The Sartans (5-3, 3-0) rolled to a 27-0 shutout at Milne Stadium to seize control of the district race and all but end any chance the Tigers had at taking the top overall seed in the playoffs.
ALBUQUERQUE — Back in the olden days when there was such a thing as an actual game tape and not some newfangled digitized version floating around in cyberspace, Art Abreu Jr.’s legendary coach of a father would have headed back home and taken a flamethrower to Saturday’s footage.
It was that bad.
Taos entered Saturday’s District 2/5-4A tilt with St. Pius X as the undefeated top-ranked team in Class 4A, averaging 48.4 points and enjoying a winning margin of five touchdowns per outing.
This time, not so much. The Sartans (5-3, 3-0) rolled to a 27-0 shutout at Milne Stadium to seize control of the district race and all but end any chance the Tigers had at taking the top overall seed in the playoffs.
“It’s only one game and that’s what I’m going to talk to these guys about, but that team I saw out there — I don’t know what team that was,” said Abreu, Taos’ head coach. “I’ve never seen that team before. I don’t know where it came from but I do know this; I don’t want to see it again.”
And, yes, Abreu said he was going to mothball the game footage just as soon as he dissected it in private Sunday.
“Some things you don’t need to see over and over,” he said. “I don’t need to see the tape to know we weren’t ourselves.”
Taos (7-1, 2-1) wasn’t exactly dominated, but it was far from efficient. The offense generated 192 yards compared to 220 for the Sartans, but a muffed punt led to an 11-yard touchdown drive in the first half and a pick-six helped put the game away in the fourth quarter.
Tigers running back Jonathan Garcia led all rushers with 87 yards, but he had just two carries of 10 or more yards. That was a common theme with the entire team, in fact.
Quarterback Justin Good was just 6-for-22 passing for 68 yards. He was picked off twice and sacked three times in the second half.
St. Pius quarterback Derek Rivera wasn’t much better, going 6-for-24. He did, however, pass for 140 yards and two touchdowns, one a 27-yarder late in the first half that snapped an ugly string of eight consecutive incomplete passes. The other covered 58 yards, a bomb over the top of Taos’ defense early in the third quarter.
Scattered here and there were a few decent plays. Good had a 22-yard run in the second quarter and he had completions of 19 and 20 yards to keep the ball moving, but mistakes seemed to outweigh everything else.
Like the dropped punt, the interceptions, untimely penalties and a fake punt that neither Abreu nor his assistants wanted.
It came late in the second quarter with the Sartans leading 6-0. Held on a three-play possession that went nowhere at midfield, the Tigers dropped back to kick when a change in alignment for St. Pius along the line of scrimmage prompted a Tim Tebow-like jump pass that was intercepted by Garris Rivera a few yards away.
It led to a three-play, 47-yard scoring drive that ended with Derek Rivera’s 27-yard pass to tight end Brody Cast.
“I don’t think we could have played much worse than we did in that first half, but we were still in it, you know?” Abreu said. “We made a few adjustments and, yeah, nothing changed for us after that.”
Rivera’s touchdown pass to a streaking Isaiah Griffin opened a 19-0 lead, then Griffin scored again when he picked off a Good pass and ran untouched inside the red zone for a score in the final four minutes of regulation.
The loss likely ends any hope of Taos winning the district which, by definition, squashes any hope of landing the No. 1 overall seed in the 4A playoffs next month.
The Tigers were the last remaining undefeated team in 4A, leaving just eight teams (Cleveland, La Cueva and Centennial in 6A, Goddard in 5A, Hope Christian in 3A, and Eunice, Newcomb and Fort Sumner/House in 2A) as the only teams without a loss heading into the final two weeks of the regular season.
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