Big strides in Week 2

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Cardinals stun Cats; Dons bounce back

By Dave Kavanaugh

The second week of the season saw major improvements — and a couple of momentous wins, each significant for its own reason — for the Robertson and West Las Vegas football programs.


With both teams in town Friday night, local fans had their choice of gridiron treats.

Robertson 27, Lovington 18

Coach Leroy Gonzalez’s Cardinals scored a huge victory over one of the top-rated programs in Class 3A, getting both a solid defensive effort and a productive ground game in the upset.

Playing in his first game of the season, Dominic Lucero overcame a couple of first-half turnovers to lead the Robertson rushing attack.

Lovington did execute the most electrifying play of the night. Backed to their own 5-yard line, the Cats completed a pass play that resulted in a 95-yard touchdown. That trimmed the RHS lead to 21-18 with 2:55 remaining, but after the Cardinals recovered a subsequent onside kick, it didn’t mean much. Lucero broke off a long run for the final score, putting the game out of reach.

Lovington struck first, as Zach Molinar hooked up with Laden Blythe for a 15-yard TD pass with 2:39 left in the first quarter. The extra point missed, leaving the score 6-0 Wildcats.

A 25-yard grab by Lucero earned a big first down early in the second period, and the Cardinals went on to score the first of two consecutive touchdowns. James Gonzales rumbled in for a 9-yard score at the 9:55 mark to knot the score at 6-6. The second, a 31-yard strike from Nathan L’Esperance to J.R. Gonzalez, was chased by a 2-point conversion lob from L’Esperance to Joe Armijo, giving Robertson a 14-6 lead with 3:25 to go before the break.

The Cats answered a couple minutes later, drawing to within 14-12 by halftime.

Lovington’s Dante Herrera pinned Robertson back at their own 2 with a booming punt, but the Cards avoided disaster.

On the next Wildcat possession, Lucero picked off a Molinar pass. The turnover led to another Cardinal score — a 2-yard Lucero rushing TD — and a 21-12 lead with 8:28 left in the period.

Lucero, who had to shoulder much of the rushing load after Gonzales was sidelined early in the game, punctuated the win with a 15-yard scamper at the 1:33 mark. When Kenny Yara scooped up a fumble on the next Lovington possession, the outcome was sealed.

The Wildcats were favored in this game, particularly in light of their narrow 33-27 loss to Class 4A powerhouse Artesia in the opening week of the season.

West Las Vegas 36, Española Valley 6

The Dons and coach Robert Alarcon worked to wash out the bad taste of defeat from week one, and they made a little history in the process.

It was the Dons’ first win under the lights of the revamped Herrera Complex.

WLV quarterback Jose Juan Montaño bounced back from a difficult season debut to orchestrate an offense that showed great balance, employing both passing and running in shredding the Sundevil defense.

One of Montaño’s key partners in the air attack was Jorge Gallardo, who caught a first-down throw to extend a drive bookended by rushes from Jake Ulibarri and Nathan Vigil. The latter, in which Vigil was freed by a big Andy Gabaldon block, set the Dons up at the goalline. Shortly thereafter, Montaño punched in for the team’s first offensive points of the fall. With 7:36 on the clock in the first, West led 6-0.

Española QB Marcos Flores drove his team to the tying score, a short run by Nick Borrego, and it was 6-6 with 5:05 left in the quarter.

Later, in the second period, Lucas Bustos intercepted a Montaño pass, busting up a promising series. But the Dons defense held, and Andres Lujan broke up a play on fourth down to return possession to the home team.

Ulibarri dashed in from 5 yards out to regain the lead for West Las Vegas in the third. A 2-point conversion made it 14-6 WLV.

Montaño’s long pass to Gallardo set up a 1-yard QB keeper touchdown, and Montaño hit Anthony Medina for a 2-pointer to make it 22-6 with 3:05 left in the third.

Neither side could hang on to the ball over the next few series. Nate Vigil recovered an Española fumble. Then Tristan Martinez picked off Montaño. Then West intercepted the ball right back as the quarter came to a close, penalty flags flying.

The Sundevils regained the ball early in the fourth, only to have Zachary Lujan and Andres Lujan make tackles on third and fourth downs, ending the drive.

Later, a Gallardo scamper to the Española 7 set up a Valdez 5-yard run to paydirt, and it was 30-6 with 2:23 left.

John Lopez-Montoya recovered a Sundevil fumble with 1:43 on the clock. Instead of trying to run out the clock, West punched forward for another score — a Montaño-to-Gallardo strike for the final margin.