Tigers slip by St. Pius X in critical district matchup

By Matthew Narvaiz
Posted 10/23/19

After trailing St. Pius X for the entire game, the Taos Tigers football team was able to put something magical together with just seconds left in the game at Anaya Field on Friday night (Oct. 18).

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Tigers slip by St. Pius X in critical district matchup


After trailing St. Pius X for the entire game, the Taos Tigers football team was able to put something magical together with just seconds left in the game at Anaya Field on Friday night (Oct. 18).

That magic came in the form of Taos quarterback Noah Armijo scoring the final touchdown of the game with under 20 seconds to play.

Armijo received the perfect play call from head coach Art Abreu Jr. in the final seconds. It was a fake handoff to his running back Armando Valerio wide to the right, before Armijo rolled out toward the opposite side of the field and, eventually, into the end zone.

After a made field goal from Angel Limas after the touchdown, Taos secured a 21-19 lead -- and one the team wouldn't relinquish either.

In the final attempt for St. Pius X to score, Sartans' quarterback Derek Rivera instead threw a deep ball into the hands of Taos defender Alejandro Gonzales for an interception, ultimately sealing the Tigers' comeback victory.

Both the New Mexico Activities Association and MaxPreps have been able to track individual games in the state of New Mexico for the past 15 years. This was the first time Taos has defeated St. Pius X, according to those records.

It was Taos' second win in the last two weeks, after they blew out Española Valley on the road a week prior to this game. Taos now sits at 4-4 overall and 2-1 in 4A District 2/5 play.

Taos head coach Art Abreu Jr. was fired up after his team's win, jumping around the field with his fists raised, high-fiving players and members of the coaching staff and taking in the win with gratitude and appreciation for the hard effort - especially in the second half - from his players. It was a much different scene than a couple of weeks ago, when Taos was handled by Grants at home in a lopsided loss.

"The only team better than us is ourselves," Abreu told the Taos News after the game. "This is our potential - we've had it the whole time. It's taken longer than usual to come out, but better late than never."

During the first quarter, Taos wasn't able to do much offensively. On the first play of the game on offense for the Tigers - a pass from Armijo to Limas for 11 yards and a first down - it seemed like they could put something successful together in the long run. But then there were bad moments, like when Armijo threw a ball directly into the hands of a St. Pius defensive back (it was called back and Taos got the ball again), or when the Tigers looked stale when it came to their rushing attack.

Other plays foreshadowed the reason why the Tigers would eventually take home the win against a good Sartans' team. Plays like an Armijo pass to Limas for about 30 yards that got them inside enemy territory, and others like Valerio's 3-yard rushing touchdown on fourth-and-goal, which had slimmed the Sartans' lead to just five points.

On the other side of it, though, St. Pius came out firing on offense in the first quarter. The Sartans came in with the mentality that they could run the ball behind their bruising running back Trebor Toledo - and they did. In their first drive, the Sartans kept handing the ball off to Toledo who, after a few successful runs including one for about 15 yards, found the end zone eventually when he scored from 2 yards out.

St. Pius' second touchdown of the game came on a 53-yard punt return touchdown from Ryan McCormick, who had juked a few Taos players before he scored.

The second quarter, for the most part, was stagnant for both teams' offenses. St. Pius was able to move the ball, but when near the end zone had failed to score on the 4th down, which had given the ball back to Taos. Taos, meanwhile, had trouble blocking the quarterback when, on one drive, Armijo was sacked in the backfield on a quickly disrupted play by the Sartans' defense to make it third-and-20.

But the Sartans eventually got the ball rolling a little bit on offense as halftime approached. After a nice pass from Rivera to tight end Brody Cast for about 40 yards that put St. Pius on the Taos 1-yard line, Toledo barreled into the end zone on a 2-yard rush. St. Pius then entered the half with a 19-7 lead over Taos.

But the Tigers didn't give up. In the third and fourth quarters, they were able to hold St. Pius scoreless and, in the meantime, score two more times - one of which was the game-winning touchdown.

However, that was all due in large part to the Taos defense. On St. Pius' first drive of the second half, Max Meadowcroft, a Taos defensive end, was able to sack Rivera on fourth-and-long to turn the ball over on downs and, in return, give his team the ball back.

Later on in the quarter, St. Pius fumbled a punt return, which Taos recovered. That led to an eventual touchdown for the Tigers, a 38-yard completion from Armijo to Limas. Taos would then trail by just five points again, 19-14.

In another sequence of being in the right place at the right time, Santiago Salazar intercepted a pass from Rivera to give Taos the ball back toward the end of the quarter.

When asked if the turnover battle was a game-changer for his team, Abreu said that it played a big part in the win on Friday night.

"The turnover battle is key in any football game," Abreu said. "If you win the turnover battle, you [win the game]."

And that they did. The Tigers will now look ahead to a game against Pojoaque Valley on the road on Friday (Oct. 25).


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