Suddenly learning just hours before kickoff that he'd be starting his squad's Homecoming Week contest, Dolores freshman Jayden Karo's mind had to be spinning at quite a fast clip on Friday, Oct. 6.
And if it wasn't, Ignacio's increasingly opportunistic defense ensured it would be.
"We came in wanting to win," said junior Dustin Sanchez. "Their coach called our coach and said he was 'ready to be four-and-two,' so we had that coming in-that anger-that he had the audacity. We had to play with a chip on our shoulder."
"With the 'chip on our shoulder' Dustin was talking about, our coaches kept telling us to shut down the run," junior Mike Archuleta continued, "because their passing isn't that great. So shut down the run, and we'll take the game."
First, the Bobcats took the football.
Undoubtedly energized by the sight of wheelchair-bound senior Logan Fuller proudly wearing his No. 5 jersey and introduced with the team to the DHS Coliseum loyalists, the Bears had tied the game at 14-14 with 7:47 left in the third quarter, via a 36-yard Karo-to-Josh Corbitt connection capping a 9-play, 66-yard drive.
But Karo, put under center after a freak foot-ankle injury at school to senior Justin Purkat, was stopped on the two-point conversion run-a sign of things to come.
Dolores managed to recover a sneaky onside kick, but the potential go-ahead possession died on downs when Sanchez sacked Karo for an eight-yard loss back to the DHS 47.
IHS quarterback Isaiah Jacket, making his 2017 debut, then proceeded to lead the visitors down to the Bears' 9, but on the series' tenth play his fourth-down dart into the end zone zipped through senior Marcus Chapman's hands.
The misfire soon became a missing memory. DHS' Austin Hackney was dropped for a two-yard loss on first down, and Bobcat sophomore Colten Jackson intercepted Karo's hurried second-down attempt over the middle, returning it about 24 yards for a touchdown with 0:52 remaining. Senior Trace Lovelace's point-after kick fell short, but the team's momentum would only increase.
"Our coach told us in film that if you put pressure on him, he's more than likely just going to chuck it down the field. And that's when our two interceptions came-the pick-six and that regular interception," Archuleta said, alluding to Lovelace's takeaway with 2:20 left in the second quarter.
Ending the third by dropping Hackney and Karo for a combined minus-4 yards, Ignacio began the final frame in frenzied fashion. Pursued backwards and towards the Bears' sideline, Karo couldn't escape IHS senior lineman Natoni Cundiff.
While being spun down, Karo tried a desperation pass to avoid the sack. But instead of going forward for an incompletion, the ball went in reverse and landed near Bobcat sophomore Cesar Pedregon. Alertly recognizing a botched backwards lateral, Pedregon scooped up the fumble and hot-footed it six yards for another TD.
Lovelace's PAT was good, and with 11:41 left in the game the guests' lead was 27-14.
A Sanchez pass breakup ended Dolores' ensuing series on its fifth snap, and though the 'Cats gained only three yards to the DHS 44, Lovelace's fourth-down punt pinned the Bears back at their 14. Hackney then gained zero yards on first down, Forrest Pejsa lost six on second, and Pedregon then flattened Karo in the end zone for a safety with 6:33 still remaining.
"It felt great, just to know that we didn't have to keep going down the field on offense-that our defense could score points for us," said Jacket.
Set up at Dolores' 43 following the free kick, IHS again struck with Jacket hitting Chapman in stride for a 20-yard TD, completing a five-play push which consumed 2:51 of clock and left DHS only 3:32 in which to mount any sort of counteroffensive.
But the Bobcats forced one last three-and-out, and after Bryce Baumgarten booted an unreturned 35-yard punt to midfield, Jacket-who'd began the night's scoring with a 30-yard heave to Lawrence Valdez with 7:19 left in the first quarter-knelt twice in victory formation to sew up a 35-14 triumph.
"It feels good just to be playing again, to take snaps and lead the team," Jacket said, having also hit Jackson for a 26-yard score with 2:30 left before halftime. That gave him three TDs against one pick (by Dolores' Talon Zwicker, stopping the game's initial possession) as part of an 8-of-18, 135-yard effort.
Lovelace, who'd been Ignacio's regular quarterback, hit three of five PATs and also gained a team-high 65 yards on five carries. Valdez finished with five catches for 73 yards, and senior Jaden Maez grabbed one for 16.
Defensively, Sanchez recorded three forced fumbles with Archuleta recovering two and Lovelace one, giving IHS an impressive six total takeaways en route to improving to 2-4 overall, 1-1 in the SPC.
"Our plan was: Four quarters," stated Sanchez. "It was defense, it was offense...four quarters."
"They said they were going to take the 'W,' so we had to play with all our heart to come out here and show them," Jacket said. "I think it went great."
"Like, just knowing that they're our rival and we were able to beat them, it gives us that much more confidence to go into the next game and keep our heads held high," declared Archuleta.
Karo managed to finish with 67 yards on 5-of-10 passing in defeat, while Zwicker logged a team-high 40 rushing yards on six totes-including a 29-yard touchdown with 7:55 left in the first half. Hackney (16 att., 19 yds.) then carried in the two-pointer, giving Dolores a brief 8-7 advantage.
The Bears (3-3, 1-1) will next host 1A Monument Valley, Utah (1-5) at 7 p.m. on Friday, Oct. 13.
Meanwhile, the Bobcats will travel to La Jara on the 13th to face unbeaten Centauri (6-0, 1-0). Already asserting themselves in SoPeaks play via a 27-2 throttling of nemesis Monte Vista (3-3, 1-1), the Falcons rose one spot to #3 in the 10/9 CHSAANow.com Class 1A poll.