Mccurdy Beats Crownpoint, Advances To Quarterfinals
By George Morse Sports and Outdoors
It’s been three long years since McCurdy Charter School advanced to the state football playoffs. That streak came to an end Nov. 11 when the Bobcats beat Crownpoint High School 25-18 in the opening round of the Class 3A state football playoffs at Crownpoint.
It was the first year since 1999 that the Bobcats competed in Class 3A (previously Class 2A). A post season fixture until 2012, when McCurdy lost to Escalante High School in the Class A semifinals, the Bobcats had struggled the last three seasons with a combined record of 9-20 and had not advanced to the postseason. This season, McCurdy finished with a record of 5-5 and in second place in District 2/6-3A. McCurdy advanced to the state football playoffs as an at-large team. The Bobcats were seeded ninth out of 12 teams and faced eighth-seeded Crownpoint.
“This team is really unique,’ McCurdy Coach Ron Gallegos said. “They trusted me. They had confidence in me. I had the same for them. There was mutual respect.”
It was the Eagles, who finished the regular season 6-4 and took first place in District 1-3A, that scored first, taking the opening kickoff and grinding out yardage on the ground behind quarterback Noah Manuelito and running backs Isaiah Pool and Durrell Etcitty. Crownpoint took a 6-0 lead.
The Eagles were back in business when McCurdy fumbled the ensuing kickoff and Crownpoint recovered. The McCurdy defense stiffened and kept the Eagles from scoring, but the Bobcats didn’t have an offensive play from scrimmage until less than two minutes were left in the first quarter. That was enough time for the Bobcats to score. With just 47 seconds left in the first quarter, McCurdy quarterback Andres Martinez tossed a deep pass to Ernesto Martinez. Ernesto Martinez gathered the ball in and outran his defender for a touchdown. Raul Arroyo’s extra point made the score 7-6 in favor of McCurdy.
The two teams battled back and forth in the second quarter, but neither team scored until less than a minute remained in the first half. Backed up to their own 20-yard line, the Bobcats surprised the Eagles by going deep to Ernesto Martinez again. Once more, he had gotten behind the defense andhe gathered in Andres’ Martinez’s pass and took off to the end zone. The 80-yard scoring play with just 14 seconds left in the first half gave the Bobcats a 13-6 lead at halftime.
The Eagles scored in the third quarter on a run by Manuelito, but failed to convert on their two-point try and the Bobcats still held a 13-12 lead with seven Minutes to go in the third quarter.
McCurdy answered with two minutes to go in the third quarter when Andres Martinez hit Josh Waters with a 20-yard touchdown pass. The conversion failed and McCurdy led 19-12.
The Bobcats were back in business at the Eagles’ eight-yard line after recovering a fumble by the Eagles. With less than a minute left in the third quarter, Andres Martinez threw his fourth touchdown pass of the game. Gabe Huerta caught the ball in the end zone to give the Bobcats a 25-12 lead heading into the fourth quarter.
Crownpoint scored in the fourth quarter to make the score 25-18 with three minutes left in the game. On the Bobcats ensuing possession, Andres Martinez was able to pick up a key first down on a keeper with 1:11 left in the game. The Bobcats were able to run out the clock for the victory.
McCurdy advances to the quarterfinals, where they will meet a familiar foe in Estancia High School. The Bears have won the last two Class 3A state championships and walloped McCurdy 45-0 Oct. 15 at McCurdy. That came on the heels of a 52-0 beatdown by Escalante High School Oct. 7 at Escalante.
“Against Escalante, we didn’t get off the bus,” Andres Martinez said. “Against Estancia, I think we were a little bit scared. I wish we could have both those games back, but you gotta move on and learn from it.”
Martinez has had a hot hand in McCurdy’s last two games, throwing three touchdown passes in McCurdy’s 47-9 victory over Dulce High School Nov. 4 and four against Crownpoint. He likes to go deep to Ernesto Martinez or Huerta.
“It’s the easiest pass to throw,” Andres Martinez said. “I’m confident they’ll get under it.”
Coach Gallegos acknowledges that the Bobcats strength is their passing attack.
“Offensively, that’s our bread and butter right there,” he said. “We have some of the fastest receivers in the state.”
In the loss to Estancia, the Bears’ Ezekial Tapia had a career day, rushing for over 400 yards.
“We have to stop number 33 (Tapia),” Coach Gallegos said.
Lucas Samora, McCurdy’s leading tackler, thinks the Bobcats will be ready.
“We know what they’re going to run,” Samora said. “They’ve been running the same thing for two years. We have to prepare for that. I’m confident it’s going to work.”
Estancia will be heavily favored to beat the Bobcats. Quarterback Martinez feels it will be a different game than the first time the two teams met.
“Coach (Cecil) Brown (McCurdy’s offensive coordinator) has been working on what will work,” quarterback Martinez said. “We know that they (Estancia) are a machine and we have to figure out how to stop them. Getting guys in the right places is the key.”
Coach Gallegos thinks this game will be a different story than the first time the two teams met.
He kids aren’t afraid this time,” he said. “They’re looking forward to it. They want that upset.”