By Dave Wagner: CNJ sports writer
While he wouldn’t mind seeing a repeat of last month’s 32-13 district win at Clayton, Fort Sumner football coach Dexter McDaniel expects it won’t be that easy when the teams clash for the Class 1A state championship at 3 p.m. today in Fort Sumner.
The defending champion Foxes (6-4) will try for their seventh 1A football title since 1995. Meantime, the Yellowjackets (8-3) are seeking their first football crown.
“It’s going to be a big challenge for us,” McDaniel said. “We’ve had our bumps and bruises this year. It’s going to come down to mistakes and turnovers.
“They’re a good football team. They’ve got everything you’d want — size, speed and depth, and they have a lot of seniors.”
The Foxes, seeded No. 1, held off a late rally by Jal last week for a 21-14 win to advance to the finals. Clayton, meantime, avenged an earlier 27-6 loss to Carrizozo by beating the Tigers 21-20.
“I believe it’s going to be a tough, hard-fought battle on the line,” Clayton coach Gary Durham said. “We’re going to have to gear up to stop their running game.”
Durham said the Yellowjackets, who moved down from Class 2A this year, have to do the same things they did in turning the Carrizozo result around — minimize mistakes.
“Our game plan is pretty much the same, except we just have to execute better,” he said.
The return of sophomore tailback-outside linebacker Cass Dimitroff last week from a shoulder injury helped the Foxes, who led 21-0 well into the fourth quarter before holding off a late Jal rally.
Dimitroff rushed for 150 yards and two scores in the earlier meeting with Clayton.
“It’s been a crazy year,” McDaniel said. “We’ve had to deal with injuries from the first scrimmage which has cost us.
“At our level, you can lose a couple of kids and it can cause real problems.”
In the first matchup, the Foxes took the lead for good on Dimitroff’s 12-yard run late in the first half and pulled away with two fourth-quarter scores.
“They’re trying to win a state championship and I’m sure they’re hungry,” McDaniel said of the Yellowjackets. “But we’ve got a bunch of young kids who are hungry, too.
“We’re just happy to be here. Our kids have overcome a lot.”