School football

Tigers dominate in semifinal—on to state

By Sheila Miller
Posted 11/29/18

When asked what they would do differently to prepare for the championship, assistant coach Art Abreu Sr. said they’d hold the course. “What we’re doing is working.”

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School football

Tigers dominate in semifinal—on to state


The Taos Tigers ran over the Rams 35-14 in Portales at Eastern New Mexico University’s Greyhound Stadium Saturday (Nov. 24).

On the same day, Bloomfield tossed the top-seed St. Pius X Sartans from their playoff path, setting up a Bobcats versus Tigers showdown in Taos for the 4A state championship Saturday (Dec. 1).

In Portales, wind grounded the ball for most of the game. The gusts disproportionately impacted the Rams who couldn’t use their passing game to much advantage. Meanwhile, the Tigers did the gridiron two-step straight up the middle.

The Portales defense had their work cut out for them from the start. Taos received the kickoff and snapped the first play, a 67-yard touchdown run by Jonathan Garcia, from their own 33-yard line. After the extra point it was 7-0 Taos within seconds.

Portales refused to bow down. The Rams tied it up with a 15-play drive that included first-down conversions of fourth and 2 and third and 16  and ended with a touchdown and 6:43 remaining in the first quarter.

The wind kept stealing the ball from the tee, so the Rams had to hold it to kick it back to Taos.

During the Tigers’ 11-play drive, they alternated between first and second down mostly with carries by Garcia who averaged over 5 yards and Anthony Maestas<\zf”-webkit-standard”> broke loose for a big 24-yard romp that put the Tigers squarely in the red zone on the Rams’ 12-yard line. On third and 9, quarterback Justin Good sneaked around the left side for an 11-yard touchdown. The kick by Angel Limas was good, putting another 7 on the board for Taos, making it a 14-7 game with 1:41 left in the first quarter.

The Taos defense shut down the next Portales drive in three plays to close out the first quarter 14-7.

A Portales-friendly roll from the punt had the Tigers facing 97 yards of field between themselves and the end zone. They didn’t quite make it, but they did chew up much of the second quarter making steady progress up the middle. They went for the first down on fourth and 2 from the Rams’ 27 and fumbled. Though Taos recovered the ball on the 29-yard line, they turned it over to Portales on downs. 

The Rams were unable to capitalize on the possession. The home stands were finally beginning to fill, but the support was short-lived. Portales fans began leaving in the third quarter.

While Good and Garcia carried the ball from the Taos 45 to the end zone in seven plays, a Portales photographer on the sideline remarked, “Y’alls’ offense isn’t any fun to photograph.” Perhaps not, but they extended the Tiger lead to 14 points, leaving a minute and five seconds to go in the half.

Before halftime, however, the Rams showed how dangerous their offense can be. A short kick hampered by the wind put the Rams on the Taos 37-yard line.

On the first snap, Ram quarterback Julian Urioste was forced to keep it. He was brought down by Simon Torrez, but not before managing the first down. A quick pass to Kellen Hightower followed by another to Matt King, who was standing in the end zone, cut Taos’ lead 21-14 when the teams entered their locker rooms.

Back on the field after halftime, it was Portales’ turn to receive the ball. The Rams took it all the way to the Taos 1-yard line on their opening drive, where they fumbled and Taos recovered.

But the Tigers couldn’t capitalize and punted after three downs. The first punt made it to the Ram 46, but was called back due to an illegal procedure call against the Tigers. The punt from the Tigers’ own two-and-a-half-yard line meant the Rams got the ball at the Tiger 36 with 7:23 left in the third quarter.

The Taos defense, including Good, Garcia, Leblanc and Lopez, put a stop to the drive at the Taos 19, where the Rams were forced to return possession to the Tigers.

In spite of a false start and being forced to surrender a 24-yard Garcia run for a penalty, the Tigers kept their heads together. From second and 21 on their own 8.5-yard line, Good connected with Limas for a 40-yard gain and the first down. An inside handoff to Adam Vigil got the Tigers into Ram territory, and three consecutive Garcia first downs brought them to the 13.

The fourth quarter opened with Taos third and 5 on the Rams’ 8-yard line. A touchdown pass to a wide open Leblanc plus the extra point made it 28-14 Tigers.

Under lots of pressure from the Taos defense, Portales was forced to punt again, and Taos controlled the field and the clock for most of the remainder of the fourth quarter. In 17 plays, they took the ball from their own 48 for another Garcia touchdown with 2:11 left in the game.

Taos had to surmount 52 yards and another 40 yards in penalties to get there, including having a Good touchdown called back to the Ram 42-yard line for third and 12. Eight plays later it was 35-14 Taos.

Still unwilling to give up, Portales tried to rally but managed only one first down before giving the ball back to Taos with about a minute on the clock. The Tigers kneeled the rest of the way to a final score of 35-14 and the opportunity to host the 2018 Class 4A state championship.

After the game, players and coaches from both sides circled together, Rams and Tigers holding one another’s hands. “We may have been enemies for 48 minutes,” said Tigers’ Head Coach Art Abreu Jr., “but at the end of the day, we’re brothers.”

The 11-1 Taos Tigers will host the 9-4 Bloomfield Bobcats at Anaya Field in Taos, 1 p.m. Saturday (Dec. 1). 

When asked what they would do differently to prepare for the championship, assistant coach Art Abreu Sr. said they’d hold the course. “What we’re doing is working.”


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