were looking at some people in different positions. We put the big Sneller kid at fullback and Clint at tailback, with our freshman quarterback (Dial),” Melrose coach Dickie Roybal said. “Just trying different things. The way Mountainair plays, we’re going to have to do things like that because they crowd the line.”
After Melrose blocked a Gateway Christian punt late in the game, the Buffs took possession at the Warriors 12 with 1:27 left. Resisting exhortations from a few of his players to try for another touchdown to get over 100 points for the game, Roybal ordered his team to take a knee three times in order to run out the clock.
“You know how kids are. If we wanted to, we could have scored a hundred,” Roybal said. “But we didn’t need to. It doesn’t do anybody any good.”
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