Nico Gagliardi entered Friday night with five career touchdowns and 37 tackles for loss, so he had done all of this before for Cheyenne Mountain.
But had he been given a full night to work with, he may have matched those totals in this one game.
Playing a Mitchell program that was without a member of its coaching staff after emergency surgery the day before, Gagliardi scored three touchdowns, recovered a fumble, made (unofficially) six tackles behind the line of scrimmage and led the Red-Tailed Hawks to a 50-0 win in a game that included a lightning delay at halftime.
Gagliardi and the majority of the Cheyenne Mountain starters were pulled from the game when the lead reached 43 and the running clock began with 8:39 remaining in the second quarter.
Those 15 minutes of action for the Hawks' first-string unit, mostly played in the rain, were dizzying.
Gagliardi rumbled in from 18 yards for a touchdown on the Hawks first possession. After two more scores – a 10-yard pass from Bruce Archambault to Jesse Boley and a fumble recovery in the end zone from Hayden Kuppenheimer – Gagliardi took over. He scored from 29 yards immediately after a 24-yard touchdown pass from Archambault was called back for a penalty. Then he pounced on a fumbled snap at the Mitchell 5-yard line and took it in from there on the next play.
Zach Johnson added a 35-yard touchdown run for Cheyenne Mountain to set the clock in constant motion – at least until the lightning moved too close to continue the action on the Hawks’ home field.
The Hawks closed the scoring in the third quarter when sophomore Oscar Waterhouse stripped a Mitchell ballcarrier and took it 55 yards the other direction for a touchdown.
Mitchell was playing in a difficult spot. The Marauders haven’t had a winning record since going 6-4 in 2004. They were 5-29 over the past four years and last week dropped their opener 35-9 to a Palmer program that entered the year 5-40 since 2016. Mitchell was also without assistant coach Shawndale Gwynn, who was hospitalized on Thursday with what the team termed “emergency surgery” in a tweet.
With a first-year coach in Jason Cauley as well as a new athletic director in Nick Karn, Mitchell knows it has a ways to go. There were certainly flashes of ability from players like Ralph Cushon, but anything beyond that was obscured by the strong play of Gagliardi and Co. from Cheyenne Mountain.