It was still early in the third quarter Friday night at Cardinal Stadium, and his team was locked in a tight struggle with the visiting Santa Rosa Lions — winners of three straight Class 2A state football championships.
Robertson running back James Gonzales, taking a breather on the sideline, resting on one knee, marveled at the action in front of him.
“This is the funnest game I’ve ever played in my life,” he said, matter-of-factly.
Unfortunately for Gonzales and the host Cardinals (1-2), the game would become less fun as the night got later. Santa Rosa’s predictably unpredictable offense wore down the Redbirds for two unanswered second-half touchdowns, taking a 12-8 score to a 24-8 final margin.
But the game was fun to watch — and as Gonzales attested, fun to play — nonetheless. The freak rainstorm that submerged much of the Las Vegas area left the RHS field a muddy mess by kick-off time, with pools of water collecting along the sidelines and various spots on the field. Within the first five minutes, player uniforms were soaked, many of the jersey numbers rendered almost illegible with accumulated mud and water.
Every run sent up a spray of drops. Even the referees found it difficult to maintain their footing on the slick grass.
The conditions likely played a role in multiple turnovers by both squads in a well-played game.
Robertson benefitted from the first turnover, a fumble in the opening quarter, but the Cardinals turned the ball over on downs at the Santa Rosa 11.
Stingy defense was the rule for the first period until the Lions’ Isaac Velasquez swept around the left side for a 55-yard touchdown in the final play of the quarter. The extra point attempt was blocked, leaving the score 6-0 Lions.
Robertson answered soon enough. Nathan L’Esperance hooked up with Dominic Lucero on a 47-yard pass that set up a 17-yard scoring strike to Joe Armijo. Gonzales punched in for a 2-point conversion that gave RHS an 8-6 lead with 10:32 left in the second.
The Cardinal defense, the team’s most consistent strength throughout coach Leroy Gonzalez’s tenure, was solid all night.
But single-wing or double-wing, the Lions offense began to wear down the hosts, moving the chains and keeping the Cardinals on their heels amid the mud and muck.
Ryan Lopez finished a Lions drive with a 26-yard touchdown scamper that reclaimed control for the visitors at 12-8 with 7:09 to go before halftime. The Lions fumbled on their 2-point conversion try.
Santa Rosa’s Steve Tenorio intercepted L’Esperance with 58 seconds left in the period, and with good field position, the Lions threatened to score again before intermission.
But Antonio “Coco” Arguello made a big tackle on second down. Then Javier Trujillo broke up a pass play on third down. And then the Lions fumbled the ball on fourth down, completing a good stand by the RHS defense.
Santa Rosa’s Zeke Sena picked off a pass early in the third quarter, but the Cards forced another turnover on downs.
On their next possession, the Lions got aid from a couple of costly RHS penalties. That led to a 2-yard TD run by Lopez and an 18-8 Santa Rosa lead.
The second Robertson fumble of the fourth quarter was corralled by Velasquez at the Lions’ 42-yard line at the 7:02 mark. Santa Rosa finished the ensuing drive with a 40-yard dash by Lopez to the RHS 1, and then on the next play, a 1-yard touchdown by Lopez.
Robertson busted up Santa Rosa’s 2-point conversion attempt for the third time, leaving the spread 24-8 with 5:50 remaining.
The Cardinals play at St. Michael’s this coming Saturday afternoon. The Lions (3-0) host Hope Christian.
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West Las Vegas averted a shutout against Portales in another Friday night game affected by the stormy weather.
The Dons lost 49-8 in a home game that was held at New Mexico Highlands University’s Perkins Stadium instead of the Herrera Complex, which was in one of the parts of town hit hardest by the floods.
WLV quarterback Jose Juan Montaño, who’d found a rhythm offensively the previous week against Española Valley, had a much tougher time against Portales’ stout defense. The Rams had allowed only 13 points combined in their two previous contests, both victories.
Portales’ defense held to form Friday night, limiting the Dons to three-and-out series five times in the first half alone.
The Rams also intercepted Montaño twice before halftime.
The visitors strung together an 81-yard run and a subsequent 5-yard touchdown run to take a 6-0 lead with 5:55 left in the first quarter.
After forcing a third straight three-and-out, Portales doubled its lead with a touchdown pass, making it 12-0 with 3:22 left in the period.
John Young picked off Montaño to regain possession for Portales and set up a 49-yard bomb for an 18-0 margin with 2:59 still to go in the first.
Another air attack made it 24-0 at the 8:48 mark of the second quarter. Then a blocked punt was scooped up by the Rams for another touchdown, and the halftime score was 30-0.
Omar Gallardo came up with an interception to end Portales’ first drive of the second half, but the Dons could not capitalize, punting after another fruitless series.
The Rams scored on a 36-yard QB keeper with 3:56 left in the quarter, making it 36-0 and triggering the running clock.
But West kept at it, and Anthony Medina hauled in a 36-yard TD pass with 1:43 left in the third. Gallardo made good on the 2-point conversion, cutting the gap to 36-8.
The Rams led 42-8 going into the fourth. They had a punt return for a score negated by a penalty, but on the next play they rushed for a touchdown from scrimmage, and with 10:41 left, it was 49-8.
WLV (1-2) will hit the road for the first time this season on Friday, visiting Ruidoso. Portales (3-0) will host Raton.