Escalante Can’t Stop Fort Sumner, Foxes Win 55-7

Escalante senior Johnny Samora  and assistant coach Rico DeYapp hug after Escalante’s loss to Fort Sumner. Photo by George Morse for the Valley Daily Post

Escalante Can’t Stop Fort Sumner, Foxes Win 55-7

By George Morse Sports and Outdoors

When the final cannon shot boomed, the Escalante High School Lobos had lost to the Fort Sumner High School football team 55-7 in the Class 2A state championship football game Nov. 11 at Fort Sumner. There were sad faces but no bowed heads. On this day, the best team won.

“They were just were just the better team than us,” Escalante Coach Dusty Giles said. “From the beginning of the season, they always gave us all they had, the coaches gave them all they had all the way to the end. That’s all any coach can ask.”

On a day when the Lobos needed to get some breaks and Fort Sumner didn’t need any, fortune smiled on the Foxes. On Escalante’s first play of their first possession of the game following an opening kickoff into the end zone by Fort Sumner’s Kreston Butterfield, Escalante quarterback Esteban Archuleta hit Anthony Paul Martinez for a nice gain of 20 yards. The play was negated by a holding penalty.

Anthony Paul Martinez runs against Fort Sumner. Photo by George Morse for the Valley Daily Post

Escalante had to punt and Fort Sumner took over at their own 39-yard line. After a penalty and two incomplete passes by quarterback Jude Segura, it looked like Escalante would get the ball back as the Foxes lined up in punt formation.

In a gutsy call, the Foxes faked a punt and snapped the ball directly to Segura. He scampered 29 yards down to the Lobos’ 34-yard line.

Three plays later, Segura tossed a 21-yard touchdown pass to Peyton Lewis for the game’s first touchdown. Butterfield’s extra point made the score 7-0 at 7:58 of the first quarter. Fort Sumner fires off a cannon after they score a touchdown and it boomed for the first time that day. More would soon follow.

Escalante’s Cody Russom tries to avoid Fort Sumner’s Hunter Spurgeon. Photo by George Morse for the Valley Daily Post

Helped by a couple of penalties, Escalante drove into Fort Sumner territory on their next possession. A nice gain on a middle screen pass to Martinez was negated by a penalty and another five-yard penalty against Escalante followed, forcing the Lobos to pass. An interception by Justin Downey stopped that drive at the Foxes 29-yard line.

A big run by Butterfield put the ball on Escalante’s 20-yardline. Two plays later, Segura scrambled 15 yards into the end zone. Fort Sumner led 14-0 at the end of the first quarter.

Gambling on fourth down at their own 45-yard line, Escalante was stopped for no gain and Fort Sumner took over on downs. Helped by a 15-yard penalty, the Foxes scored again on a 13-yard pass from Segura to Noah Maxwell to make the score 21-0 in favor of the Foxes. On Escalante’s next possession, Hunter Sturgeon intercepted a pass by Archuleta and returned the pick 24 yards for another Foxes’ touchdown. Fort Sumner led 28-0 with 8:32 left in the first half.

Escalante’s Anthony Paul Martinez runs behind a block by Anthony Ulibarri. Photo by George Morse for the Valley Daily Post

The Lobos finally got on the scoreboard on their next possession. Behind the running of Martinez and Anthony Ulibarri, the Lobos drove down to the Foxes 20-yard line. On fourth down from the 19-yardline, Archuleta tossed a pass into the end zone that Martinez fought for and came down with for a touchdown. The extra point by Andres Martinez made the score 28-7 at 4:10 of the first half.

Andres Martinez booted the extra point after Escalante’s touchdown. Photo by George Morse for the Valley Daily Post

Escalante recovered the ensuing onside kick and excitement ran high for the fans of the Lobos. A holding penalty, a fumbled snap from center and an incomplete pass took the wind out of their sails and forced the Lobos to punt. The kick was blocked and the Foxes took over on their own 46-yard line.

It took Fort Sumner just one play to score from there. Segura tossed a screen pass to Sturgeon. With blockers in front of him, he rumbled 54 yards to the end zone. Butterfield’s fifth extra point gave the Foxes a 35-7 lead.

With time running out in the first half, the Foxes weren’t done yet. Maxwell intercepted a pass by Archuleta and returned the ball back to the Escalante 39-yardline. A long run by Francisco Chavez Moved the ball down to the Lobos one-yard line. It looked like Chavez fumbled trying to stretch the ball into the end zone, but after a conference by the officials it was ruled down just short of the goal line.

It looked like Escalante had dodged a bullet on the next play when they recovered a Fort Sumner fumble near the goal line. However, the Lobos coughed up the ball while returning the fumble and the Foxes recovered, retaining possession. Segura passed to Brant West for a touchdown with less than a minute left in the first half to give the Foxes a 41-7 lead at halftime.

Escalante kicked off to Fort Sumner to start the second half. Segura passed to West, who bobbled the ball but got control of it and scored a touchdown with less than a minute gone in the third quarter. A two-point conversion run by Segura made the score 49-7.

Anthony Paul Martinez runs against Fort Sumner. Photo by George Morse for the Valley Daily Post

With the clock running under the 35-point mercy rule, the Lobos were forced to give the ball up on downs and Segura threw a touchdown pass to Butterfield for the game’s final touchdown, making the score 55-7 at 6:03 of the third quarter. Neither team scored again, as Fort Sumner choose to stick to its running game to eat up the time remaining and the Lobos couldn’t find the end zone.

For the Fort Sumner coaches and players, it was the ending that they had been fighting for the last three seasons. Escalante had beaten the Foxes 28-20 in the 2015 state championship game at Escalante and Lordsburg High School beat Fort Sumner 34-26 last season in the 2016 championship game. The third time was the charm for Fort Sumner.

“It meant everything,” Fort Sumner Coach Brad Holland said. “It’s been tough walking off the field the last two years. We put it all together. This is a special group.”

For senior Butterfield, it was the end that he’d been working hard for after tough losses two years in a row.

“I don’t know how to explain it,” he said. “Finally, after losing two it means that much more.”

Fort Sumner has a tradition of championship football that is reflected by the support of their community, the dedication and participation of its students and the commitment to giving their best effort on the field.

“They were hungry and they pushed themselves,” Coach Holland said. “They played for each other and were flying to the ball on defense.”

Although it was not the ending that they wanted, the pride of the seniors for the Lobos was intact. If there was any sadness, it was knowing that they’d played their last game as a Lobo.  Like Fort Sumner, community support and the dedication of the players have led to a legacy of success. Escalante has won three state championships in six years.

“I gave my all,” Martinez said. “It was a great ride. Everybody had my back. It was good.”

Lineman Johnny Samora played hard to the last whistle.

“It was a great time,” he said. “I couldn’t have done it without my brothers.”

It may not be the last time that Fort Sumner and Escalante will meet for a state championship. The competition they’ll face to get there will be different next season, as more teams will enter their class under realignment. Both the Lobos and the Foxes will have the option of choosing to play either 11-man or 8-man football because of the small enrollment at both schools. Both schools have already indicated they intend to continue the tradition of playing 11-man football, just as they have done the last four seasons.

‘I don’t know anything about 8-man football,” Coach Giles said.

Escalante Coach Dusty Giles talks to his team after the loss to Fort Sumner. “You gave us all you had,” he said. Photo by George Morse for the Valley Daily Post

For juniors on both teams, the challenge is something they welcome.

“Stay hungry, stay humble,” Segura said. “You can’t overlook any opponent.”

Ulibarri had that look that meant he was already looking forward to the next time.

“The same stuff, just a totally different outcome,” he said. “They’re still my brothers at the end.”

In the end, Coach Giles summed it up best when he spoke to the team on the field after the loss.

“You gave us everything you had,” he said.