Melrose junior Cedar Rush chases down Floyd junior Jerrod Long during the second quarter of Wednesday’s six-man championship at Floyd. (Freedom Newspapers: Kevin Wilson)
By Dave Wagner: Freedom Newspapers
FLOYD — In a game featuring 134 points, going two quarters with a combined one touchdown proved nearly impossible to overcome.
The Melrose Buffaloes gained control of Wednesday’s six-man state championship by blanking Floyd in the second quarter, and held on a 74-60 victory over the Broncos.
Junior running back Carlos Ruiz scored eight touchdowns — including one on a kickoff return and another on a decisive punt return late in the third quarter — as Melrose (11-1) avenged its only loss and captured its second state title in coach Dickie Roybal’s nine seasons at the school.
“We executed better this time,” Roybal said. “The kids just stayed with their blocks. (In earlier games) they had been so used to just turning and watching Carlos run.”
Ruiz, who also intercepted two passes and threw Floyd standout Jerrod Long for a couple of key losses, was the beneficiary of solid play by his supporting cast and piled up 325 yards rushing, including 238 in the first half. But it was his 73-yard punt return in the final seconds of the third quarter that turned the tide.
“We figured we’d play them again,” said Melrose senior fullback-linebacker Coy Speer, who scored the Buffs’ other two touchdowns and made several key plays on defense. “I think the whole team played excellent. A couple of times we’d have a bad play or two, but it wasn’t anything we couldn’t come back from.”
The difference came down to the two kick returns by Ruiz. Floyd finished with a 363-362 margin in total offense.
“We worked all week on punting it out of bounds to keep it away from him, but we just couldn’t do it,” Floyd coach Jeff Gillespie said. “The first time we were able to contain Ruiz — but not this time.”
As they had in the earlier meeting, when Floyd opened a 22-6 lead en route to a 28-20 win, the Broncos (10-1) controlled play in the first quarter. Jason Martinez scored two touchdowns and Brad Lee and Long had one each as Floyd built a 30-14 lead.
“The kids kept their composure,” Roybal said. “Instead of chewing on one another, they kept their cool.”
On the first play of the second quarter, Ruiz went inside for a 14-yard TD run to make it 30-20.
Melrose scored four unanswered touchdowns in the second period to lead 44-30 at halftime.
“The first quarter our defense wasn’t very good, but we stepped it up,” Ruiz said. “The first time we weren’t ready to play, but our effort was way better today.”
Long rushed for 104 yards on 19 carries for the Broncos, but got more than half of his yardage on a 65-yard, first-quarter TD run. He also completed four passes — all for touchdowns — for 117 yards.
“I knew we could beat them if everybody played well,” Speer said. “They’re a good team, but I think we’ve just got more athletes.”
Martinez had six carries for 58 yards and a touchdown and caught six passes for 94 yards for the Broncos. Lee, who returned an interception 10 yards for a third-quarter tally, had four pass receptions for 101 yards and a score.
“Our kids played hard,” Gillespie said. “I think Melrose was the favorite all year.
“We came out of the gates well, but our second quarter just killed us.”
Floyd pulled even 52-52 with 16 consecutive points in a span of 67 seconds late in the third quarter, capped by a safety when several Broncos corralled Melrose quarterback James Walker in the end zone. But the Buffs forced a punt following their free kick, and Ruiz picked it up on a bounce at the 7 and weaved his way down the field for the go-ahead score.
Ruiz added TD runs of 27 and 16 yards in the first five minutes of the final period to put the game out of reach.