Escalante Remains Unbeaten, Punishes Pojoaque In 38-14 Victory

Fighting for the end zone. Photo courtesy of Marcos Herrera

Escalante Remains Unbeaten, Punishes Pojoaque In 38-14 Victory

By George Morse Sports and Outdoors

The Escalante High School Lobos slew another giant Sept. 16 when they decisively defeated Pojoaque Valley High School 38-14 to remain unbeaten (4-0) on the season. The Class 2A Lobos fell behind the Class 4A Elks 14-6 in the first quarter, then scored 32 unanswered points while sending four Pojoaque players to the sideline with injuries, including two that had to be taken off on stretchers.

Despite being outweighed along the line by at times 100 pounds-per-man, with Pojoaque’s 235-pound running back Nathanial Manges outweighing most of the players on Escalante’s roster, the Lobos rushed for 224 yards on 36 carries. Quarterback Tristan Martinez  had 113 yards on the ground, while Diego Aguilar picked up 111 yards rushing. Escalante didn’t go to the air often, but when they did it often resulted in big gains. Quarterback Tristan Martinez completed three passes for 128 yards, averaging over 42 yards per completion.

Photo by George Morse for the Valley Daily Post

After stopping Pojoaque on the Elks opening drive, the Lobos took over at their own 20-yard line. Escalante’s first play from scrimmage resulted in a big gain. Martinez found lots of running room to the outside on a quarterback keeper and raced 50 yards down to the Elks 30-yard line.

A couple of penalties on Pojoaque helped the Lobos reach the Elks’ 5-yard line. From there, Diego Aguilar bulled his way to the end zone for the game’s first touchdown. At 7:17 of the first quarter, Escalante had a 6-0 lead.

Escalante Tristan Martinez scores. Photo courtesy of Marcos Herrera

The Elks answered on their next possession, driving 76 yards for a score. Quarterback Daniel Rael did the bulk of the work with his legs and his arm. He completed a key third-down pass to Israel Martinez to move Pojoaque into Escalante territory. From the Lobos’ 27-yard line, Rael ran into the end zone around the right side for the score. He ran for the two-point conversion to give Pojoaque an 8-6 lead at 3:34 of the first quarter.

On the ensuing kickoff, Manges dropped a short pooch kick between Escalante’s players and the ball bounced Pojoaque’s way. Freshman Isaiah Leyba-Moya recovered the ball at Escalante’s 35-yard line and the Elks were back in business.

Rael ran quarterback keepers for good yardage and completed a couple of short passes to Andres Romero to move the ball down to Escalante’s 3-yard line. From there, Manges ran untouched into the end zone to give the Elks a 14-6 lead at 1:23 of the first quarter.

Pojoaque’s #12 Daniel Rael reaches the end zone. Photo courtesy of Marcos Herrera

Escalante came back and scored after recovering another short Pojoaque kickoff. From his own 43-yard line, Martinez dropped back to pass and connected with wide receiver Waylon Hinds, who was wide open down the middle of the field. The 57-yard scoring play made it 14-12 in the Elks’ favor at the end of the first quarter.

Pojoaque turned the ball over on downs near midfield on their next possession. After a holding penalty moved the ball back 10 yards, Martinez rifled a pass down the middle of the field that 5-foot, 2-inch Anthony Martinez snatched out of the air and took the ball down to Pojoaque’s 26-yard line for a 35-yard gain.

Pojoaque’s #12 Daniel Rael Photo by George Morse for the Valley Daily Post

A holding penalty moved Escalante back, but two penalties on Pojoaque moved the ball back down to the 11-yard line. On third down and five from the six-yard line, Aguilar ran for a first down at the one-yard line. Quarterback Martinez scored from there to give Escalante an 18-14 lead.

After an exchange of punts, the Elks were at their own 27-yard line with less than two minutes left in the first half. On second down, Rael threw a short pass that Escalante middle linebacker Joseph Martinez picked off and returned 35 yards for a touchdown.

“That was a huge play,” Escalante Coach Dusty Giles said. “Joseph doesn’t really have pass responsibility. He was able to read it right and put it in the end zone.”

Martinez, who plays center in the offensive line, had some help getting to the end zone.

“I didn’t get there on my own,” Martinez said. “It was the blocks that I got from my defense.”

Escalante finally converted a two-point conversion after the touchdown on a run by quarterback Martinez and Escalante took a 26-14 lead into the locker room at halftime.

Escalante was driving after receiving the second-half kickoff. The Elks forced a fumble and recovered the ball at their own 17-yard line to stop the drive. Pojoaque moved the ball to midfield, but a deep pass intended for Israel Martinez was picked off by Hinds, who returned the ball to Pojoaque’s 45-yard line. From there, a 20-yard run by Aguilar followed by a penalty for grabbing the face mask gave the Lobos a first-and-goal at the five-yard line. Aguilar dove into the end zone two plays later to make the score 32-14.

Desperately trying to get back in the game, the Elks mounted their best drive of the second half, reaching Escalante’s 5-yard line. On first down, Pojoaque went in the wrong direction when  Rael fumbled a low snap from center and lost yardage back to the 11-yard line. After a short gain by Manges and two incomplete passes, Pojoaque turned the ball over on downs. The wind had gone out of their sails and frustration set in.

Pojoaque’s #42 Nathaniel Manges carries the ball. Photo courtesy of Marcos Herrera 

The Elks were penalized 18 times for a total of 200 yards. Much of that penalty yardage was for personal fouls.

After quarterback Martinez reeled off a big 40-yard gain, then hit Hinds with a pass to move the ball inside Pojoaque’s 10-yard line, the Lobos drove the final nail into Pojoaque’s coffin. Quarterback Martinez scored untouched up the middle on a 4-yard run to make the score 38-14 going into the fourth quarter.

Pojoaque pulled its starters in the fourth quarter and started to lick its wounds. Pojoaque fell to 2-2 on the season. The Elks will open play in District 2-4A Friday against West Las Vegas High School in Las Vegas.

“We just got to learn to finish,” Pojoaque Coach Jorge Oropeza said. “We were in control early. You can’t play for two quarters and expect to beat a really good team. Our season really starts next week.”

Escalante celebrated the victory, but the two-time defending state champions have their eyes set on their next game and another state title. Escalante hosts Class 5A Albuquerque Academy Friday in Tierra Amarilla. The Chargers handed the Lobos their only defeat last season 40-20 in Albuquerque.

“We’ve got some really serious goals,” Escalante Coach Dusty Giles said. “We want to play teams that will give us competition so we can get better.”

See below for more images from this game.

Photo by George Morse with the Valley Daily Post

Photo by George Morse for the Valley Daily Post

Photo by George Morse for the Valley Daily Post