Expectations were high. A new helmet reveal was planned to coincide with the season and home opener. And given the current four-game win streak …
Expectations were high. A new helmet reveal was planned to coincide with the season and home opener. And given the current four-game win streak against the Taos Tigers, the atmosphere was akin to a homecoming game, complete with balloons.
The St. Michael's Horsemen, now a Class 3A team, was considered by many to be a top team in the division. Plus, they had something to prove in 2018 after exiting the playoffs prematurely (via major upset) in last year's playoffs. They were labeled "hungry." The arrival of a honed Taos team though, spoiled the picnic. A 59-18 rout by the Tigers abruptly sent the Horsemen to the bottom of their divisional standings.
For all the pomp and circumstance that comes with the start of a new sports year, the first game of the 2018 season was full of hiccups for St. Mike's.
First, the debut of those shiny new helmets didn't seem to have the desired effect the team was seeking. The two-color gradient "blend" of a blue top and white bottom shell broke with the longstanding traditional look that has embodied this football juggernaut for decades.
Some helmets had more white than others and the inconsistent spray lines looked amateurish and sloppy. Gone was the psychological edge and intimidation component that usually tilts towards St. Michael's.
Second, the unrehearsed burst out of the team tunnel and through the team banner, looked. . . .unrehearsed. A few players tripped and fell on the natural turf, causing other players to tiptoe around their fallen comrades or veer laterally. Again, the psychological edge the team was seeking was replaced with grass clumps in their new face masks and friendly-fire skid marks on their new helmets.
Last, the real thunder showed up and made everybody wait.
The New Mexico Activities Association policies regarding lightning, bylaws 7.9.6 and 7.10.6 state: "If the local management (host team) does not have commercial weather warning equipment or an efficient method of making an accurate, timely decision on location, listening for thunder and using the "flash-to-bang" count is the best way to mitigate the danger."
As the kickoff time was drawing near, an isolated storm gathered due south of Santa Fe and was producing lightning, thunder rumbles and rain.
And though the storm appeared to be traveling away from the stadium, the assigned contest officials and school personnel agreed to suspend the start of the game due to unsafe weather conditions. The criteria for suspending play reads: "When thunder is heard within 50 seconds of a visible lightning strike, or a cloud-to-ground bolt is seen, lightning is close enough (inside of 10 miles) to strike and players and fans need to seek shelter immediately.
"Once play has been suspended, a 30-minute waiting period must take place after the last thunder is heard or flash of lightning is witnessed prior to resuming play. Any subsequent thunder or lightning after the beginning of the 30-minute count, the clock should be reset and another 30-minute count should begin."
The game was originally scheduled to begin at 1:30 p.m. Kickoff didn't occur until more than an hour later while each successive thunderclap restarted a new 30-minute delay.
For the second consecutive year, running back Jonathan Garcia was responsible for scoring the first points of the season for the Tigers. On this occasion, Garcia easily punched his way into the end zone from three yards out on the Tigers' first drive, setting the tone for the remainder of the game.
By the end of the first half, Taos had built a 38-6 lead. At the end of the third period, the score was 45-18. Two more touchdowns in the fourth quarter for the Tigers versus zero points for the Horsemen led to the 59-18 final, snapping the four-game skid and earning the first win of Art Abreu's career against St. Mike's.
And with the big output, Taos scored more points in this one game than in the previous four games combined (58 points). With such a large surplus of points, Taos also significantly narrowed the point difference between the two teams - 159 for the Horsemen, 117 for the Tigers.
In his debut as starting quarterback, Justin Good played well for the Tigers. Good completed nine passes on 13 attempts for a total of 176-yards. His first touchdown pass as a starter was a 38-yard toss to Angel Limas at the 5:09 mark in the first quarter.
As a team, Taos scored on nine occasions on offense. On defense, the Tigers held their ground and allowed just 1.8-yards per carry. Good was also credited with three interceptions while patrolling on defense.
The new class 4A includes 17 teams compared to the 21 that made up last year's list. Since the playoff format remains the same and 12 teams make up the bracket for the post season, all but three teams will get in (80 percent of this division qualify). This is because two teams, Albuquerque Academy and Shiprock, have elected to participate as independent or "freelance" teams with no affiliation to a district in 2018. As such, they cannot advance to play in the state championship.
Taos is one of eight former Class 4A teams from last year's divisional list. There are nine class 5A teams that have dropped down one level and are now included in this year's batch.
Among Class 4A teams who played their season openers last weekend, the Tigers scored the most points (59). Among all of the 110 schools in the state who played, Taos was tied for fifth with Carrizozo (Class 6-man) for points garnered in a single game. Vaughn (Class 6-man) scored 61 points in their season opener to take the fourth spot behind Hondo Valley (Class 6-man) and Cloudcroft (Class 2A) who each had 62. The top point-getter in the state was Class 5A, Capital (Santa Fe), who scored 67 points in their home opener against Pojoaque Valley.
Coincidentally, one of the few other teams who scored 55 or more points was the Los Alamos Hilltoppers, who racked up 56 against Española Aug. 24. Taos will meet Los Alamos Friday (Aug. 31) at Anaya Stadium for Taos' home opener and the second game of the season for both squads. Game time is 7 p.m. Gates open at 5 p.m.