Skyrockets blast past Gruver into state quarters; Stratford wallops Wink

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Wellington quarterback Creighton Killian celebrates after a touchdown against Gruver during a Class 2A Division II regional semifinal Friday at Happy State Bank Stadium in Canyon. [Ben Jenkins/ Press Pass Sports]

The Wellington Skyrockets showed late Friday afternoon that having a great number of missiles at your disposal isn’t nearly as important in the postseason as the ability to launch what you’ve got.For the final 47 minutes of their Class 2A Division II regional round playoff game against Gruver at Happy State Bank Stadium, the Skyrockets were missing arguably their most important player. But Wellington showed that the team was more important than the player, as the Skyrockets romped over Gruver 36-8 in one of their most rewarding postseason wins to date.That sets up an all-Panhandle state quarterfinal next week as Wellington (9-3) will take on Stratford at 7 p.m. Friday at Dick Bivins Stadium in Amarillo. It’s an intriguing showdown between two highly successful area programs, as was Wellington’s win over Gruver (10-2). Based on what the Skyrockets did to the Greyhounds, they should be ready for anything next week.“We preach playing really good defense,” Wellington coach Greg Proffitt said. “We gave up only eight points tonight and that was on a kickoff return. Scheme-wise, coach (Creighton) Henderson did a great job adjusting the line to Gruver’s stuff. “Offensively we just want to take care of the football. We don’t want to give extra possessions.”Wellington dominated every phase of the game in the first half and the 28-8 lead the Skyrockets held at halftime wasn’t indicative of their superiority. They had 10 times more first downs and yards gained than Gruver in the first half.The Skyrockets established themselves on the second play of the game as Marc Ramirez rumbled up the middle for a 71-yard scoring run and an 8-0 lead. That was no surprise, as Ramirez has been Wellington’s do-it-all guy on both sides of the ball.But on the ensuing kickoff, Ramirez went down with an injury which quieted Wellington’s sideline and crowd. Ramirez, who also starts at linebacker, limped off the field with an ankle injury and didn’t return.“It’s a true team effort,” Proffitt said. “Every one of our kids has got to be ready to go and get after it. I’m just happy we got to go win and to celebrate with these guys.”When the Skyrockets got the ball back, though, they simply ripped off another big play, as Barret Phillips ran through a huge hole up the middle for a 68-yard score to make it 14-0. Phillips ran for 152 yards on 16 carries.“In the playoffs it’s time to step up and Marc gave me the perfect opportunity and I did what I had to do to get it done,” Phillips said. “(The touchdown run) surprised me as much as anybody else. I’ve got to hand it to my offensive line. They gave me all the holes I could ask for.”Quarterback Creighton Killian ran for Wellington’s last two touchdowns before halftime. The Skyrockets had three runners go for over 80 yards, as Gumaro Rincon had 96 yards on 11 carries, including a 65-yard scoring run at the beginning of the fourth quarter to cap things, and Killian ran for 84 yards.The only thing which interrupted Wellington’s dominance was when Colton Millsap returned a kickoff 90 yards for a touchdown early in the second quarter. Gruver ran only 12 plays in the first half and picked up one first down.Things didn’t get much better for the Greyhounds as the game progressed. Four of their five first downs came in their final drive of the game, well after the issue was decided, and to add insult to injury, they were stopped on downs inside the Wellington 5-yard line in the final minute.Gruver had only 108 yards of total offense, including a mere two yards rushing.“I was shocked a little bit,” said second-year Gruver coach Lee Brandon, who was previously an assistant at Wellington as a defensive coordinator. “We knew coming into it that Wellington and their offensive line played really fast. They’ve had something established there for the last 14 years and that’s a big difference when you get to this time of the year. Teams that have been here before know the speed and the caliber of play that’s required.”The Skyrockets proved that, and that’s the biggest reason they’ll still be playing in December. While the status of Ramirez is uncertain for next week, if they can compensate for any potential absence the way they did against Gruver, they’ll definitely have a shot.Profitt thinks that cohesiveness will be the key for Wellington.“We’re a football program which does things the same way seventh through twelvth,” said Profitt, tracing the learning path from junior high through high school. “Our junior high runs the same thing as the varsity. It’s that next man up mentality. You’ve got to prepare yourself to go play and we rely on every kid that we have to do their job every time the ball’s snapped.” Stratford rolls past Wink Stratford appeared to be in traditional postseason form against Wink, as the Elks took an early lead and never let up to cruise to a 56-21 win at Lubbock’s Lowrey Field at Plains Capital Park to set up a showdown with Wellington.The Elks (11-1) piled up 548 yards and didn’t punt once in a dominant performance. Quarterback Cody Rinne was a huge reason for that performance.Rinne set the tone early by rushing for two scores to give Stratford a 14-0 lead as the Elks never trailed. He got the job done with his arm and his legs, as he threw for 198 yards and two touchdowns and ran for 186 yards and four touchdowns on 13 carries to lead the Elks.“Our offensive performance went really, really well,” Stratford coach Matt Lovorn said. “Cody had a great game but he’d be the first to credit his offensive line. They’ve been controlling the line of scrimmage for a whole lot of games in a row.”Only a couple of stops by Wink (9-4) on downs inside the red zone kept the Elks from completely crushing the Wildcats. Wink quarterback Kanon Gibson was a strong counterpoint to Rinne, throwing three touchdown passes and running for 119 yards on 28 carries.“We talked a whole lot before the game about winning each quarter at a time,” Lovorn said. “We made sure to get done what we needed to get done each quarter. Wink has such a great team and we felt we were in danger because of what their quarterback could do.”

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