Photo by George Morse for the Valley Daily Post
Escalante Loses to Lordsburg 45-22
By George Morse Sports and Outdoors
On their last possession of the season, the Escalante High School Lobos showed the heart that had led them to two straight state football championships and three in the last four years. Quarterback Waylon Hinds completed passes to Noah Ruppert and Anthony Martinez to move the ball down to the two-yard line against Lordsburg High School in the Class 2A semifinals Nov. 5 in Tierra Amarilla. Hinds ran into the end zone for the touchdown from there, then added the two-point conversion with 1:38 left in the game.
“It was my last drive as a Lobo,” Hinds said. “I had to make the most of it.”
It earned the Lobos some pride, but it fell well short of earning Escalante a victory. Lordsburg had dominated the game throughout the second and third quarters and had built an insurmountable 45-14 lead before Hinds’ touchdown and two-point conversion made the score 45-22 in favor of the Mavericks.
Photo by George Morse for the Valley Daily Post
Lordsburg ran out the clock on their next possession to preserve their victory and will advance to the Class 2A championship game against Fort Sumner High School, which smothered Jal High School 50-0 in the other Class 2A semifinal game Nov. 4 at Fort Sumner.
Escalante Coach Dusty Giles was in an unfamiliar role after the game. The last two seasons, the Lobos had celebrated a state championship. This time, it was a solemn group of players that he spoke to.
“I know there’s nothing I can say that will make you guys feel better,” Coach Giles said. “It’s been a heck of a ride.”
He hesitated, looking for something to say.
“I love you guys,” Coach Giles said.
He then proceeded to hug as many of them as he could.
The game had started ominously for the Lobos. On Lordsburg’s first play from scrimmage, running back Raymond Saucedo rumbled 50 yards down to Escalante’s 15-yard line. On fourth down from the nine-yard line, Lordsburg quarterback Johnny Plowman’s pass over the middle was batted into the air and was up for grabs. The Maverick’s Caleb May alertly snatched it out of the air for the touchdown. Plowman’s kick made the score 7-0 at 10:40 of the first quarter.
After an exchange of possessions, the Lobos drove downfield for their first score. A 32-yard run by Hinds got the Lobos out of a hole deep in their own territory. A pass completion to Martinez and a penalty for helmet-to-helmet contact moved the ball inside Lordsburg’s 20-yard line. On third down from the 12-yard line, Hinds found Martinez open over the middle with a touchdown pass. The extra point failed, making the score 7-6 at 1:57 of the first quarter.
Lordsburg struck back on their next possession. On fourth down from Escalante’s 35-yard line, Plowman rifled a pass over the middle that Jaime Artiaga snatched out of the air for a 30-yard gain to Escalante’s five-yard line. Saucedo took it in from there and Plowman’s kick made it 14-6 just five seconds into the second quarter.
Hinds dazzled the crowd just 14 seconds later on the Lobos next possession. After a short kickoff was covered at the Lobos’ 41-yard line, Hinds ran a quarterback keeper and found some running room. Seemingly stopped at about the 20-yard line, he somehow broke loose and raced towards the end zone. He was hit hard just as he crossed the goal line. Diego Aguilar ran for the two-point conversion and that tied the score 14-14 in the second quarter.
After forcing a punt by the Mavericks, the Lobos were back in business at midfield. Unfortunately, Escalante fumbled on second down and the Mavericks recovered at their own 47-yard line. Plowman’s quick screen pass to Joseph Gonzales picked up 15 yards. Two plays later, Plowman pump-faked another quick screen that drew the defenders in. That left May wide open down the field. He gathered in Plowman’s pass all alone and easily scored on a 39-yard pass play. Another successful extra point made the score 21-14 at 9:11 of the second quarter.
On the Lobos next possession, Hinds stayed on the sideline and Estevan Archuleta replaced him at quarterback. Hinds stayed on the sideline throwing up.
“I took a pretty good blow to the stomach,” Hinds said. “I had the stomach flu this week.”
The Lobos offense ground to a halt and despite getting good field position after a fumbled punt by Lordsburg on their next possession, would not score again even after Hinds returned until the game was out of reach.
Lordsburg scored again with 1:22 left in the second quarter on another pass from Plowman to May. The score was 27-14 at halftime.
“I told them if we want to be a championship team, we have to establish ourselves in the second half,” Lordsburg Coach Louie Baisa said.
The Mavericks took control of the game in the third quarter. An interception by Lordsburg on Escalante’s first possession resulted in another Plowman touchdown pass, this time to Artiaga. After an Escalante punt, the Plowman-to-May connection clicked for their fourth touchdown of the game. An interception by Saucedo led to his scoring on a four-yard run to make the score 45-14 heading into the fourth quarter.
Lordsburg chose to keep the ball on the ground the rest of the way, taking time off the clock. All of the touchdowns scored by the Mavericks were by senior players.
“They’ve been playing since they were freshmen,” Coach Baisa said. “They’re on a mission to get something done this season.”
All season long, the undersized Lobos had battled bigger schools with bigger players and emerged victorious. This time, the bigger Mavericks were able to make the most of their advantage. Plowman weighed in at 210 pounds and Saucedo a solid 195 pounds. With a line that included 335-pound Alex Estrada and several other players topping 200 pounds, Lordsburg was able to wear down the Lobos.
“I think their size advantage kinda got to us,” Coach Giles said. “They took advantage of their size where we didn’t match up.”
The Lobos had to deal with injuries this season. Hinds took over at quarterback when starter Tristan Martinez went down with an injury midseason. Archuleta was Escalante’s third-string quarterback at the beginning of the season.
“There’s a little bit of luck involved with winning a championship,” Coach Giles said. “Injuries are a part of that luck. Lordsburg is as healthy as they’ve been all year. They’re a solid football team.”
Escalante finished the season 9-2 and defeated Class 5A Espanola Valley High School and Class 4A Pojoaque Valley High School during the season. It was not the ending that they wanted, but they went down fighting to the end.