By Dave Kavanaugh
Las Vegas Optic
Slowed only by penalties, the Robertson football team cruised to a 53-0 victory in Friday’s Vegas Bowl, the regular-season finale for both RHS and West Las Vegas.
The win gives Robertson head coach Leroy Gonzalez a District 2-3A title his first year in charge. But he signaled that his team is just getting started.
“The district championship is an accomplishment,” Gonzalez said afterward while brandishing one of the two hefty traveling trophies awarded to the winner of the annual East-West showdown. “But I’ll trade a district championship in for a blue (state title) trophy.”
The Cardinals, ranked as high as second in Class 3A football this season, were looking at a top-four seeding in Saturday’s New Mexico Activities Association selection show (see related story).
On Friday, the Cards controlled the lines of scrimmage and quarterback Daniel Martinez ran extensively, a recipe for success that has rarely failed in the last couple years. Good blocking technique led to open running — often to the outer edges along the sidelines — for the Cardinal backs.
On the other side of the ball, Dons rushers found little room to maneuver up the middle, and Martin Blea’s attempts to go anywhere else on the field were generally thwarted quickly by Redbird linebackers.
West (2-8, 1-2) did assemble some promising drives and had at least three legitimate scoring opportunities go awry — including one apparent touchdown run negated by an offensive penalty.
Martinez set the tone on the second play from scrimmage, scampering 43 yards for a Robertson touchdown just 47 seconds in.
WLV gave its ample crowd something to scream about when Jayvis Medrano recovered an RHS fumble near midfield four minutes later.
A couple of series later, the Dons had a tying TD run by Devon Williams wiped off the board due to penalty, and a subsequent 30-yard field goal try by Williams missed.
Robertson capitalized on its next possession, as Dalan Abreu ran for a 47-yard TD to end the first quarter and put the Cards ahead 12-0.
With 11:11 on the clock in the second period, Martinez swept around the right side of his line for a 15-yard score. Keen Martinez, who’d missed his first two extra point attempts, nailed his third try to make it 20-0.
The Cards held on the next West series and then finished a quick drive when Antonio Arguello punched into the end zone from 5 yards out. With 9:12 left, it was 26-0.
Blea and the Dons engineered a good drive after that, but Blea’s pass to the corner of the end zone intended for Lorenzo Morales was picked off by Martinez.
Switching back into QB mode, Martinez got the Birds across midfield with a pass to Girard Maestas, then hooked up with Adam Ray Esquibel for an 8-yard TD pass. The extra point made it 33-0 1:03 before halftime.
West’s Dillon Encinias scooped up a muffed punt return midway through the third quarter, but the Dons were unable to turn the ensuing drive into points.
RHS expanded its lead to 40-0 on a Nick Archuleta touchdown run with 1:14 left in the period.
Abreu closed out the scoring with a pair of touchdown runs, scoring from 15 yards away at the 10:21 mark of the fourth, then from 31 yards out with 2:40 remaining. The latter TD led to an immediate stoppage with the new 50-point mercy rule.
Gonzalez complimented the Dons and coach Mike Ulibarri’s staff for playing tough and keeping close early on.
“It’s the East-West game,” he said. “This was their Super Bowl, so we knew they were going to play us tough. And they did a good job. They’ve got some good, young players; they play a lot of young guys.”
As for his Cardinals, Gonzalez credits their collective work ethic: “Even (in the offseason), they were there every day working hard. They want it.”