Escalante Trounces Tigers, Battles Bears Next

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Escalante quarterback Esteban rchuleta gets great protection as he gets set to pass downfield. Escalante beat Capitan 56-6  in the opening round of the Class 2A state football playoffs Nov.3 at Escalante.

Escalante Trounces Tigers, Battles Bears Next

By George Morse Sports and Outdoors

Although some 240 miles separate them, Escalante High School and Capitan High School aren’t strangers. In 2012, Escalante defeated Capitan 48-30 in the Class A state championship football game. The following year, it was the Tigers who knocked off the Lobos in the playoffs. After that, realignment and reclassification by the New Mexico Activities Association put the schools in different classes for the next four years. During that time, Escalante won two more Class A state championships (2014, 2015) while Capitan captured the Class 2A title in 2016. After another realignment and reclassification, Escalante and Capitan are both back in Class 2A and they met again in the opening round of the Class 2A state football playoffs Nov. 3 at Escalante.

This time around, the Lobos laid a licking on the Tigers, defeating Capitan 56-6 to advance to the quarterfinals.

Escalante scored touchdowns on defense, on special teams, through the air and on the ground.

“We work hard on all aspects of the game,” Escalante Coach Dusty Giles said.

Escalante took the opening kickoff and started from their 31-yardline. They methodically moved the ball to near midfield. A 30-yard run by Dante Salazar moved the ball to the 16-yardline. From there, the Lobos drove down to the one-yard line. Quarterback Esteban Archuleta scored on a quarterback keeper. Randy Ferrell kicked the extra point and the Lobos. Escalante led 7-0 at 9:23 of the first quarter.

Escalante quarterback Esteban Archuleta finds some running room against Capitan in the Lobos 56-6 victory over the Tigers Nov. 3 at Escalante.

On Capitan’s ensuing possession, the Tigers were hit with a holding penalty after an apparent first down. On third down and long from their own red zone, Capitan attempted a middle screen pass. The Lobos were ready for it and middle linebacker Anthony Ulibarri intercepted the pass and returned it 20 yards for a touchdown. Ulibarri then tacked on the two-point conversion on a run and Escalante led 15-0 at 8:01 of the first quarter.

After a Capitan punt, Archuleta dropped back to pass and he rifled a a bullet over the middle to A. J. Blea, who was running a post route. Blea caught the ball in strde and outran the defender to the endzone for a 68-yard touchdown. Escalante led 21-0 still in the first quarter.

Capitan had its one shining moment on their next possession. Running back Casey McCarty broke through a hole in the line, cut to the outside and raced down the right sideline for a 51-yard touchdown run to make the score 21-6.

Capitan recovered a fumble on Escalante’s next possession, but the Lobos’ defense kept the Tigers from scoring again.

Capitan had the ball near midfield in the second quarter when the Tigers tried the middle screen pass they’d attempted earlier in the game. Once again, the play didn’t fool Ulibarri. He intercepted the pass and made a great run on thereturn to score his second touchdown, making the score 27-6 in the second quarter.

“We had practiced it all week,” Ulibarri said. “I just put myself in position to make a play.”

Escalante scored once more before halftime on a short touchdown run by Archuleta after the Lobos recovered a Capitan fumble deep in Tigers’ territory. The score was 34-6 at halftime.

Capitan punted on its first possession of the second half. Blea bobbled the ball and had trouble picking it up off the ground. Once he did, he took off down the left sideline and raced 69 yards for a touchdown making the score 41-6 at 10:19 of the third quarter.

“I just picked it up and went to the side I saw the most open field,” Blea said.

With the game clock now running after the Lobos took a 35-point lead, Escalante scored again in the third quarter. The Lobos added two more points on a safety when the snap from center sailed over the head of Captain’s punter and out of the endzone. On the Lobos ensuing possession, Salazar took a pitch from Archuleta, turned the corner and flew down the right sideline for a 45-yard touchdown run, making the score 50-6 at 2:13 of the third quarter.

“I’m pretty fast,” Salazar said. “There’s not many who can catch up to me.”

In the fourth quarter with 5:28 left in the game, Ulibarri burst through a hole in the line and raced untouched 62 yards to the endzone. Once he crossed the goal line, the game ended under the 50-point mercy rule.

“It opened up like the Red Sea,” Ulibarri said. “The line gave me a hole and I took advantage of it.”

Escalante has won eight straight games after starting the season 1-2 and advances to the Class 2A state playoff quarterfinals to face Estancia High School Friday in Estancia. The Bears handed Escalante one of its worst defeats in recent years 46-6 Sept. 7 at Estancia. After that game, the Lobos changed their offense from a one-back set to a two-back set while still keeping the option as its primary offense. Previously, just Ulibarri would be in the backfield with Archuleta. Now, Salazar and Ulibarri line up in the backfield.

“With the two backs we are able to utilize our strengths and get more guys involved,” Archuleta said. “We’ll just give it all we got (against Estancia).”

Coach Giles admits that the Lobos struggled a bit in their first three games of the season on both sides of the ball. Escalante was turning the ball over too many times. They shuffled players around and changed to the two-back set.  Since then, they have blown out their opponents.

 “We needed to make a change,” he said. “We had the right guys, just not in the right spots. Now we’ve got guys in the right spots and the kids have found something they can excel at on both sides of the ball. Our kids understand the need to work hard.”

Giles spent two seasons (2009, 2010) at Estancia as coach and athletic director.

“We’re excited to play that game again,” Coach Giles said. “We’re a drastically different tea and I think it will be much more competitive.”