Better Late Than Never, Escalante Beats Santa Fe

by Staff Reporter / Oct 17, 2017 / comments
Valley Daily Post photo

Better Late Than Never, Escalante Beats Santa Fe

By George Morse Sports and Outdoors

Escalante Coach Dusty Giles had been looking forward to facing Santa Fe High School Oct. 13 in Santa Fe. Instead of having to take a long bus ride to face a quality opponent, the Lobos would be taking a two-hour trip from Tierra Amarilla to Santa Fe to face the Demons. The fact that Santa Fe was from the largest classification of schools playing 11-man football (Class 6A) and Escalante from the smallest classification (Class 2A) didn’t matter. The Lobos were already playing Class 5A and Class 4A high schools and they were beating them.

Escalante loaded on the bus at 3 p.m. and left Tierra Amarilla with plenty of time to arrive in Santa Fe for the opening kickoff.

At 7 p.m., the time that the opening kickoff had been originally scheduled for, the Lobos’ bus was sitting in Pojoaque stuck in traffic that had barely moved for two hours. A tragic traffic accident that took one life and caused two critical injuries had caused authorities to divert traffic of four-lane US Highway 84/285 onto a two-lane frontage road at one of the busiest times of the day. At 8:30 p.m., the Lobos were still in Pojoaque. (See Story On Accident HERE)

“There were no cars moving,” Coach Giles said. “It got to where I told the players not to keep asking me questions. We were just sitting there. The team handled it fine. Me, not so much.”

Because there is no limitation on how late a game can start as long as both teams and the officials agree, the game was still on. The Escalante bus finally arrived at Ivan Head Stadium in Santa Fe at 9:30 p.m.

“I was thinking ‘We could have been in Jal by now,’” Coach Giles said. “That’s the longest trip I’ve ever taken to Santa Fe.”

The Lobos hurriedly dressed out and took the field 15 minutes before kickoff. At 10 p.m. or about three hours later than originally scheduled, the opening kickoff was fielded by the Lobos.

“We returned the kickoff to midfield,” Coach Giles said. “Two plays later, we were in the end zone.”

Escalante quarterback Cody Russom bolted 48 yards to paydirt to give Escalante a 6-0 lead with less than a minute gone on the game clock.

“We just went out and played,” Coach Giles said. “Here we go, second play of the game.”

Santa Fe would tie the score 6-6 on a touchdown pass later in the first quarter.

“After that, it was pretty much all Lobos,” Coach Giles said.

After Santa Fe’s touchdown, the Lobos answered on their next possession after the ensuing kickoff that they returned to midfield. Russom scored his second touchdown of the game. Thanks to miscues ( a fumble and a botched fake punt on fourth down) by the Santa Fe offense, the Lobos began with good field position and added two more touchdowns before halftime to take a 26-6 lead.

The Lobos added two more touchdowns in the second half and left Santa Fe with a 39-6 victory. It was the first time that a team from Class 2A had defeated a team from Class 6A.

Russom finished the game with 108 yards rushing on 21 carries and scored two touchdowns. Running back Anthony Ulibarri had 62 yards rushing on 16 carries and also scored two touchdowns. Anthony Paul Martinez carried twice for 71 yards, including a 69-yard touchdown run.

Russom completed five of the six passes he attempted for 117 yards, including a touchdown pass to Martinez. Martinez caught three passes for 74 yards and AJ Blea had two receptions for 43 yards.

Despite the lopsided score, Santa Fe had more first downs (14) than Escalante (8). The Demons gained more yardage than Escalante in the first half. The Lobos stopped three drives by Santa Fe inside the 10-yardline. Three fumble recoveries and an interception by Escalante thwarted several drives by Santa Fe.

“It really felt like more of an intense game than what the score indicated,” Coach Giles said. “It looked like we dominated but it was a pretty decent football game. We put the ball in the end zone and they didn’t. It looks like a blowout, but it was much tighter.”

The victory kept the Lobos unbeaten at 8-0, while Santa Fe’s losing streak extended to 32 games and the Demons fell to 0-8 on the season.

Escalante has won three state championships since Giles returned as head coach in 2011 and lost in the state semifinals the other two seasons. Escalante has established itself as a perennial powerhouse and a team that much-bigger schools cannot take lightly. Despite the fact that opposing teams, especially bigger schools like Santa Fe, often have bigger and taller players, Escalante comes away with the victory.

“They’re never intimidated,” Coach Giles said. “Santa Fe made some comments about Anthony Paul Martinez (5 feet, 2 inches and 126 pounds). They just throw on a smile and we’ll see what you think two-and-a-half hours from now. It’s always been that way.”

The players and coaches are on the same page when it comes to football.

‘They believe in what we’re doing,” Coach Giles said. “They believe in the system and it hasn’t let them down. We concentrate on teaching them why we do this. They haven’t memorized football, they’ve learned football. In the games it makes it so much easier to make adjustments on the fly.”

Coach Giles considers himself fortunate to be where he is.

“I’m the lucky one,” he said. “I have very good players that keep coming up. I have the same (assistant) coaches since 2011. We have the support of the administration and the community wants to do everything it can. It’s like the perfect storm and its lasted a long time.”

Escalante is scheduled to face Questa High School Friday. Questa forfeited its most recent game Oct. 13 against Fort Sumner High School. The big game so far this season will be Oct. 27 at Escalante against Fort Sumner High School. That game could be a preview of the Class 2A state championship game. Fort Sumner is ranked first in Class 2A and is also undefeated at 8-0. Escalante is ranked second in Class 2A. Should both teams advance to the Class 2A state championship game, it will be played Nov. 11 at Fort Sumner.

“The final game,” Coach Giles said. “That’s the one that matters.”