Birds of Prey: Falcons humble hyped ’Cats

Ignacio’s Jace Carmenoros (63) brings Centauri quarterback McKay Russell down a split-second late on a first-half pass attempt during 1A Southern Peaks Conference road action Friday afternoon, Oct. 30, at Falcon Field.
Ignacio’s Peyton Baker (66) blocks Centauri’s Danny Brady (55) during 1A Southern Peaks Conference road action Friday, Oct. 30, at Falcon Field. Having started the game at center, Baker was later moved out on the O-line to tackle in hopes of slowing CHS’ constant outside pressure.
Observed by Centauri’s Coby Thomas (11), Ignacio’s Gabe Tucson enjoys a rare moment with time to think inside the pocket and fires over the middle during 1A Southern Peaks Conference road action Friday, Oct. 30, at Falcon Field.
With line coach Eric Lacombe his objective, Ignacio’s Joe Garcia (23) splits Anthony Toledo (1) and Rylan Maez (87) during a pass rush/block drill prior to the Bobcats’ Oct. 30 road game at 1A Southern Peaks Conference game superpower Centauri.
Ignacio’s Lawrence Toledo (2) slips away from Centauri’s Deven Brady (6) on a kickoff return during 1A Southern Peaks Conference road action Friday, Oct. 30, at Falcon Field. Toledo’s runback would gain 43 yards out to the Bobcats’ 46-yard line, but IHS’ resulting series ended with Brady blocking a punt and returning it for a touchdown.
Joel Priest | Special to the Drum
Joel Priest | Special to the Drum
Joel Priest | Special to the Drum
Joel Priest | Special to the Drum
Joel Priest | Special to the Drum

IHS now 0-for-9 vs. Centauri in SoPeaks era

As much of a pickle as the coaching staffs of both visiting Ignacio and hosting Centauri found themselves in amidst a rapidly-increasing score differential, the person most perplexed by what should be done during the penultimate 15 seconds may have been CHS’ Dylan Vasquez.

A sophomore running back eager to establish a place behind potent junior standouts Mason Claunch and Zach Buhr in the Falcons’ pecking order, Vasquez was given the football from IHS’ 10-yard line on a basic run right – a play designed to simply kill off the mercy-rule running clock and conclude the Oct. 30 contest.

Much like Ignacio junior Tyler Barnes late in the Bobcats’ rout of Dolores one week before, however, Vasquez had other ideas … even after being hit by two ’Cats almost simultaneously.  Keeping his balance and redirecting himself left, Vasquez outran the nearest pursuer and scampered into the end zone, further inflating Centauri’s sky-high lead to 73-0 … with 0:05 still technically remaining.

“We just ran into a giant,” IHS head coach ‘Ponch’ Garcia said afterwards, succinctly yet aptly.

Reactions on both sides, especially in Falcon Field’s bleachers, were predictable; the red-and-white-clad raptors’ rooters rejoiced, while the white-and-red-wearing felines’ fanatics all but demanded CHS boss Kyle Forster’s head – briefly forgetting in the heat of the moment (as well as in Conejos County) that Barnes’ 49-yard TD tromp with 2:53 left in running-clock play, plus junior Shawn Campbell’s point-after kick, had more or less allowed the Bobcats to strut in Falcon cleats as similarly-overwhelmed DHS went down 57-0 at IHS Field.

Also overlooked was the fact Centauri’s point total was relatively par for their present course – including a season-opening 54-7 road win over non-conference Rocky Ford, a 69-0 devastation of Dolores in their 1A Southern Peaks Conference opener, and a 66-0 destruction of Del Norte away — all prior to Ignacio’s arrival.

And with No. 2 RB Barnes lost early to a seriously re-injured left ankle, the afternoon’s first of several casualties, IHS’ ground force was for all practical purposes reduced to No. 1 Joe Garcia.  Aware of the senior’s success during the Bobcats’ wins over Center and Dolores, Centauri’s swarming defense repeated their 2019 feat of holding him to negative yardage.

When it became evident the best way to utilize Garcia (unofficially 7 carries, minus-12 yards) might be to keep him in the backfield as an extra blocker protecting quarterback Gabe Tucson, and/or an emergency-valve receiver, CHS intensified their pressure of the passing pocket to stop a thrower who’d racked up over 425 yards during his first two outings.

Starting six of Ignacio’s ten total series inside his own 20-yard line, Tucson often had to backpedal dangerously close to the end zone as a battered-and-bruised offensive line could do little against a rush superior in size and sheer numbers.

He would finish 8-of-19 passing for just 21 yards – including a long of 13 to senior Dylan Labarthe (2-15 receiving) with about 8:25 remaining in the second quarter, after Centauri had already enacted running-clock rules with 11:09 left via a 35-yard McKay Russell-to-Baron Holman scoring connection.  However, Tucson was intercepted on the Bobcats’ very next play by Holman, who returned the pick to the line of scrimmage – the Ignacio 18 – with 6:20 left before halftime.

Two plays later Buhr toted in a 5-yard TD with 5:00 to go, and Holman’s two-point conversion run out of PAT formation upped CHS’ eventual halftime advantage to 51-0.  But it nearly increased again before the break; after pinning IHS kick returner Lawrence Toledo down at the Bobcat 18 with 2:45 (and counting) left, a backside blitz trucked Tucson and knocked the ball free.  Reacting quickly, Garcia fortunately managed to out-dive Buhr, cover up the catastrophe and retain possession despite taking a 12-yard loss.

Tucson then threw incomplete on second down, and hit Campbell for a two-yard gain as the half thankfully expired.

Buhr would later intercept him ending the third quarter, but his apparent 50-yard pick-6 was erased by a flag during the runback. No matter — freshman teammate Deven Brady then began the final frame sprinting 34 yards around right end to regain the six points with 11:47 left, and Russell then tacked on his fifth PAT in six tries, further swelling the score to 65-0.

Able to avoid resumption of play for nearly two minutes, Ignacio (2-1, 2-1 SPC) went back on offense at their 15 with 9:24 left.  After an infraction wiped out a short pass to Garcia and pushed the ’Cats back to their 7, Tucson was forced to chase down freshman reserve center Kyle Rima’s low snap to his right and bat it out the back of the end zone, surrendering a two-point safety.

The Falcons (4-0, 3-0) then returned Campbell’s ensuing free kick to their 41 with 5:13 left, and were able to cover – aided by a 15-yard face-mask penalty against IHS – the required 59 yards in six plays to emphatically seal the whole deal.

Which, believe it or not, originally began with Ignacio as the aggressors; after a long Buhr kickoff return positioned Centauri at the Bobcat 24, IHS’ Dante Milliano managed hard stops of Buhr on first down and Claunch on second, and Labarthe disrupted Russell’s throw on third-and-9 from the 23.

But with zero hesitation, Forster kept his offense on the field and Russell (unoff. 9-of-10, 145 yards, 2 TD, 0 INT) reinforced that confidence with a chains-moving 14-yard dart to Holman (4-96, TD).  Claunch (8-68 rushing) then gained four yards on first-and-goal, and promptly penetrated the end zone from five yards out on second – logging the first of his three, and CHS’ seven total rushing touchdowns.

Up next for IHS will be a Nov. 6 return to the San Luis Valley and matchup with Monte Vista (3-1, 3-0 SPC), which wrapped up October visiting Dolores on the 30th and drubbing the Bears (0-4, 0-3) by a 50-8 margin.  Originally set for 1 p.m., kickoff at the Pirates’ Sullivan Field has been relisted for 7 p.m.

Centauri, meanwhile, had been scheduled to next visit Center for a 3 p.m. start on the 6th, but in the wake of postponing their own slated 10/29 battle versus Del Norte due to COVID-19 concerns in Rio Grande County – surely putting MVHS now on alert – the sinking Vikings (0-3, 0-2) have reportedly already elected to also reschedule the Falcons’ invasion … even if it only delays a likely, dread outcome.

Able to secure a replacement opponent, Centauri will now travel to non-conference Woodland Park.  Playing in the 2A West Conference this fall, the Panthers slipped to 2-2 overall, 1-2 WC after falling 27-23 in Craig at Moffat County (2-1, 2-0).

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