Dons win first game of season

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By Dave Kavanaugh

Three Nathan Vigil touchdowns.
Three safeties.
And one happy West Las Vegas football team.
That was what the final tally read on Saturday afternoon at Santa Fe Indian School, as the visiting Dons celebrated their first win of the season — and their first under first-year head coach Robert Alarcon.
West’s 38-6 victory gives the team a 1-6 record as it reaches its bye week and a chance to heal some injuries and gear up for the heart of the District 2-3A schedule.
On Saturday, the Dons struck early, taking advantage of an SFIS miscue on special teams, then relied on an effective rushing assault to control the rest of the contest.
West overpowered the struggling Braves in every phase of the game. After the WLV defense held its host to a three-and-out on the opening series, the Braves sought to punt from the shadow of their own goalpost. But the snap sailed high and backward to the end zone, and West had itself a safety and a 2-0 edge.
It took just a couple plays to make it 8-0. On the ensuing possession, West’s Nathan Vigil rambled in for a touchdown — his first of three on the afternoon.
The Dons’ next drive resulted in a turnover on downs at the SFIS 3, but because the Braves couldn’t move the sticks, they had to punt again. In a case of “Groundhog Day” style deja vu, the snapped football wound up in the end zone again for another safety.
Lucas Rodriguez, playing at fullback, led a rush to the Braves 6, and Vigil completed the drive with a 4-yard touchdown run with 6:05 to go before halftime. Jose Juan Montaño’s 2-point conversion pass was good, and West led 18-0.
A long run by SFIS quarterback Eisley Willeto, chased by another strong rush by Christian Velarde situated the Braves inside the West 5 on the next series. The home team found paydirt with 4:06 left in the period, cutting the gap to 18-6.
But West answered right back. Beginning with Jake Ulibarri’s kickoff return, continuing with a Rodriguez run to pick up first down on fourth-and-short, and then a Montaño lob to Mike Ortiz, the Dons set up another Vigil score. This time it was a zigzag run from the SFIS 7 to make it 24-6 with 1:39 on the clock.
Ulibarri returned the opening kickoff of the second half 71 yards for a touchdown for a 30-6 lead.
The Braves marched onto West’s half of the field only to have Frankie Palacio make a big tackle for loss. Then they fumbled the ball away.
On Santa Fe Indian’s next possession, the Dons blocked a punt and earned their third safety of the day.
In all, WLV special teams accounted for a dozen points, doubling Santa Fe Indian’s total scoring output.
Another lengthy Ulibarri kickoff return followed the third safety, leading to a Montaño touchdown pass to Jesse Salazar-Navarrette. That left the score 38-6 with 2:02 left in the third quarter.
Vigil also was a key performer on defense, joining Brandon Gallegos, Andres Lujan, Frankie Palacio and Stephen Urioste among the main playmakers on that side of the ball.
Urioste was credited with a touchdown-saving tackle late in the fourth quarter, and the Dons went on to recover a Braves fumble on fourth-and-goal.