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Durango beats Desert Oasis to clinch playoff berth

Durango’s football team went back to what has worked all season — the running game.

At least when the Trailblazers needed it.

Though Durango built a first-half lead through the air, the Trailblazers beat host Desert Oasis on the ground on Friday night, 28-21.

First, Frankie Pelton rumbled into the end zone from 8 yards out to give Durango (5-3, 4-0 Southwest) the lead back for good with 6 minutes, 47 seconds left.

Then, after Christian Vaughn and the Diamondbacks (4-3, 0-3) drove the ball as far as the Durango 23-yard line on the ensuing possession only to have the potential game-tying drive end with an interception with 5:07 left, the running game helped the Trailblazers eat the rest of the clock to secure the win and a playoff berth.

“The playoffs have been the goal the whole year,” Pelton said.

Durango led 21-7 at the half, but the Diamondbacks rallied to tie the game on Vaughn’s 33-yard run with 1:03 left in the third quarter. Vaughn finished with 249 yards and three TDs on 38 carries.

“He’s a good running back, and they had a good scheme,” Durango coach Toby Henry said. “They beat us up the middle until we stopped it.”

Well, sort of stopped it.

Vaughn lost fumbles on two first-half drives, one at the Durango 11-yard line and another at the 1, killing two prime scoring chances for the Diamondbacks.

Kaden Renshaw tossed two touchdown passes to Michael Jackson — from 16 and 41 yards — and added a third himself on the ground to give Durango a 21-7 halftime lead. Renshaw completed 7 of 17 passes for 149 yards and those two scores.

But after the break, it was all about the running game.

Vaughn owned the third quarter, carrying the ball on 12 of Desert Oasis’ 14 plays in the quarter. He scored on a 9-yard run with 7:44 to go in the third and again on the 33-yard run late in the quarter.

After Pelton put Durango back in front, Vaughn ran the ball on the first two plays of the ensuing drive, netting 25 more yards and getting Desert Oasis to the Durango 30. But that’s when he came off the field, limping slightly with an apparent left ankle injury.

While Vaughn had to remove his shoe and get retaped, the drive continued until Colton Zobrist was intercepted by Justin Johnson at the 5-yard line.

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