Senior Dustin Sanchez was only partially joking eight days before when he stated, following Ignacio's 21-8 road win at 3A Crownpoint, the following:
"Me, Mike, everyone...we're playing with injuries. That was a long game, and if you didn't have an injury you obviously weren't playing enough."
His words were almost frighteningly reinforced when the Bobcats hit the road again Friday, Sept. 7, to visit Newcomb, N.M., in a battle of 2-and-0 teams more or less unknown to each other.
Five IHS players left the game with injuries, the 'Cats lost the turnover battle 3-1, and the hosting Skyhawks won handily, 42-6.
"We just didn't have it tonight," said IHS sophomore running back/wide receiver Dylan Labarthe, who caught four Ian Weinreich passes for 71 yards, including a 15-yard touchdown with 8:33 remaining to deny Newcomb fans the satisfaction of a shutout.
Newcomb junior Deontay Begay, however, returned the ensuing kickoff 75 yards for the game's final score, coming with 8:16 left, and senior do-it-all Kelkenny Watchman tacked on the point after. Still, even with just a couple substitutes still available, the visitors refused to go quietly into the good San Juan County night.
Positioned at their own 40 with 8:07 still showing on the mercy-rule running clock, Ignacio rammed the football down the Skyhawks' collective beak, plowing 40 yards in eight plays. Labarthe gained 25 yards on four carries during the drive to reach the Newcomb 20 before head coach "Ponch" Garcia decided against gambling player safety with one final play for a possible six points.
Junior Clay Campbell and senior Lucas Roderick, both vital linemen, both departed early on. Campbell strained a knee and Roderick, recently cleared from concussion protocol, was removed as a precaution against a headache masking something worse.
Sophomore running back Joe Garcia was lost with 6:38 left before halftime to a broken fibula on just his second carry, and IHS' misfortunes would rapidly snowball.
Attempting to help the IHS offense answer Newcomb's first touchdown, Weinreich was hammered on a gain of one the play after Garcia's exit, then narrowly avoided throwing an interception deep on the next snap.
Freshman Sean Campbell, given punting duty after Clay Campbell's injury, boomed a promising 54-yard kick which Deondre Begay had to chase down at his own 18. Showing his own all-around ability, Begay sprinted towards the Skyhawks' sideline, then engaged the afterburners for an 82-yard touchdown.
Watchman made the two-point conversion, giving NHS (3-0, 0-0 Dist. 1/5-2A) a 14-0 lead with 5:17 left before halftime. Ignacio's upward climb quickly became even steeper when Begay rushed in another 14-yard touchdown. Deontay Begay then threw a two-pointer to Yazzie, increasing Newcomb's lead to 22-0 with 3:25 still left.
Ignacio (2-1, 0-0 1A Southern Peaks) was then forced to punt after a three-and-out, and Deondre Begay nearly put the game out of reach with a 74-yard runback. But a penalty wiped out most of the gross yardage, and Begay would end the first half dropped for a ten-yard loss back to his own 19-yard line.
In fact, despite the deficit facing them, the Bobcats' defense had actually performed well under the circumstances, holding NHS scoreless in the first quarter and holding Deondre Begay to minus-7 yards rushing on 11 carries. He was 5-of-6 passing for 91 yards, but would throw just once more as Newcomb wisely elected to ride Watchman for much of the third quarter-which began with the 'Hawks recovering Ignacio's onside kick.
With 9:07 left, senior Adrian Yazzie recovered a Weinreich fumble and returned it about 25 yards for a four-score advantage. Begay's conversion pass failed, but the margin had grown to 28-0 and seemed destined to increase further when Deondre Begay fell on a Colten Jackson fumble after a 29-yard reception and 8:00 remaining.
Sanchez and the tiring Bobcat defensive unit had taken just about enough, however, and Sanchez smothered a Deondre Begay fumble at the IHS 33 with 5:59 to go. Four plays later, he broke off a 40-yard run through the line's right side, setting the Bobcats up at the Skyhawk 6 and hoping to inspire a miracle rally.
Catastrophe, instead, lay in store.
Pushed back to the 13 by a holding penalty, Ignacio managed to gain the 3-yard line via a 10-yard Labarthe run on third down. But on fourth-and-goal, Sanchez (7-56 rushing) was brutally stopped for no gain.and failed to get up, along with the aforementioned 'Mike,' senior lineman Mike Archuleta-meaning two of IHS' three captains were simultaneously out of commission, with the latter needing to be carried off on a backboard and eventually transported to a hospital with what was believed to be a neck stinger.
The third 'Cat captain, sophomore running back Lawrence Toledo, didn't escape unscathed either, having taken a sucker punch below the belt, nearly sparking an on-field brawl during a pileup.
Adding proverbial insult to literal injury, Watchman capped the resulting 6-play, 97-yard march crashing in for a two-yard TD with 11:29 remaining in the final quarter, then tacked on the PAT try for a 35-0 lead.
The win improved NHS improved to 3-0 overall.
Weinreich finished 7-of-14 passing for 112 yards, with Jackson grabbing three throws for 41. Labarthe finished with 38 yards rushing on six tries, giving him over 100 yards of total offense.
Up next for Ignacio will be a non-conference visit from Walsenburg John Mall on Friday, Sept. 14. Kickoff against the still-struggling, but already more-competitive Panthers (0-2, 0-0 1A Santa Fe) is set for 7 p.m.
The Bobcats will then have a hard-earned 'bye' week before journeying east to clash with non-conference Colorado Springs Christian at 1 p.m. on Sept. 29.