Down but never quite out, the Highlands Cowboys found a way to win Saturday in front of a homecoming crowd.
DiAmaal Holmes caught a game-tying touchdown to cap an improbable NMHU rally in the waning seconds.
Then Ernesto Guerra’s extra point with no time left — and from 15 yards back because of a penalty — gave the Cowboys a 32-31 victory, their first of the season, over Western State (0-5, 0-3).
It was a Hollywood finish to a dramatic week in Cowboyland.
In the wake of the departure of head coach Chad Roanhaus and brother John, the team’s offensive coordinator, this past week, NMHU promoted defensive coordinator Joe Morris to acting head coach and recruited former NMHU and Fort Lewis head man Ed Rifilato to pilot the offense.
Still working out kinks in a new offensive scheme installed just three days earlier, Highlands fell behind 28-10 by halftime.
But the defense kept fighting and prevented further damage through the second half while the offense began to find a rhythm.
Mychal Leupepe’s interception return for a touchdown got the Cowboys within striking distance, 28-17, with 11:15 left in the fourth quarter.
Four minutes later, Clovis sophomore Jordan Mendoza hooked up with Tyler Puschman on a 69-yard bomb. Mendoza then hit Marcus Washington on a 2-point conversion to make the margin a field goal. That pumped up the Perkins Stadium crowd eager to see their Cowboys win.
The Mountaineers tacked a field goal onto their lead, making the score 31-25 and seemingly snuffing the Cowboys’ momentum.
But Kevon Williams answered with a long kickoff return. The Cowboys weren’t able to score, but their defense held WSC to a three-and-out, giving the home team 41 seconds to march upfield.
WSC’s Blake Henke and Markus Harvey sacked Mendoza back at the Cowboy 28, but Mendoza hopped up and hurried the ‘Pokes back to the line. He quickly tossed to Herman Young for a 39-yard gain to the Mountaineer 33. A penalty got the Cowboys 24 yards away with four seconds left. Flushed to the right edge of the pocket, Mendoza passed to Holmes in the right corner of the north end zone came with no time left in regulation.
Officials slapped Highlands with an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty, forcing Guerra to attempt the point-after kick from farther out. But Guerra calmly nailed the game-winner.
Mendoza finished 15 of 25 for 279 yards with two TDs and two interceptions. Williams had seven grabs for 80 yards. NMHU outgained WSC 354 yards to 202.
Young, who led the Cowboys (1-4, 1-2) in rushing with 44 yards, had a first-half TD.
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Overcoming five turnovers and a capable Ruidoso run defense, the Robertson football team rallied from a 14-7 deficit to take a 41-21 victory Friday night at Cardinal Stadium.
A top-three team in Class 3A, the Cardinals (4-1) and coach Leroy Gonzalez will visit Class 4A’s No. 8 team St. Pius X on Saturday in Albuquerque. The Sartans controlled St. Michael’s 42-27, also Friday.
Antonio Arguello intercepted two Ruidoso passes, highlighting a good night for the Robertson defense.
In the first half, though, it was the Warrior defense that shined, keeping the Cardinals’ prolific ground game in check — and coming up with two fumble recoveries.
The second fumble recovery led to a 23-yard touchdown run by Tanner Chavez, and Ruidoso led 7-0 with 10:11 in the second quarter.
Girard Maestas’ 28-yard punt return spotted Robertson at the Ruidoso 31, and a few plays later Daniel Martinez threw to Nick Archuleta for a 15-yard TD. Keen Martinez’s extra point knotted the game 7-7 with 4:01 left in the half.
An interception led to Ruidoso’s next score, Jesse Scarafiotti’s 23-yard pass to Daniel Salazar, and the Warriors led 14-7 at the 6:21 mark in the third.
Daniel Martinez tied the game again after a 17-yard scoring run with 3:15 left in the quarter.
After the Cards recovered a fumble on the next series, Martinez’s 23-yard scramble set up a Dalan Abreu TD run. The home team took its first lead of the night 21-14 with 2:14 left in the third.
Next series, Arguello picked off a Ruidoso pass and nearly ran it back for a score, getting stopped at the Warrior 4. Martinez rewarded Arguello with a handoff, and two plays later, Arguello punched in for a touchdown and a 27-14 lead.
After Luke Aragon saved a TD on the ensuing kickoff return, Brendan Flack gained 28 yards and got Ruidoso to the Cardinal 2. Scarafiotti rushed in on the next play to make it 27-21 with 10:03 to go.
Maestas earned Robertson some breathing room by running back the kickoff 70 yards for a score.
With 7:39 left, Abreu scored on a 21-yard run to punctuate the Cardinal win.
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Only lightning, it seemed, could slow down the Lovington Wildcats on Friday night at Perkins Stadium.
With 5:56 left in the first half, officials ordered Lovington and West Las Vegas off the field for a lightning delay. After the break, with the electrical storm still circling in the area, the referees called the game, awarding Lovington a 47-0 win.
Up to the point the game was stopped, the Cats had little trouble scoring on offense, defense and special teams.
Lovington reached the end zone the first time it touched the ball, and Robert Hargrove’s punt return made it 13-0 with 7:51 left in the first quarter.
Jameson hit Andy Moreno on a 64-yard flea-flicker strike to make it 19-0.
Hargrove beat a Dons blitz off a screen play to make it 26-0 with 2:09 left in the quarter. An interception return for a TD and 2-point conversion gave the Cats a 34-0 first-quarter lead.
A West fumble led to the first of two Wildcat scores in the abbreviated second period.
Starting at quarterback, Martin Blea had some West fans pumped up after connecting with Jared Morales on a 16-yard toss in the first quarter. But the mighty Cats, ranked first in Class 3A and the defending state champions, demonstrated the quickness that has them as the odds-on favorite to repeat.
“You get better by playing the tough teams,” WLV coach Mike Ulibarri said in KNMX’s postgame show. “Lovington is the fastest team we’ve seen.”
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WLV volleyball put up a good battle in two of three sets but lost in three to visiting Trinidad, Colo., on Thursday evening at Gillie Lopez Gym.
The Lady Miners won 25-23, 25-17, 25-23. In the decisive third set, Miranda Martinez opened with an ace and Vanessa Lucero had a kill to stake the Lady Dons to an early advantage. After a back-and-forth struggle, West led 23-21. But the visitors scored four straight to steal the decision.
Lucero, one of the team’s leading hitters, only recently returned to the WLV lineup after having been sidelined by injury.
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It wasn’t all a bad weekend for West Las Vegas, however. Alumnus Amanda Crespin scored her third consecutive victory as a professional boxer on a card in California.
Crespin beat Crystal Hoy 39-36, 38-37, 36-39, in a four-round split decision at Chumash Casino in Santa Ynez, Calif.
“Boom Boom” is scheduled to fight Alyx Luck in a six-rounder Nov. 13 as part of “Boxeo en Las Vegas II.”
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RHS girls’ soccer topped Bernalillo 4-2 on Thursday, rebounding from a 3-1 defeat to Socorro Sept. 25.
Elena Martinez scored in the 23rd and 29th minutes, and Amber Yara and Caitlin Diefendorf each had a goal. Lexus Jaramillo assisted twice and Ashley Jaramillo and Diefendorf had one dish apiece. After multi-sport athlete Kass Tapia started the game at keeper, Ashley Jaramillo played the final 17 minutes to secure the win.
“We finished well today with the opportunities we got,” said RHS coach Ray Parks.
Yara subbed in in the last three minutes of the first half, and she botted a goal with 15 seconds left.
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Robertson’s boys’ soccer team lost 3-2 to visiting Bernalillo on Thursday, thanks largely to a five-minute spurt in the 39th through 44th minutes.
Lorenzo Chavez put RHS up 1-0 in the eighth minute off a Keen Martinez assist.
The Spartans struck three times in a five-minute span to seize control.
Later, Henry Robertson took a feed from Antonio Torres to get closer.
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Erika Shisler and Megan Striedel scored two goals apiece to lead Fort Lewis (9-1) to a 6-0 shutout of visiting NMHU (4-4-1) in RMAC women’s soccer Friday in Durango, Colo.
The Cowgirls’ leading scorer Julissa Rodriguez was ejected with a red card penalty in the 19th minute.