Prior to the 2018 season, Lucas Roderick was given a bum steer.
"So.I was washing one of my show steers," he said, recalling his bizarre La Plata County Fair experience back in August, "and something spooked him. He ended up kicking me in the face while I was washing him!"
"Ended up throwing up an hour later," he continued, sporting a so-what grin, "and I wouldn't have diagnosed myself with 'it,' but everybody knew: 'You've got to go in, get yourself checked!'"
The resulting concussion benched Ignacio's "Big Jesus" for not only the last week of preseason practices, but also IHS' first two games, ironically, the Bobcats' only wins prior to Friday, Oct. 19, even after the senior's return bolstered the team's offensive and defensive lines.
"It's a different feeling from getting hit with another helmet, another guy your size," Roderick said of the steer-induced concussion.
With rumors circulating that the Homecoming Week game might actually double as the undermanned, underclassman-heavy squad's season finale, it was now-or-never for Roderick and fellow seniors Dustin Sanchez and Mike Archuleta if they were to get one last win in the red-and-white. Ignacio was slated to play 1A Southern Peaks Conference force Centauri on Oct. 26, but decided to forfeit the game.
"Tell you what, all week this was the talk (about Dolores)," said head coach Alfonso 'Ponch' Garcia. "We were like, 'Let's help the seniors to go out with success' because, you know, they've stuck with us for four years. They've been awesome."
All three were awesome once more on Friday night.
Following blocking led up the middle by Archuleta and around the end by Roderick, Sanchez gained an outstanding 194 yards on just 23 carries, scoring two touchdowns. The second one was a 38-yard burst along the Bears' sideline with just 3:38 left in a 31-0 conquest.
"Diving for the pylon, that was all I had, every last bit," said Sanchez, who was questionable to play after he took a helmet-testing slam the previous week at Monte Vista. "It hurt but, you know, I just had to give it my all - one last shot - and end on a high note. I'm glad we all got this win right here. We've run the same thing all year and Dolores knew what to expect, but we just did it better than they could defend."
"We had to show we're the superior side of this," Roderick stated, "and show them that they're in our hometown."
The Bobcat juniors were up to the task, as well. Cesar Pedregon was a menace defensively, sacking Dolores' Wyatt Koskie twice within the visitors' final four plays. DHS threatened to avoid being shut out with Koskie heaving a 35-yard completion to fellow freshman Landen Thompson, reaching the Ignacio 25.
But one 'Cat deserving of ending the game holding the ball was junior QB Ian Weinreich, who did exactly that with one kneel-down out of 'victory formation,' after Pedregon dropped Koskie for a five-yard loss with 11.3 seconds remaining.
Weinreich finished 6-of-9 passing during the first half (in which he also recovered a blocked punt, and scored a 1-yard TD on the second quarter's first play), 6-of-13 for the game, and gained 113 yards with two aerial scores, including a 50-yard bomb to sophomore Lawrence Toledo with 5:06 left in the first. That throw finished a 10-play, 99-yard drive eating 4:23 of clock.
"I'm not going to lie to you," said Garcia. "He had a 101-degree temperature before game time. So we put ice on him, cooled him down, and...what a game! For being that sick!"
A DHS fumble, covered by Pedregon and freshman Damien Escalera, later put IHS at the Bears' 26 with seven minutes left before halftime, and Weinreich promptly hit freshman Sean Campbell for a 26-yard TD on first down.
Freshman Tyler Barnes' two-point conversion run failed, but with 6:54 still left, there was plenty of time to inflict more damage. The Bears again went three-and-out, Wade Charles again punted, and the 'Cats capitalized with a 9-play, 61-yard march ended by a two-yard Sanchez carry with 1:24 remaining.
Dolores would have one last possession before an extended halftime, but electing to try a fourth-down conversion play rather than again punt, quarterback Wyatt Koskie was thrown for an eight-yard loss by IHS junior Clay Campbell-allowing Weinreich to end the half taking a knee with IHS leading 25-0.
"We just had to keep that pressure; it seemed like if we gave him time he was able to make stuff happen," said Archuleta (who was 1-for-4 in point-after kicks), named Homecoming King during the intermission. "And every time he made something happen, we knew we had to get into the backfield, get into his head a little bit and scramble him up."
All told, Ignacio forced four turnovers-on-downs and recorded four takeaways. The last was an Archuleta fumble recovery, coming one play after Roderick and Pedregon buried Koskie (3-of-14, 51 yards) at the IHS 27 for a five-yard loss, and immediately leading to Sanchez's punctuating six-point gallop.
"What a performance by them!" exclaimed Garcia. "They worked so hard."
And that's no "bull."
Toledo finished with 59 yards on two catches, while Sean Campbell's two grabs gained 35 and Barnes' two gaining 19. Sophomore Aaron Mercier and freshman Levi Fuller combined to unofficially gain nearly 100 yards (most after halftime) out of the Bears' backfield, but Dolores' total was drastically reduced by Koskie finishing with minus-42 on eight totes.
"I think everything played out just as we wanted it to," Archuleta declared.
Ignacio improved to 3-5, 1-2 SPC prior to a difficult, season-ending decision. With only an Oct. 26 visit from Center (4-4, 1-2) left on their schedule, DHS dropped to 2-6, 0-3.