Except for a backbreaking six-minute span that began in the final minute of the third quarter Friday night, West Las Vegas played Taos quite evenly, showing signs of progress in what has been a trying season.
That window of time was all it took for the visiting Tigers to pull away, however. Taos is 6-2 and looking to grab the District 2-3A title, and West is 1-7 and wondering how close it could have been.
Andres Lujan led a good pass rush for the Dons with a couple of sacks, and Frankie Palacio and Joshua Hidalgo also came through with heads-up defensive play.
That aggressive defense helped West more than hold its own through a scoreless first half.
Taos’ Isaac Gonzales chased his own pass reception with a 12-yard run to the WLV 17-yard line late in the first period. But Jake Ulibarri made a key stop to force fourth down and an unsuccessful field goal attempt.
West’s Dillon Encinias had a 17-yard scamper for a first down deep into Taos territory, but the Dons went backward due to penalties, and they ended up punting.
Taos drove all the way to the West 3-yard line as the clock ran down on the first half. Stout goal-line defense by the Dons denied entry into the end zone, and the halftime score remained 0-0.
More stinginess marked most of the third quarter.
Taos’ opening drive sputtered out near midfield. Then, led by another good run by Encinias, the Dons carved their way into Tiger territory, only to fumble the ball away. Brandon Gallegos and Andy Gabaldon were among those who made stops as West again stifled a Taos series.
Fittingly, a defensive play brought an end to the scoring drought.
Taos picked off Jose Juan Montaño’s pass and returned it for a score with 47 seconds remaining in the period. Ulibarri blocked the extra point.
After forcing the Dons to punt, the Tigers returned to the end zone on a quarterback keeper play from a couple yards away. With 9:40 to go, Taos led 14-0.
The Tigers quickly turned their next possession into points as well, making what had been a close game into a three-possession affair by punching in a touchdown with 6:56 remaining, & winning 21-0.
Lucas Rodriguez gained 20 yards for a Dons first down a couple series later, but three incomplete passes later, Taos had the ball again and went into victory formation.
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West Las Vegas’ volleyball team (12-6, 4-2) suffered a key district loss Thursday, falling to Raton in four sets. The Lady Dons won a gritty opener 25-23 but dropped the rest, 25-23, 25-21, 25-19. The team was to play at Taos late Saturday; no information on that match was available as of deadline.