Up by 17 points late in the third quarter, New Mexico Highlands’ football team had its first win of the season in its grasp.
Then disaster struck — as in 24 unanswered points worth of disaster — and host Mesa State rallied for a 34-27 win in the teams’ Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference opener Saturday in Grand Junction, Colo.
NMHU had built a 27-10 cushion with four minutes left in the third when things abruptly turned south for the Cowboys.
The Highlands defense spotted Bobby Coy a 32-yard run deep into Cowboy territory, and a personal foul penalty helped set up a Phil Vigil to Zach Belloni 9-yard TD strike. With 2:25 left in the third, it was 27-17.
After forcing a Highlands punt, the Mavericks again put Coy to work with great success, and Vigil capped a drive with a 4-yard QB keeper for the score. With 13:10 left in the fourth, it was 27-24.
Randall Brown started the ensuing NMHU drive with a 9-yard run, but a QB sack and an incomplete pass by Narciso Diaz led to another punt. Taking advantage of a short field after a good return, the Mavs tied the game on a 32-yard Jared Keating field goal with 8:10 to go.
Diaz connected with Brown on a 29-yard pass, but again the drive sputtered out, and the Cowboys had to punt.
NMHU seemed to be in good shape when Paul Stevens sacked Vigil on a third-and-long situation. But a personal foul penalty negated the big defensive play — keeping the Mesa drive alive. A couple plays later, Vigil hooked up with Justin Murray for 46 yards, reaching the Cowboy 12. Coy ran it in for the go-ahead score three carries later, and with 2:36 remaining, the Mavs led for the first time.
Chad Simpson intercepted a Diaz pass to end the next Highlands possession. The Cowboys got the ball back after a good defensive series but time ran out on them.
It was a bitter end to what had been Highlands’ most competitive game to date, a contest the Cowboys had controlled except for the exasperating final quarter.
Diaz, in his first start, hooked up with Jon Ligons for a 6-yard TD with 8:35 left in the second quarter, and Greg Rivera’s extra point gave NMHU a 7-0 edge.
Mesa tied it with 1:59 left in the period after Vigil hit Griffin Chernoff on a 41-yard strike. But the Cowboys made it 13-7 when Adrian Smith hauled in a 70-yard bomb from Diaz with 58 seconds left in the half.
Keating made it 13-10 on a 40-yard field goal early in the third quarter.
Then Diaz again teamed up with Ligons, hitting him for a 17-yard TD pass at the 8:10 mark. Highlands’ defense forced a fumble and Travis Dunn returned the ball for a 9-yard score to extend the margin to 27-10 with 4:09 left in the quarter.
Coy finished with 130 yards on 30 rushes. Vigil passed 14 of 24 for 241 yards, with Chernoff catching five for 99 yards.
Diaz went 13 for 29 for 233 yards with three TDs and one pick. Ligons made five receptions for 89 yards. Brown had his best rushing performance of the season, gaining 85 yards on 18 carries.
NMHU (0-3, 0-1) hosts Western State (Colo.) on Saturday for its first home game of 2008.
A Gold-en night for WLV QB
Derek Gold had one of those nights that most high school football players dream about having.
The West Las Vegas senior signalcaller scored four touchdowns and rushed for 137 yards as the Dons beat Tucumcari Friday night 41-26 and improved to 2-1 on the season.
Gold scored on runs of 1, 31, 2 and 20 yards and had a 32-yard touchdown called back. He also threw a two-point conversion pass to Richard Goke, kicked an extra point and ran in a two-point conversion for the Dons. Not to be outdone, senior fullback John Armijo rushed for 120 yards on 11 carries and scored on a tackle-breaking 55-yard run.
West wingback Zack Armijo got the West rushing attack going in the first period with a 25-yard run, Gold’s kick gave the Dons a 7-0 lead. Tucumcari came right back and scored on a 7-yard pass from Alex Hutchins to George Montao to cut the lead to 7-6, after a missed two-point conversion.
Early in the second period, on a third-and-4, John Armijo appeared to be stopped at the line of scrimmage, but he broke free on a second effort and sprinted 55 yards to paydirt and a 13-6 West lead.
With time running out in the first half, the Dons mounted a final drive. With the ball on the 1-yard line, Gold went over as time expired; after the two-point conversion pass from Gold to Goke, the Dons led 21-6 at the half.
Tucumcari found something in the Dons pass defense it liked. The Rattlers ran a quick slant play repeatedly throughout the night. After several missed opportunities, the Rattlers cashed in as Hutchins hit Montao for their second hookup of the night, a 22-yard touchdown reception. Hutchins two-point run cut the West lead to 21-14.
Then it was time for Gold to go off and go off he did. On the ensuing possession by the Dons, he rolled out to his left to throw only to see receivers covered. He scrambled 31 yards to the end zone to regain a two-touchdown advantage, 27-14.
Gold scored his third TD of the night two possessions later from 2 yards out and later scored his final TD on a 20-yard run late in the fourth period.
Along with Gold’s and John Armijo’s big night rushing, Zack Armijo accounted for 51 yards on eight carries. Jon-Jon Martinez carried the ball seven times for 38 yards. In all, the Dons tallied 353 yards on the ground, thanks in part to the offensive line of Ted Esquibel, Robert Lopez, Mike Griego, Caleb Marquez and Manuel Silva.
The Dons hit the road again this Friday as they travel to Crownpoint.
Second half key for Pintos, Cards
Also Friday night, Class 4A Moriarty overpowered visiting Robertson in the second half, turning a two-point margin into a 35-13 victory.
The Pintos scored the first 15 points of the game on a 30-yard run by Taylor Allcorn and a 14-yard rush by Ray Herrera.
Robertson answered the latter score quickly, with Daryl Martinez passing to Nathan Abreu for a 50-yard bomb with 5:14 left in the second period.
Martinez ran it himself for a 7-yard TD with 47 seconds to go before halftime. A two-point try failed, leaving the score 15-13 at the break.
But in the second half, Moriarty asserted its dominance over the young Cardinal outfit. Zac Bailey, Herrera and Alex Griego each scored rushing TDs to put the game away.
RHS (0-3) has next weekend off, resuming the schedule at Taos in two weeks. The Tigers, another Class 4A team, came close to beating Albuquerque Academy this past weekend; they fell to WLV in the Dons’ opener Aug. 28.
RHS spikers go 2-1 at Zia Classic
Robertson stunned Class 4A power Los Alamos with a five-set win in the Zia Classic this past weekend in Roswell.
The Lady Cardinals, coached by Raynee Trujillo, won 3-2 over the Lady Hilltoppers to highlight a tourney in which they won two of three matches.
RHS lost to Roswell 3-0 and swept Shiprock 3-0.
Cowgirls push national power
The New Mexico Highlands women's soccer team battled to a 3-0 loss Friday against nationally ranked league rival Metro State College of Denver. The Cowgirls then played Sunday at Colorado State-Pueblo, dropping a 5-1 verdict.
Coach Ron Blue said his team put up a valiant effort against Metro but made a few mistakes and the mighty Roadrunners capitalized. He named Cowgirls goalkeeper Shannon Delarosbil and Melissa Aragon as having had particularly solid efforts.
Indeed, Delarosbil stopped 15 of the Roadrunners’ 18 shots.
Metro’s Madison McQuilliams took a feed from Becca Mays to score in the 10th minute. But Highlands’ deffense denied any more scoring in the first half. At the 57th minute, Mays scored on a Nicole Cito assist, and at minute 68, Mays picked up her second assist, passing to Jaime Stephenson.
On Sunday in Pueblo, the host Thunderwolves won a contentious matchup with three unanswered second-half goals.
Candice Duffy and Sydney Hase scored to put the Wolves ahead 2-0. Then late in the first half Caitlyn Siner popped home a corner kick from Yolanda Elias to pull the Cowgirls within a goal.
But CSUP dominated after intermission, with Marli Martin, Beccah Drennan and Aubrielle Williams scoring.
Each team was hit with two yellow card penalties.
Shootout victory for Lady Cards
Randall Schweigert scored the game-winning shot in a thrilling overtime shootout — and keeper Taria Clayton preserved the win — as Robertson’as girls’ soccer team won at Ruidoso on Saturday.
“What a crazy ending to a game!” marvelled Robertson coach Ray Parks. “The first half was pretty much even, with Ruidoso starting strong; then the momentum shifted.”
Each sides had five shots in the opening period. But in the second half, after some adjustments and what Parks called “outstanding play of sweeper Sam Marshall and stopper Ashley Jaramillo, who shut down Aimee Vasquez (the A-AAA leading scorer),” Robertson outshot Ruidoso 7-0 without a score.
The trend continued through two overtimes with the Lady Cards outshooting the Lady Warriors 3-1.
After the first five shooters of the ensuing penalty-kick shootout, the match was tied at 3-3 (scorers were Sam Marshall, Leah Lucero, and Ashley Jaramillo; two saves by Taria Clayton).
In the sudden death shootout, Elena Martinez and Mikayla Maes scored, but Ruidoso answered both. Then Schweigert scored and Clayton blocked Ruidoso’s last shot for the 2-1 (6-5 shootout) verdict.
Ruidoso scored in the first half for a 1-0 edge but Desiree Martinez tied it.,
“Her sister gave her a pass on the right corner of the penalty area, and Des blasted an outside shot into the left side of the Ruidoso net over their diving goalkeeper (Asher Shaw, who ended with 14 saves),” Parks said.
“I felt that we should have ended the game in regulation, but we’ll take the win,” he said.
Robertson outshot Ruidoso 24-14, including penalty kicks. Clayton had six saves.
Lady Card forward Ari Trujillo did not make the trip due to a prior commitment, and the team was also missing five players due to injury or illness, Parks noted. “So this was a very big win against a very good team.”
Parks said Leah Lucero was a key contributor with strong play at midfield.
Ruidoso bullies Cardinals 10-0
Robertson’s boys team wasn’t as fortunate Saturday, falling 10-0 to Ruidoso.
Warriors junior Mario Varela had a monster game, scoring five goals and assisting three others to help put the young Cardinals away early. Elisha Martin had three goals, and Brendon Bush and Jorge Varela one apiece for Ruidoso.
Runners compete in Taos Invite
Robertson’s boys’ cross country team finished fifth out of nine scoring teams this past Saturday at the Taos Invite, and the RHS girls came out of the meet with a sixth-place finish.
Pecos placed third in the boys’ varsity race and did not score as a team on the girls’ side.
Pecos’ Mario Armijo won individually with a time of 17:46; Panther teammate came in second with an 18:16.
West Las Vegas was slated to run at Jemez Valley; no results were available.
NMHU spikers fall at Mesa State
NMHU lost in straight sets to host Mesa State on Saturday night, 25-20, 25-16, 25-22.
The Cowgirls have lost two since crafting a four-match win streak; they slipped to 4-5 and 0-2 under Jim Deisler.
Lady Mav Alison Tompkins led all players with 13 kills to go with three digs and two block assists.
Highlands’ Ashley Murray tallied nine kills and Doreen Zamora eight to go with 10 digs. Vanessa garcia had 25 assists.
Mesa (4-5, 2-0 RMAC) was an NCAA regional qualifier last season.