Tigers fall to Silver in state playoffs

By Matthew Narvaiz
Posted 11/14/19

The defending Class 4A state champion Taos Tigers fought all the way until the end.

Down 26-17, Taos quarterback Noah Armijo found his receiver Favian Cordova for a 45-yard touchdown pass with just 18 seconds left, to bring his team within three points.

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Tigers fall to Silver in state playoffs


The defending Class 4A state champion Taos Tigers fought all the way until the end.

Down 26-17, Taos quarterback Noah Armijo found his receiver Favian Cordova for a 45-yard touchdown pass with just 18 seconds left, to bring his team within three points.

But an attempted onside kick was recovered by Silver and it inevitably ended the game - and the Tigers' hopes of making it further into the state playoffs.

The final score, 26-23, in favor of the Colts, was a stark reminder that prep football can be devastating for the players on the losing side - and Taos was no exception.

After the whistle had blown, players on the Taos side dropped their heads in anguish, hugging one another; the loss was hard to take in alone.

Armijo and Santiago Salazar, both seniors, wrapped their arms around each other with tears in their eyes as both had realized that it was their last game in a Tigers uniform.

"I'm just going to miss it," Armijo said when asked what emotions were running through his mind after the game. "My boys, coach Abreu, just everything. My childhood is pretty much gone right now."

Salazar said he was proud of everyone on the team this season, and that he "can't wait to see them next year" as a fan and not a player. He said that this team was like family, as they spent countless hours with each other on and off the field.

"It hurts to know that you're leaving them behind," Salazar said. "But I'll always be here for the boys."

The game

Taos received the ball to start off the game but quickly punted after a couple halted runs and an incomplete pass ended in a three-and-out.

Silver then turned that misfortune into three points as they drove the ball up the field with a strong option attack - which included a 28-yard run from Micheal Aguirre - and knocked down a 35-yard field goal courtesy of Daniel Martinez.

Neither team would score the remainder of the frame, but the Fighting Colts were able to get their offense churning early in the second quarter.

On their second drive of the quarter, Aguirre scored on a 43-yard run as he darted past the Taos defense. The ensuing extra point was made and Silver took a 10-0 lead with about seven minutes remaining before halftime.

Silver tried to capitalize on that touchdown and recover an onside kick that it attempted, but the Tigers got to it first and started in good field position at their own 38-yard line. Then, Armijo started to sling the ball and hit his wide receiver Angel Limas two different times - one of which went for 18 yards. Armijo again found one of his receivers, Angel Polanco, for a 20-yard pass that put Taos inside the Silver 20-yard line.

Eventually, the Tigers settled for a 34-yard field goal courtesy of Limas.

Silver got the ball before the half ended, but opted to play it safe and run the ball. The Fighting Colts didn't score on the drive but still held onto a 10-3 lead going into the half.

After the half

Silver received the ball to start the second half and started at its own 27-yard line, but things started off badly. Armijo, playing defensive end for the Tigers, sacked Walker Wenzel, the Silver quarterback.

But right after that, the Fighting Colts completed a couple of passes courtesy of Wenzel and had big runs from Aguirre. Then, Wenzel found his receiver Tony Granado for a touchdown pass a little over three minutes in. After the extra point, Silver made it 17-3.

Taos engineered a comeback and scored 14 unanswered points. The first Tigers touchdown was a QB keeper from Armijo and the second touchdown - the game-tying score - came courtesy of a 33-yard touchdown pass from Armijo to Limas early in the fourth quarter, sending Tiger fans into wild cheers.

But Silver quickly responded on its next drive, getting a 17-yard touchdown run from Aguirre, who was dragging more than one Taos defender into the end zone in the process. The Fighting Colts missed the extra point attempt and took a 23-17 lead with a little under six minutes remaining.

On their own 40-yard line and on fourth down, Taos had the chance to make something happen on offense but failed to do so. They turned the ball over on downs and gave it back to Silver, who turned the turnover into a field goal to take a 26-17 lead.

Taos scored another touchdown with under a minute remaining but failed to recover an attempted onside, giving the ball back to Silver, who opted to take a knee - and the victory.

Until the end

Silver head coach Raul Diaz admitted that Taos was a tough opponent and said that they could have "easily" taken home the victory if they got things going.

"Their kids played hard," Diaz said. "They fought all the way until the end."

Taos head coach Art Abreu Jr. wasn't happy with the final score, saying that fundamentals, in the end, hurt them in the loss. But he said he was proud that the seniors gave it their all.

And, he was still proud of all that his team accomplished this season with all the doubt cast their way early on.

"To go 6-4 when a lot of other people thought we were only going to win three games this season, I'm proud of this group," Abreu said. "Right now I'm not going to lick any wounds and sing a sad song - let's put this to bed and get on with next year. That's all I can do - is keep working."


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