Pojoaque Elks Powers Past Española Valley Sundevils

Pojoaque's #85 Andres Romero makes a touchdown catch while Espanola's #29 Favian Martinez attempts to intercept. Photo courtesy Marcos Herrera

Pojoaque Elks Powers Past Española Valley Sundevils

By George Morse Sports and Outdoors

Pojoaque Valley High School surged to a 22-6 lead at halftime against Española Valley High School, then held on for a 22-14 victory over the Sundevils Sept. 9 at Pojoaque. The Elks claimed the trophy for the first annual “Chile Bowl” with the victory.

“The players believe now,” Pojoaque Coach Jorge Oropeza said. “They’re putting in the hard work.”

For the Sundevils, it was the second week in a row to lose a game they had chances to win. Despite stifling the Elks in the second half, the Sundevils could not find the end zone for the score that could have tied the game. After beginning last season 7-0, Española Valley is now 0-3 on the season..

“There’s no panic,” Española Valley Coach Jesus Maes said. “They know they’re just a few plays from winning.”

Pojoaque’s first touchdown came after  what appeared to be a major mistake on the part of Coach Maes. With a fourth down and five yards to go at their own 30-yard line, the Sundevils lined up as if they were going to run a play. However, the quarterback fumbled the snap and the ball went over to Pojoaque on downs.

As it turns out, Española Valley wasn’t supposed to snap the ball at all.

“They were supposed to freeze at the line of scrimmage and try to draw them (Pojoaque) offsides,” Coach Maes said. “For some reason, our center snapped the ball and the quarterback wasn’t ready for it.”

A five-yard offsides penalty would have given Española a first down. Coach Maes was willing to give up the five-yard penalty for delay of game, but the center snapping the ball threw a monkey wrench into those plans.

Pojoaque immediately took advantage of the good field position. Quarterback Daniel Rael lofted a pass into the end zone from the 14-yard line and Andres Romero snatched it out of the air for a touchdown. Rael passed to Brandyn Maxey for the two-point conversion to give the Elks an 8-0 lead at 6:02 of the first quarter.

#80 Brandyn Maxy scores a two point conversion. Photo courtesy Marcos Herrera.

Pojoaque was back in business again after recovering an Española Valley fumble on the Sundevils next possession. The Elks reached Española’s 15-yard line. Española Valley recovered a Pojoaque fumble to stop that drive.

The Sundevils shredded Pojoaque’s defense on five straight running plays to score their first touchdown. The last 25 yards was covered by Carlos Gonzales, who burst through a big hole in the Elks’ line and rumbled through the secondary to the end zone. With 11:08 left in the second quarter, the score was 8-6 in favor of the Elks.

With the ball at Pojoaque’s 28-yard line following the kickoff, Rael dropped back to pass. Evading the rush of Española Valley’s Leo Pacheco, Rael took off and found plenty of running room. Racing across the field to the left sideline, he outran the Española Valley defense for a spectacular 72-yard touchdown run.

“I saw a wide-open hole down the field,” Rael said. “I didn’t look back. I just ran.”

 Rael passed to CJ Law for the two-point conversion and the Elks led 16-6.

Pojoaque scored again on a fourth-down pass from Rael to Romero Española’s defensive backs had problems covering the tall Pojoaque receivers.  The score was 22-6 in favor of the Elks at halftime.

#12, Daniel Rael scores a touchdown run. Photo courtesy of Marcos Herrera

The Sundevils scored on their first possession of the second half. Quarterback JoeRey Manzanares completed a fourth-down pass to Fernando Leora from 12 yards out for the touchdown. DeAndre Curtis ran for the two-point conversion, making the score 22-14 with 7:42 left in the third quarter.

Española Valley’s defense smothered the Pojoaque offense in the second half. With the exception of Rael’s 72-yard scamper, EspañolaValley held Pojoaque to just 44 yards rushing on 15 carries. The Sundevils also shut down the Elks passing attack.

After Española Valley scored its second touchdown, the Pojoaque defense rose to the occasion, including two big hits by Romero on attempted screen passes by the Sundevils.

“He (Romero) blew them up,” Pojoaque’s Jonathan Chavez said. “I saw my boys playing hard and it made me want to play hard with them.”

On Española Valley’s final possession, freshman Isaiah Leyba-Moya intercepted a pass and returned it to the end zone. Although the touchdown was negated by a penalty, the ball belonged to the Elks. That sealed Española Valley’s fate.

“I’ll be one of the biggest Española Valley fans from here on out,” Coach Oropeza, who last season served as Española Valley’s defensive coordinator, said.

After last season, when the Elks went 0-10, the two wins felt sweet.

“This is their first winning streak in over two years,” Coach Oropeza said. “Little by little, they’re starting to understand.”

Rael, who took his lumps last  season, put it very simply.

“It feels really good,” he said.