Fri Oct 23rd, 2020
Special to the Drum
Tags: Abraham Echauri, Alexis Villagomez, Brian Ullery, Carlos Almeida, Dylan LaBarthe, Gabe Tucson, Habran De la Cruz, Jace Carmenoros, Joe Garcia, John Riepel, Lawrence Toledo, Omar Hernandez, Peyton Baker, Ponch Garcia, Shawn Campbell, Victor Almeida, Viking Field
Garcia logs 3 TD in season-opener
En route to the team bus Thursday night, Oct. 15, following a strong season-opening effort, Ignacio junior quarterback Gabe Tucson summarized matters by saying, “We didn’t give up; we played until the clock ran out.”
Which was a good thing; IHS’ opponent, inspired by cancer-free coach Brian Ullery, had the same mentality.
And not until senior Habran De la Cruz, Tucson’s opposite number, was sacked for a five-yard loss with 6.9 seconds remaining on 4th-and-11 from the Ignacio 48-yard line could Ponch Garcia’s visiting Bobcats exhale in victorious relief upon Viking Field at Center Community Park.
“I’m ecstatic,” said senior running back Joe Garcia, who unofficially gained 127 yards rushing on 23 carries and scored three touchdowns in the 27-18 road win. “It feels great, winning your first ‘last’ game in high school.”
Able to somehow avoid disaster in the form of CHS running back Abraham Echauri, who rapidly piled up 109 yards in the first quarter on only nine carries before being lost to a possible knee injury, the ’Cats (1-0, 1-0 1A Southern Peaks) finally broke through late in the second quarter when Garcia capped a 6-play, 52-yard drive with an 18-yard burst around right end.
Having thrown the final block on the scoring run, junior receiver and kicker Shawn Campbell’s point-after attempt was blocked, but with only 31.8 ticks left in the half there was little the Vikes (0-2, 0-1) could do against the 6-0 deficit.
Having ‘won’ the CHSAA-predetermined coin toss and deferring to the second half, Ignacio began the third quarter at their own 39 and proceeded to grind forward all the way to the Center 10 in 13 plays. But a false-start penalty pushed the Bobcats back five yards and CHS freshman Jesus Valdez then intercepted Tucson’s subsequent throw over the middle at the four.
Given that sudden morale boost with 6:19 left, Center went back to Echauri replacement Cael Ruggles, and the big sophomore plowed forward for 11 yards in three tries. IHS sophomore Jace Carmenoros, however, then barged in to sack De la Cruz for a five-yard loss, and senior Dylan Labarthe then intercepted De la Cruz on the very next and made a short return back to the line of scrimmage.
Three Garcia totes from the Viking 10 paid off with a three-yard TD and 2:25 left, and the ’Cats successfully faked the PAT with Tucson, the holder in the formation, flinging a 2-point conversion to senior Lawrence Toledo.
Down 14-0, things quickly got worse for Center as on their next offensive play Valdez gained one yard but lost the ball – which bounced straight into the hands of Ignacio’s John Riepel, lying on his back at the bottom of the pile. Nine seconds after setting up shop at the Viking 32 with 2:08 remaining, the guests were celebrating in the end zone again as Garcia took a Tucson give left, then rerouted himself right to follow a key block thrown by senior center Peyton Baker and motor untouched to paydirt. Campbell’s PAT kick was good, and IHS appeared to be cruising to a lop-sided conquest.
“It wasn’t there,” Garcia said, explaining how his longest jaunt of the night began, “and then I looked to the other side and the field was just wide-open. I was super-excited, and just took off! My teammates, they just set everything up … couldn’t do it without them.”
“Once we got that momentum we just wanted to keep pushing, keep pushing,” said Tucson.
And push the ’Cats did, with Labarthe foiling a desperate carry by Center punter Omar Hernandez. Called in to boot possession away, Hernandez was unable to collect the snap cleanly and, with multiple white jerseys swarming, elected to take off running towards open space to his left. But after gaining seven panicked yards, Labarthe blasted him backwards with a shot akin to the famed Atwater-on-Okoye hit unforgettable to fans of the NFL’s Denver Broncos.
With only 0:03.2 showing on the scoreboard clock, that was more or less how the third quarter expired, but Ignacio failed to again capitalize and Campbell punted after a brief three-and-out. Junior Victor Almeida’s return from his own 5 gained 58 yards to the Bobcat 37 with 11:02 left in the game, and the Vikings finally produced points four plays later via a 10-yard Ruggles romp with 9:44 left.
With Tucson crashing in right alongside him, Riepel managed to block De la Cruz’s PAT try. But despite still holding a 21-6 advantage, the ’Cats again went three-and-out from their own 40 on their next series and Campbell’s punt set Center up at their own 40 with 8:31 to go.
And powered by a 19-yard run by sophomore Alexis Villagomez and a 23-yard Ruggles rush, CHS completed the 60-yard drive with De la Cruz tossing a three-yard TD to senior Carlos Almeida. But De la Cruz’s 2-point run attempt failed, and with 4:20 left Ignacio’s lead was cut to 21-12.
Finally responding with the previous quarter’s energy, IHS fought back with a 7-play, 50-yard surge – ending with Tucson zipping a dart left to Labarthe, whose legs then finished the 27-yard play with 3:23 still left.
“Had to get it in there; it was fourth down … I just had to punch it in,” Tucson recalled afterwards. “Felt pretty good.”
Forced to attempt an unplanned pass after Tucson couldn’t control the snap on the PAT, Campbell’s throw into the end zone went incomplete, but the Bobcats still led by 15 points … and appeared wanting more, as Carmenoros – who’d already recovered a fumble ending the first quarter (Echauri may have been injured on the same play) – recovered a Campbell squib kick the Vikings couldn’t at CHS’ 32.
With Riepel in at quarterback, the plan was simple: Control the ball, work the clock. Garcia gained nine yards on first down, but lost two on second and Riepel gained none on third. Calamity ensued on fourth, as the ball popped out of Riepel’s hands as he scrambled left and took a near-perfect bounce into Victor Almeida’s. With unguarded green before him, Almeida won a 67-yard race to the end zone, and Center was back to within 27-18 with 1:09 still remaining.
Labarthe snuffed out Ruggles’ conversion run, but the Vikings incredibly recovered the expected onside kick, giving themselves more last-minute hope from the Ignacio 47.
But Campbell deflected De la Cruz’s long first-down throw and De la Cruz threw incomplete on second. Trying to take the ’Cats by surprise, Center stayed grounded on 3rd-and-10 and De la Cruz gave to Victor Almeida in hopes of another speedy burst. But the trickery resulted in a one-yard loss and on fourth down, IHS had the obvious desperation heave covered.
“Gives us a good jump-off to the season,” said Tucson, who unofficially finished 13-of-30 passing for 158 yards.
Gaining 14 yards on his lone carry, Toledo also logged five receptions for 60 yards. Labarthe caught three throws for 55, Riepel snagged three for 20 and Campbell two for 23.
With the dangerous Echauri unavailable, De la Cruz unofficially went 2-of-10 passing in defeat for only two yards. Ruggles unofficially gained a valiant 81 yards on 16 hard runs, and was dropped for negative yardage only on the very first one. Sacked multiple times, De la Cruz netted zero yards on 13 carries.
Ignacio will next host Dolores (0-2, 0-1 SPC) at 7 p.m. Friday, Oct. 23, at IHS Field.
“We’ve just got to do the same thing, but not let our heads hang down when something bad happens,” said Tucson, asked how Ignacio will prepare for DHS based on their work at Center.
“We’re going to come (out) swinging,” Garcia added. “I think it’s going to be a real fun game for us.”
Routed 52-0 at home by non-conference Hotchkiss back on Oct. 8, the Bears then took a 69-0 thrashing from Centauri (2-0, 1-0) Friday night, Oct. 16, in La Jara – where the Bobcats will travel for a 1 p.m. start Friday, Oct. 30.
’SUP WITH THAT
Regarding IHS’ originally-scheduled – but scrubbed six days before kickoff—Oct. 10 season-opener at home versus non-conference Meeker, there were questions as to whether the cancelation would count as a forfeit loss for the ’Cats (and win for the Cowboys) as it was not coronavirus-caused.
Yet as of press time, neither Ignacio nor Meeker lists the contest on their respective maxpreps.com schedules; MHS is shown as standing 2-0 after a 36-14 home win over Craig-based 2A Moffat County – Meeker’s replacement opponent – on Friday, Oct. 9, and a 48-0 flogging of 1A Western Slope Conference foe Gunnison on the 16th.
Keep reading the Drum for an update should the situation change.