By Matthew Narvaiz
The Taos Tigers football team was able to get a touchdown with no time remaining, thanks in part to a 43-yard dart from senior quarterback Noah Armijo to Angel Limas.
But that didn’t matter much, as the Tigers had a tough time defending Isaiah Johnson, the Grants senior running back, who ran all over the Tigers on Friday evening and who helped his team secure a 49-19 victory at Anaya Field.
Johnson started off slow in the first possession of the game, but as time went on, he found his groove. He ended the game with five rushing touchdowns and more than 250 yards on the ground.
“I was in cover 0 all night because of how good (Johnson) is,” Taos head coach Art Abreu Jr. said. “You got to see how good he really is. He’s an NCAA type of athlete.
“And I can live with that. And I can get better from that. Grants made me a better football coach tonight, made my program a better football program tonight.”
Taos (2-4, 0-1) received the ball to start the game and got in good field position right off the bat, getting its start at the 42-yard line. The rushing game was effective from the start, with Matthew Suazo, the Tigers’ running back, gaining 11 yards on a rush down the middle for the first offensive play of the game.
The Tigers’ ability to run in the first couple of plays of the game eventually opened up the passing game for them as well, with Armijo’s first pass going for 20 yards to Alejandro Gonzales.
That steady stream of passing and rushing inevitably placed the Tigers’ in prime scoring territory, too. An Armijo pass to Angel Polanco set the Tigers up inside the Grants’ 10-yard line. Then after a run from Suazo, Armijo was able to retain the football for a quarterback keeper from the 2-yard line to start the scoring in the game. The subsequent PAT was made and Taos took an early 7-0 lead just under three minutes into the contest.
Taos was able to halt the Pirates’ running game on their first possession, but a series of penalties kept the Grants offense on the field. Brandon Furbee, the Grants quarterback, was then able to take advantage of the situation and found his niche in the passing game. He first found Bryan Hernandez for a short gain. Then, Furbee found Hernandez once more for a 38-yard touchdown pass. However, Grants missed its extra point giving Taos the one-point advantage early on.
Taos started to find its running and passing games ineffective after the first possession in which it scored a touchdown, while the Pirates (5-1, 1-0) trended opposite of that, using a heavy running attack behind Johnson. After the Tigers missed a fourth-down field goal attempt, Grants took back control of the football and, on second down, Johnson broke free for 79 yards to the end zone with less than two minutes in the first quarter.
The second quarter proved to be formidable for both opponents, as neither team could rally into the endzone more than once in the frame. Taos had the ball to start the quarter and was slowly—but surely—moving the ball down the field.
Still early in the quarter and on third down, Armijo slung a pass to Alejandro Gonzales for 14 yards to put the Tigers on their own 49-yard line. Armijo completed another nice pass to Limas to set the Tigers up on The Grants 34-yard line. A little later in the possession, a pass interference penalty was called on Grants as four defenders swarmed around Limas to move the chains to the Grants 20-yard line. Then, a few big runs from Suazo set the Tigers up on the Grants 1-yard line. That gave Armijo another perfect opportunity for a quarterback sneak, which he did with ease behind some good blocking from the Tigers’ front end, to give Taos its second touchdown of the game. The ensuing extra point was blocked, which kept the game tied at 13 points apiece
Johnson, however, was a man on a mission. He scored the final touchdown of the second quarter on a 32-yard run. Grants made its extra point and entered the half leading Taos 20-13.
Taos didn’t come out of halftime with a sense of urgency, though. Defensive miscues were apparent and the Pirates, Furbee and Johnson capitalized on that. On second-and-ten and only over a minute in, Johnson found a hole in the Tigers’ defense and zoomed to the endzone again for a 78-yard touchdown.
Johnson found the endzone once more in the third quarter on a 42-yard run and, later in the frame, Furbee found his wide receiver Adrian Ortega for a 46-yard passing touchdown.
The Pirates outscored the Tigers 21-0 in the third and took a commanding 41-13 lead heading into the fourth quarter.
Most of the fourth quarter was a doozy, as the Pirates ran the ball to keep the clock ticking while they maintained their lead and while the Tigers still failed to produce much offensively.
With under four minutes to play, Johnson scored his fifth and final touchdown—a 42-yard rush. The extra point was a keeper by the placeholder for the kicker and it put Grants up 49-13.
The Tigers put points on the board with no time left on the clock—a pass from Armijo to Limas—but that, of course, didn’t do much.
Grants ended up with a 49-19 win over the defending 4A state champion Tigers.
Abreu did have a note of confidence for his team, however. “I do appreciate the fact that my youth is trying to step up the best way they can. They’re fighting – they keep on fighting.”
He continued with a bit of wisdom for his players.
“It’s adversity. It’s life,” he said of the Tigers’ loss. “It’s going to knock you down. Get your (butt) back up and dust yourself off.”