In a class 4A tilt that saw four lead changes in the second half – with three of them occurring in the final five minutes of the ballgame – the Taos Tigers managed to avoid an upset and beat the Hope Christian Huskies 30-28 at Anaya Stadium Nov. 10.
Hosting a first round playoff game for the first time in his three year tenure, Coach Art Abreu liked his chances to pick up his first post season win as well. After all, the seventh seeded Tigers had all the advantages over the number ten Huskies. Taos was playing at home, it was very cold, Taos already beat Hope once (at Wilson Stadium in Albuquerque Sept. 2), and key players who sustained injuries earlier in the season were back in their starting roles. Plus, the overall records of the two opponents seemed to suggest – on paper – there would not be much parity. Taos entered the playoffs with a 7-3 overall record, and Hope snuck into the tournament with a 4-6 overall record.
The majority of the first quarter was a stalemate, as both defensive squads kept each other's offenses from acquiring big gains on the ground. With 3:33 left in the first quarter, Taos garnered the first points of the game off a 20-yard field goal kick by Angel Limas to give Taos a 3-0 lead. A Taos touchdown in the second quarter would complete the scoring for the entire half, and the Tigers would go into the halftime locker room with a 10-0 lead.
On the flip side of the break, the Hope offense came alive and quickly put up 21 points on the board. Three drives, produced three touchdowns for the Huskies, as Taos went scoreless in the third period.
In close games and/or losses this season, the Tigers have struggled mightily during that fickle period after the intermission – scoring a total of 7 combined points against Hope (both games), Robertson, St. Michael's and West Las Vegas in the third quarter. In contrast, Taos has allowed those same teams to score 62 points in the third quarter alone.
In the fourth period, however, Taos found its running game and scored a rushing touchdown with 10:21 left in the game. A botched two-point conversion kept the score at 21-16. At the 7:11 mark, Taos' Isaiah Martinez recovered a fumble to give the ball back to the Tigers. A few plays later, Taos would capitalize on the muff as Tiger tailback Jonathan Garcia scampered into the end zone on a 35-yard run to climb back on top. A successful two-point conversion made it 24-21 with 4:20 left in the game.
Hope would answer – no less than a minute later – with a three-yard pass into the end zone to take back the lead, 28-24.
On the ensuing drive, Taos would march 55-yards to retake the lead. Facing fourth-down-and-eight, with 39-seconds left in the ball game, Taos quarterback Jude Suazo connected with receiver Anthony Maestas in the end zone to give Taos a two point advantage, and the win.
Taos now sits at 8-4 overall, and will travel to Portales to take on the second-ranked Rams Nov. 17. Game time is 7 p.m.