Academy Ambushes Española

by Staff Reporter / Oct 10, 2017 / comments
Espanola’s DeAndre Curtis tries to leap over the pile against Academy. Photo by George Morse for the Valley Daily Post

Academy Ambushes Española

By George Morse Sports and Outdoors

The Albuquerque Academy Chargers were just 1-4 heading into their District 2-5A opener against the Española Valley High School Sundevils Oct. 6 at Española. The 2-5 Sundevils were coming off a brutal three-game road trip that saw the Sundevils lose all three games by big margins. A victory over the Chargers would turn Española around and give the Sundevils the shot in the arm Española needed to begin district competition.

The Chargers had other ideas. Crisply executing their winged-T offense, Academy  ran through the Sundevils for a 40-20 victory, leaving Española looking for answers after losing a game that it looked like it should win.

“We just gotta dig deep and find a way to win,” Española Coach Jesus Maes said.

It looked like the ball would bounce Española’s way early in the game. Forced to punt on their opening possession, the Sundevils caught a break when Academy fumbled the kick and Española recovered at the Academy 42-yard line. From there, the Sundevils drove downfield and had a first down at the Chargers’ 12-yard line.

A holding penalty stopped that promising drive and Española attempted a field goal. The kick had the distance but was wide right. Academy took over on their 20-yard line. Tomas Lujan ripped off a 21-yard gain and quarterback Zach Jaramillo ran for 19 more to move the Chargers into Española territory. It looked like the drive would stall, but on fourth down Zane Horton ripped off a 25-yard gain down to Española’s three-yard line. Jaramillo ran the ball in from there and the extra-point kick gave the Chargers a 7-0 lead at 2:33 of the first quarter.

After an exchange of punts, the Chargers had the ball at their own 40-yard line. After a couple of first downs by the Chargers, Horton wove his way through the Sundevils’ defense for a 35-yard touchdown run. The extra point gave Academy a 14-0 lead at 9:01 of the second quarter.

Academy was back in business after an interception by Lujan. The Española defense stiffened and a long field-goal attempt by Academy was short. Española took over on their own 20-yard line.

From there, Española began a long and methodical drive on the ground that ate up the clock and ground out yardage. Nick Martinez, Damian Velasquez and quarterback Arlen Garcia pounded out yardage five yards at a time.

Española quarterback Arlen Garcia hands off to Nick Martinez. Photo by George Morse for the Valley Daily Post

The Sundevils marched down the field and had a first-and-goal at Academy’s 9-yardline.

Three plays later, the ball was at the Chargers’ one-yard line and it was fourth down. With just seconds remaining in the first half, it looked like Española might score. Garcia, however, fumbled the snap on fourth down and the Chargers had held. The half ended with Academy holding a 14-0 lead.

The Chargers got the ball to start the second half and put together a 67-yard drive that Lujan finished off with a 10-yard touchdown run that gave Academy a 21-0 lead at 9:48 of the third quarter.

Española’s next drive stalled, but the Sundevils downed the ensuing punt at Academy’s 7-yard line, pinning the Chargers deep in their own territory.

Academy couldn’t move the ball out and punted. Markus Griego, who had replaced Garcia at quarterback, had a nice return to Academy’s 35-yardline.

Española quarterback Markus Griego runs for yardage against Albuquerque Academy. Griego replaced Arlen Garcia at quarterback in the second half and threw two touchdown passes, both to Garcia. Photo by George Morse for the Valley Daily Post

Española put together their first scoring drive of the game from there. Martinez bulled his way into the end zone from four yards out and the extra-point kick made the score 21-7 at 5:43 of the third quarter.

The Chargers answered on their next drive. Starting from their own 40-yard line after the kickoff, Academy used the running of Lujan and Jaramillo to move the ball deep into Española territory. The Española defense stiffened and Academy faced a fourth down at the Sundevils 12-yard line. Jaramillo dropped back for one of his few passes and Lujan somehow got wide open in the end zone. He gathered in Jaramillo’s pass and another successful extra point made the score 28-7 with 1:55 left in the third quarter.

Española quickly struck back. On third down from his own 20-yard line, Griego launched a long pass down the right sideline that Garcia gathered in. Shaking off a tackler, he raced to the end zone to complete an 80-yard play. The extra point made the score 28-14 with 31.5 seconds left in the third quarter.

Academy came right back. Lujan ripped off a 45-yard run from his own 40-yard line. Another run by Lujan gave the Chargers first-and-goal at Española’s 3-yard line. The Chargers punched the ball into the end zone from there and led 34-14 at 10:07 of the fourth quarter.

Griego led Española back, ripping off runs of 18 and 20 yards. A personal foul on the Chargers put the ball at Academy’s 12-yard line. On fourth down, Griego passed to Garcia, who made a juggling catch in the end zone for the touchdown. That made the score 34-20 with 7:26 left in the game.

After forcing the Chargers to punt, Española was moving the ball through the air after Griego completed passes to Garcia and Chris Salazar. An interception by Lujan stopped the Sundevils.

A questionable roughing the passer penalty kept the Chargers drive alive and Lujan ripped off a 50-yard touchdown run that gave Academy a 40-20 lead with 1:55 left in the game that was the final nail in the coffin for the Sundevils.

Academy improved to 2-5 on the season and 1-0 in District 2-5A, while Española fell to 2-5 and 0-1 in District 2-5A. To keep their chances alive for a district title and a chance at the postseason, the Sundevils will likely have to win all their remaining games against District 2-5A opponents.

Coach Maes spoke to the team after the loss on the field and pointed to nick Martinez as an example for the team to follow. There is a lack of leadership on the Sundevils and Martinez, a player who leads by example on offense and defense, needs to start asserting himself

“I’m going to have to start letting my feelings out,” Martinez said. “Cracking down on a lot of people. They’re going to have to show up, start coming to film.”

Española will likely move Griego to quarterback and Garcia to wide receiver, as that combination seemed to spark the Sundevils.

I”I always wanted to play wide receiver,” Garcia said. “I feel I can excel at that position. If it benefits the team, I’m all for it.”

Griego, who did not participate in summer workouts and joined the team after school started, also had some hard hits on defense.

“We had to try something different,” he said. “Arlen is our best receiver and a guy I can rely on. He can rely on me. It’s a good mix and I hope to keep it this way.”

Española has a bye week and returns to the field Oct. 20 against Capital High School in Santa Fe. 

“We need to use this bye week and come together,” Maes said.