They never gave up.
Rallying improbably from an 18-point deficit, the New Mexico Highlands Cowboys broke through for their first win of the season Saturday, a 39-35 triumph over Fort Lewis College.
The win snaps a 10-game losing streak that dates to the last game of 2008.
Highlands trailed most of the afternoon — at one point by a 28-10 margin. But capping a furious rally and, ultimately, a six-play, 45-yard drive, Narciso Diaz found Travis Lee in the end zone for a 17-yard go-ahead touchdown with 28 seconds left. Luis Marin’s point-after kick made it 39-35.
Diaz, whose statistical struggles have mirrored his team’s, finished 27 of 46 for 359 yards, one touchdown and no interceptions. Lee — one of seven Cowboys with at least one reception — had seven catches for 113 yards.
Fort Lewis’ Tim Jenkins also was prolific, going 30 of 46 for 296 yards, three TDs and two interceptions.
NMHU opened with a drive that ended in a 24-yard Marin field goal.
The Skyhawks retaliated in a big way. Jenkins hit Sam Apraku for a 7-yard TD, taking the lead a couple minutes later. Jenkins ran for a pair of goal-line touchdowns in the second quarter to stake FLC to a 21-3 lead.
Highlands’ Robert Grant, who’d lead the team with 47 rushing yards, scored with 1:22 to go before halftime.
Fort Lewis again made the margin 18 points on a 2-yard TD pass from Jenkins to Apraku with 7:22 left in the third.
The Cowboys came up with some stops after that, enabling the offense to score 15 straight points. Brandon Torres’ 4-yard TD run was followed by Daniel Valdez’s 2-point conversion run — the first collegiate points for the former Robertson High receiver. And then Grant scored from the Skyhawk 17 to open the fourth quarter; Marin’s extra point made it 28-25.
Jenkins passed to Phillip Dodd for a 20-yard strike with 11:58 remaining, and FLC led 35-25.
After forcing Highlands to punt, the Skyhawks drove down to the NMHU 24. Faced with a fourth-and-13, they opted to go for it, but Jenkins’ pass to Brandon Schneid only gained 7 yards. With 4:03 left, the Cowboys took over. Diaz marched them 82 yards, and Torres punched in for a 1-yard TD at the 3:37 mark.
The Cowboy defense held FLC to one first down the next series and forced a punt. That gave Diaz and company 2:20 to drive for the go-ahead score.
NMHU (1-9, 1-7 RMAC) wraps the season Saturday at Colorado School of Mines in Golden, Colo.