Two weeks into the football season, Cimarron-Memorial was looking nothing like a playoff team.
The Spartans had been outscored 63-27 in starting 0-2 and still hadn’t started play in the rugged Northwest League.
But the team rallied, finishing 5-2 in the Northwest to earn the league’s No. 3 playoff seed.
Seventh-ranked Cimarron (6-4) plays at fifth-ranked Spring Valley (8-1) at 7 tonight in the first round of the Sunset Region playoffs.
“A rocky start might be an understatement,” first-year Cimarron head coach Rod Vollan said.
After the 0-2 start, the Spartans rallied to outscore their next two opponents 92-6. A 17-14 overtime loss to Palo Verde — which remains the area’s only undefeated Class 4A team — proved Cimarron was for real.
“It’s really a credit to our kids,” Vollan said. “We as coaches told them at the beginning of the year that if we hang in this thing together that we would be able to find a way to get better and hopefully reach one of our goals, which was to make the playoffs.”
Spring Valley has been on a roll, winning five straight since a 14-6 loss to Bishop Gorman.
“We’ve been riding a pretty good streak there as far as playing some pretty good football,” Spring Valley coach Kelly Murphy said. “We’re looking forward to a spirited battle with them.”
Cimarron will have to find a way to counter Spring Valley’s size advantage. The Grizzlies average 270 pounds on their offensive line. Vollan said his line averages about 205.
“Up front offensively and defensively, they are just big,” Vollan said. “They’ve got good feet for big kids, and they’re going to pose a formidable challenge for us.”
That offensive line has created openings for one of the area’s top big-play threats in Jacques Adams. Adams has rushed for 1,415 yards and 22 touchdowns, averaging 11.3 yards per carry.
“They have the ability to run inside and pound you, and then they have a great breakaway threat to gash you if you make a mistake defensively,” Vollan said.
Cimarron counters with a big-play threat in junior running back Stephen Nixon, who has rushed for 1,600 yards and 18 touchdowns and averages 10.1 per carry. Cimarron has completed only 13 passes this season.
“Offensively they just like to run the football,” Murphy said. “They’re well disciplined and have a good offensive line. They have a good back there in the Nixon kid, and they just come right at you.”