Highlands’ soccer women (5-8-1) split their two weekend matches, beating Colorado-Colorado Springs 1-0 and then losing 3-1 to regional power Regis.
Monica Vasquez booted the lone goal 10 minutes and 37 seconds into the match Friday. The senior from Hollister, Calif., was credited with four shots, two on goal. Goalkeeper Shannon Delarosbil and the Cowgirl defense preserved the shutout with Delarosbil making four saves.
On Sunday, the visiting Rangers never trailed but found themselves in a 1-1 deadlock at halftime. Regis' Carter Cornett struck first with a goal in the 20th minute. But five and a half minutes later, Highlands' Adriana Aragon knotted the match up with a rebound goal after Corey Strickland's kick deflected off of Regis keeper Holly Redmond.
The stalemate stayed intact until the 69:48 mark midway through the second half. Lexi Tagen, who'd assisted Cornett's goal, took a feed from Cornett to put Regis up 2-1. And Cornett tacked on an insurance score late in regulation.
Raton 28, Robertson 12
Robertson came out on the short end of a 28-12 score against Raton in Friday night's District 2-3A opener, but the Cardinals showed significant development.
Exhibit A: The defense, which performed so capably against a bruising Ruidoso the week earlier, again made a bunch of good plays. Whether it was Nathan Abreu busting up pass plays in the secondary or Daryl Martinez or Brandon Jordan rushing the passer or Nick Archuleta and Antonio Arguello covering the field, the Cardinal defenders made the talented Tigers work for every yard. On the down side, the Cards got ticketed with too many penalties, and they paid dearly for it down the stretch.
Exhibit B: Switching things up on offense, a midgame move by the coaching staff, seemed to work wonders. Sophomore Daniel Martinez took over at quarterback and made things happen with his arm. Daryl Martinez, solid, tough and physical, moved to the backfield and contributed to the ground game. And some other tweaks, including having the playmaker Abreu rushing the ball more also worked. Unfortunately for the Redbirds, turnovers derailed their chances to upset the defending district champions.
Raton finished its first series with a touchdown and a two-point conversion by standout quarterback Jordan Carlini. The drive was set up by a big run by back Josh Sanchez and a screen pass to Derrick Valdez to get Raton to the Robertson 31. With 6:54 left in the first period, the Tigers led 8-0.
The Cardinal defense held firm in forcing turnovers on downs to end the next two Raton possessions, and Archuleta and Jordan were key in forcing the Tigers to punt the next series after that. But the Robertson offense sputtered, picking up minimal yardage in that span.
Shuffling the skill players late in the half paid off for Robertson. Daniel Martinez, in at QB, hit Miguel Garcia for a gain to the Raton 30, and the pair hooked up again on a 30-yard TD strike with 2:08 to go before intermission. A two-point try that would've tied it failed and the score remained 8-6.
The Tigers answered quickly. Carlini passed to Valdez to reach the Cardinal red zone, and a couple plays later he passed to Archuleta for a 10-yard TD. Carlini's attempt at a fake for a two-point conversion didn't fool Nathan Abreu, who broke up the pass play to keep the score 14-6.
With just 20 seconds left in the half, Daniel Martinez moved his team rapidly downfield only to see time run out on a promising drive.
On the first play of the Cards' second series in the third quarter, Abreu fumbled the ball away in Cardinal territory. That, followed by a pass interference penalty, set up the Tigers inside the Cardinal red zone. Carlini took a 13-yard keeper and punched in for a score. His extra point made it 21-6 with 1:32 left in the period.
The Cardinals went right back to Abreu to start the next drive, and he gained big yardage. A play-action toss to Michael Means set them up at the Raton 5, and on the next play Martinez hit Means again for a touchdown. Luis Lopez caught what would have been a two-point conversion, but the play was negated by an offensive penalty. The next try was unsuccessful, leaving the margin at 21-12.
Robertson's defense looked to silence Raton's next drive, but a couple of penalties sustained the possession and set up a Carlini-to-Walton TD pass with 6:54 left in the game. Carlini's extra point kick pushed the lead to 28-12.
The Cardinals began their next march with good gains but eventually turned the ball over on downs. After the Redbird defense shut Raton down and forced a shanked punt to near midfield, Robertson took over in good field position with 3:18 left. But an interception cut short the comeback attempt, and Raton ran out the clock.
UNK 58, NMHU 14
Nebraska-Kearney, running the football at will against New Mexico Highlands, scored a game's worth of points (34) in the first quarter Saturday. The Lopers improved to 4-3 overall and 4-1 in the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference with a 58-14 blowout; NMHU fell to 1-6 and 1-4.
Unlike its previous game — in which the Cowboys had a good start and an early lead against a powerful Chadron State club — Highlands fell behind quickly and stayed there.
The Lopers' Jake Spitzlberger connected with Kyle Kaiser on the first offensive play of the game, a 68-yard touchdown bomb. With exactly 17 seconds expired, the home team led 7-0.
It didn't take long for the Lopers to double their lead. Three plays into the ensuing HIghlands drive, Mychael Leupepe caught a pass in the backfield from the returning Vince Seeno and fumbled. Two plays later, Spitzlberger rushed into the NMHU end zone from 9 yards away. Geoff Carnahan's point-after-try made it 14-0.
After forcing a punt, UNK marched 55 yards in six plays, finishing with another Spitzlberger-to-Kaiser TD pass, this one from the Cowboy 14. Paul Ellis blocked Carnahan's extra point to keep it 20-0 with 8:49 still left in the first.
Highlands showed some fire on the next series, a seven-play, 73-yard trek that culminated in Seeno's 37-yard pass to Jon Ligons for a touchdown at the 5:32 mark. Luis Marin's kick cut the gap to 20-7.
But UNK replied with a 46-yard scramble to paydirt by Spitzlberger at the 4:47 mark, and Riley Newcomer finished the quarter's brutal scoring assault with a 1-yard TD; Carnahan made it 34-7.
In all, the Lopers scored on seven of their first eight drives, the lone blemish coming when Chris Burns popped the ball out of Kaiser's hands late in the quarter and Justin Johnson recovering the fumble for the Cowboys.
Before the first half was over, Spitzlberger and Kaiser had hooked up for their third TD of the afternoon, Carnahan had drilled a 29-yard field goal, and Bobby Adamson had run for a 22-yard score. At halftime, the score was 51-7.
Oh, the rushing. UNK rolled up 356 net yards via the ground game, with two backs — Newcomer and Adamson — surpassing the century mark (103 and 105 yards, respectively). By comparison, Highlands, playing minus backs Randall Brown and Lavaughn Macon, had 20 rush yards.
NMHU played a much better second half, though, managing to contain the Lopers' quick-strike capability and in fact shut out the UNK offense. The Lopers scored at the 11:02 mark in the third when Pat Ackerman picked off Seeno at the Highlands 11 and ran it back for a touchdown.
The Cowboys made the final score more respectable when Erick Dyer darted for a 37-yard score with 2:58 on the clock.
Overall, UNK outgained NMHU 568 yards to 218.
Pojoaque 16, West Las Vegas 6
The Boston Red Sox found a way to break the curse the New York Yankees had on them for nearly 80 years. Now the West Las Vegas Dons need an answer for the Pojoaque curse.
Back in 2003, the Dons were on their way to winning their first football district championship since 1978. During that unforgettable season, a member of the West team made history. A female member of the Dons football team, became the first female in history to score a touchdown in a varsity football game. Needless to say the Pojoaque faithful were a little upset and appear to have cast a curse on the Dons as since that period, as the Elks have defeated the Dons four out of the last five meetings, including four straight wins over their district rival as the Elks beat the Dons 16-6 on Saturday.
The game played in harsh weather conditions including rain, hail, thunder and lightning, made playing conditions a little tough to handle, that was until Derek Gold raced 50 yards with 1:30 to play in the first half to give the Dons a 6-0 lead. On the ensuing kickoff, the Dons Richard Goke recovered a fumble and the Dons appeared to be headed toward another score. On first down Gold picked up 15 yards, but a holding penalty wiped out the play. Before the next play could be called, the skies opened up and the officials thought it best to send both teams to their dressing rooms. After a 15-minute delay it was decided to officially end the half, leaving the Dons without an opportunity to score.
In the third period, Elks quarterback Michael Garcia scored from five yards out to tie the game at six. On West’s next series, a bad snap to Gold rolled into the Elks endzone and Gold fell on it as the Elks were awarded a safety and an 8-6 lead.
Early in the fourth period, another Dons miscue led to the Elks’ final score.
And so the curse continues.
The Dons, 4-2 and 0-1 in district, will host the St. Mike’s Horsemen 7 p.m. Friday at Perkins Stadium. The Horsemen were defeated 35-0 by top-ranked Portales on Friday.
Note: See Tuesday’s Optic for more from the weekend that was in area sports.