If there was a Bobcat who deserved a little poetic justice last week in frigid Center, it was Stephan Gomez.
Denied an apparent onside-kick recovery midway through the second quarter – the referee had not yet given the signal for play to commence while waiting for a vehicle parked just behind the end zone to turn off its headlights so both teams could see the play – and then forced to bear witness to the Vikings profiting from the re-kick with a go-ahead 55-yard scoring drive, the unsung senior not only was part of a roster bent on not breaking, but more or less buried the enemy’s last-ditch hopes with a 13-yard sack of Center quarterback Abraham Echauri early in the fourth quarter.
Incomplete passes by Echauri and incumbent Habran Delacruz then followed, and with a fourth-down sack of Delacruz, Ignacio’s Tyler Barnes then drove home the point that the Ignacio High School football team had indeed learned from a blowout loss to non-conference 1A Colorado Springs Christian and was ready to turn that knowledge into Southern Peaks League prowess.
“Feels so good; words can’t explain it,” sophomore quarterback Gabe Tucson said, having thrown for 152 yards and three touchdowns with no interceptions in the 38-21 victory.
“It was our season-opener,” said IHS senior Colten Jackson, who called the successful league start a rebirth to the 2019 campaign. “The coaches were telling us all week it was going to be a tough game, but if we put our hearts into it, ran full speed like we did and didn’t mess up, we’d win. And we know that we needed to win.”
Because even with a 1-5 overall record, Monte Vista (1-1 SPL) will be anything but a homecoming week pushover.
Always known for a strong run game, the Pirates will arrive at IHS Field for kickoff at 7 p.m. today ready to vent any lingering frustrations from a 56-7 road loss at league-leading Centauri, in which junior Cobi Garcia hauled in a late TD pass from backup QB Colton Mellott before the mercy-rule running clock expired.
Routed 62-8 last year at Monte Vista’s Harvey Sullivan Field by a squad boasting as many seniors as Ignacio had players, the Bobcats (2-4, 1-0 SPL) will need to capitalize on any available opportunity in order to make amends. The talented Falcons (5-1, 2-0) showed it could be done, turning a game-opening turnover-on-downs and two subsequent Pirate punts into 21 swift points en route to building a 35-0 halftime lead.
Fourteen of Ignacio’s points against Center (3-3, 0-2) came as a result of fumble recoveries by Jeremy Roderick and Barnes, with another score the product of an undisputed onside-kick recovery by Barnes with 5:27 left in the third.
And, fortunately for the Bobcats, alertly recovering their own fumbles – senior lineman Clay Campbell scooped up one midway through the first frame when Tucson was sacked by Carlos Almeida, and sophomore lineman Mekhi Miranda smothered another late in the second when Tucson was flushed out of the pocket and lost grip of the ball – prevented the capable Vikings from approaching closer on the scoreboard.
Unofficially, IHS held Center to just 64 yards rushing (35 coming via a Daniel Guiterrez burst on Center’s first snap after Gomez’s special-teams work was negated) on 24 carries and 101 yards passing on 4-of-15 accuracy between Delacruz (intercepted once by Bobcat Lawrence Toledo) and Echauri.
Meanwhile, junior Joe Garcia complemented Tucson’s passing with 77 yards on 20 hard totes. Classmate Dylan Labarthe logged 36 on just five and also caught two throws for 22 yards and a TD. Toledo grabbed two catches for 19, while Jackson finished with three receptions for a game-breaking 111 yards and two scores.
“I saw the ball come and was like, ‘I’ve got to make something happen for my team,’” Jackson said. “So, I just did my best. Our coaches had done a great job over the week preparing us for their run game and even their passing game. We just came out and executed.”
And that, probably more so than anything else, will be most crucial in battling Monte Vista, which has been twice defeated by three or fewer points and is a veteran of a non-conference schedule featuring 2A Alamosa and 1A power Florence.
Replacing the graduated Zach Hindes under center, senior Kaidon Wenta has passed for over 500 yards this season with seven TDs but has been picked off nine times (twice by Falcon Baron Holman, who returned one for a 90-yard score).
And as expected, Wenta paces the Pirates with nearly 800 yards on the ground, including a valiant 133 on 20 attempts against Centauri, but only the aforementioned Garcia and senior Levi Trujillo have also reached triple figures.
With over 300 yards to date, senior Jarren Chavez is Monte Vista’s top aerial threat by a long shot as only junior Andres Maestas has also managed to exceed 100.
“I guess, you know, it’s just another game,” a grinning Jackson said. “We’ve got to get ready in practice, and then do what we’ve got to do.”
“Just can’t wait,” said an exhausted, yet excited Tucson.