By Eric Butler
Football: Trojans, Wildcats are Road Warriors
Mayfield will look for its third straight Class 5A football state championship while Clovis will try to become part of the two-championship club this decade, along with the Trojans, Las Cruces and La Cueva, after both teams won semifinal clashes on the road over the weekend.
In Albuquerque, Mayfield (11-1) knocked off Cibola 26-14 on Friday night (Nov. 30) as quarterback Matt Sandoval had 114 yards rushing and running back Nathan Enriquez scored three touchdowns - including a crucial game-clinching punt return in the fourth quarter.
The visiting Trojans jumped up 14-0 quickly with a pair of first quarter strikes: a Jacob Ceniceros 44-yard run and a 28-yard pass from Sandoval to Enriquez. Cibola (10-2), however, clipped the lead in half when Cougars quarterback Jonathan Mader scored on a three-yard rush with 2:26 left before intermission.
In the second half, Mayfield got its two-TD lead again when Sandoval ran in from the 17 in the third period. Cibola got back within striking range, cutting the lead to 19-14, on a Chase Bennison one-yard plunge early in the fourth quarter.
But the Cougars, later in the fourth, were stopped on a drive and forced to punt. With 5:31 left in the game, Enriquez received the punt and sliced his way back 67 yards for the touchdown that broke Cibola's back.
Next week, Mayfield will travel to Clovis for the 5A title game.
The Wildcats, who owned a 3-3 record at one point in the season, earned their berth in the championship with their sixth straight victory. Clovis (9-3), seeking its first title since 2001, also scored two touchdowns early and made the lead hold up in a 37-29 victory over Las Cruces Saturday (Dec.1).
Senior Clovis running back Manuel Robles ran for 133 yards and 'Cats quarterback Jordan Mendoza, who's been turned loose increasingly over the last few weeks, passed for 187 yards. Robles scored on a two-yard run five minutes into the game and got to paydirt again with a 54-yard pass from Mendoza only three minutes later for a 14-0 lead.
Las Cruces (10-2) had the leading rushing in the state on their side in James Hall, and another 1,000-yard gainer in quarterback Dante Caro. Four times on the day, the Bulldawgs reduced a two-touchdown deficit back to one. But, after Caro scored on a five-yard run with 4:08 left in thegame, the last Las Cruces offensive possession began at its own fourwith only 2:57 left.
After stopping the 'Dawgs that last time on downs, Clovis ran out the clock.
In Class 4A, the championship game will be contested between district rivals Artesia and Goddard - a game that will be a rematch ofthe 2006 title contest. Artesia, seeking its third straight crown, dumped Kirtland Central 42-0 in one semi on Saturday while Goddard edged Aztec 21-16.
As in 4A, the Class 3A state trophy will be fought over by members of the same district. Indeed, all four of the semifinal participants Saturday were from District 2-3A as St. Michael's shutout Academy 21-0 and Robertson, two-time defending state champs, beat Raton 28-21 on the road.
Class 2A Championship: Lions Win First Since 1998
An interception, a punt return for a touchdown, another pick and another punt brought back all the way to paydirt.
It was a formula much to Santa Rosa's liking on Friday night in the Class 2A football championship and one that Texico, will little room for error, could ill-afford.
The Lions used the combination to get out to a huge first half lead and eventually cruise home with a 46-7 victory over the Wolverines in Texico. For Santa Rosa, a town accustomed to football success, it was the first state title since 1998.
"We heard about it all the time. We had to end that drought, bring it back to Santa Rosa and take care of business," Lions senior quarterback Jesus Roybal said. "We got an interception early in the game and, after that, we just kept pounding it."
Texico (9-3) got the ball first but gave it up when Santa Rosa's Ricardo Roybal returned an interception to the Wolverines' 38. Seven plays later, Jesus Roybal rushed in from three yards out and scored the first of three touchdowns for him before intermission.
After Santa Rosa (12-1) stymied Texico's next drive, without a first down, Roybal grabbed a punt and returned it 72 yards for a TD and a 14-0 lead. The next Wolverine possession ended when Lions' senior linebacker Aaron Maestas swiped a Brett Anderson pass and ran 32 yards down to the Texico three, which immediately led to a three-yard scoring run from Maestas himself on the next play.
Down 20-0 before the first quarter was over, the home team's only glimmer of hope came when it forced Santa Rosa into a pair of third-and-long situations early in the second period. But the Lions, on a 57-yard drive culminating in a two-yard run by Jason Martinez, overcame all obstacles on this night.
Jesus Roybal, with seven seconds left before halftime, dove into the end zone at the end of a 55-yard punt return to put his team up 39-0.
"We just work hard. We lost in the regular season, but we came back tough and weren't going to give up," said Lions' senior defensivelineman Keith Maes, referring to its only loss of the year to Dexter - a team Texico knocked off in the playoffs.
Maes, sophomore Chris Sanchez and Maestas continually bottled up the Wolverines offense, limiting Texico to a total of six yards on theground.
"They just controlled us. We had opportunities, but we threw it to the wrong team and that's going to happen," Wolverines coach Mike Prokop said. "That's how we knew we were going to have to move the ball and kind of loosen them up a little bit."