Fri Sep 24th, 2021
Special to the Drum
Back in uniform only two weeks after sustaining what appeared to be a serious left knee injury, senior Shawn Campbell knew going into Ignacio’s Sept. 17 home game he might be a little out of sync with the rest of the Bobcats’ offense.
But he also knew the boss wasn’t going to shy away from utilizing him … a lot.
“Yeah, that was part of the plan. Ponch (head coach Alfonso Garcia) told me about it a couple days ago; he said ‘We’re going to try to get the ball to you quite a bit,’” Campbell recalled afterwards. “The first couple plays I was a little nervous; I didn’t want to get hit right away. But after kickoff … it all just came back to me. And the team, they came in and helped me out amazingly.”
Which included making Campbell’s job as a receiver as easy as possible, at just the right moment.
With IHS having trailed visiting Farmington, N.M., Navajo Prep 8-7 after one quarter and, following a second stanza in which the teams combined for 57 points, 38-34 at halftime, Bobcat Devante Montoya began the third quarter intercepting Eagle quarterback Dontrelle Denetso’s first-down deep throw at the IHS 39-yard line.
A holding penalty pushed the ’Cats back to their own 27, and Garcia decided the time was right to attempt a play which shortly before intermission had shown promise. Senior quarterback Gabe Tucson took another first-down snap and promptly threw a lateral left to junior John Riepel. And with Campbell accelerating downfield ahead of the play, NPS was almost helpless to prevent what ended up being a 73-yard pitch-and-catch producing IHS’ first lead in the game.
“The first one I was super aggravated because I just chucked it and was like, ‘I don’t think that’s going to be accurate,’” said Riepel, reflecting on his second-quarter incompletion thrown on a similar play. “So Ponch was like, ‘Get that out of your head; we’ll go back to it.’ So … I threw it and knew it was on the money – it was exhilarating!”
“I wanted to use Shawn to get his confidence up, saying ‘You know, you’re back with the squad and you’re still that person I want to go to,’” Garcia explained. “And he was still not at 100 percent … but he was right there.”
“That was crazy,” said Campbell, who’d also nail the subsequent point-after kick putting Ignacio up 41-38 with 11:28 left in the third. “When I turned around and caught that ball … adrenalin came right to me. I didn’t know how fast I could go!”
“The first, I don’t know, five passes … Gabe and I just didn’t have our timing right,” he added. “Luckily John and I, we had our timing pretty close! And it all worked out pretty well for us.”
Prep would rally with authority, however; Denetso led his side on a 12-play, 49-yard drive draining 6:20 off the clock, and Denetso capped it off with a 7-yard TD keeper. Bobcat Jeremy Roderick would stuff senior Kyler Clitso’s two-point conversion carry, however, and despite the Eagles striking again just three Ignacio snaps later – via a 60-yard Denetso interception return of a Tucson pass off Montoya’s fingertips, plus junior Kyun Tate’s conversion run – it would prove a vital stop.
Beginning the fourth quarter on second down from their own 40, the ’Cats would complete a 64-yard surge with senior Tyler Barnes blasting through the middle of the line for a 21-yard score with 10:08 remaining in regulation. Tucson’s conversion toss to Riepel went incomplete, but Ignacio was back to within five points, 52-47.
Navajo Prep’s ensuing possession lasted an impressive ten plays but netted just 17 yards and ended in a Clitso punt, downed at the Bobcat 37 with 6:20 left. Riepel carried for seven yards on first down, but the clash was halted for 20 minutes while Eagle junior Cade Bitsilly was removed by medical personnel after suffering a serious lower-leg injury.
Alternating carries with Barnes (unoff. 26-137 rushing, 2 TD) as IHS began their own clock-killing drive, Riepel (unoff. 13-78 rushing, TD) would stretch the ball over the goal line from a yard out on the series’ tenth play – putting the home side up 53-52. Campbell’s PAT missed wide left though, giving Prep new hope with 2:04 still to go.
Junior Lucius Hale returned Campbell’s kickoff 12 yards out to the NPS 32, but on first down Denetso was intercepted by Anthony Toledo at the 35. With 1:51 left, Prep skipper Roderick Denetso elected to burn his final timeout after Tucson took a first-down knee. Tucson would then kneel twice more, losing six yards in the process but working the clock down to 18.8 seconds left, when Garcia called his last timeout.
Knowing the Bobcats would have to run a play, Garcia decided against a punt and called for a Riepel run – which actually gained ten yards down to the Eagles’ 33, but failed to move the chains and left Navajo Prep 11.7 ticks with which to work. The play calls surprised no one, and Campbell broke up Dontrelle Denetso’s long heave downfield on first down.
Still with four seconds left – in a game which took over 3 hours, 30 minutes to finish – the guests had one last chance for a miracle but Montoya out-jumped Denetso’s intended target James McGrady to make his second pick and seal a one-point triumph.
“We’ve taught the kids to play until the last second. The clock is a heart and it’s got beats, and the last beat is that last second,” stated Garcia. “And I told them, ‘We don’t give up; don’t ever think about it.’”
“We knew it was going to be a test,” he continued. “My hat’s off to their coach and their staff; Navajo Prep … what a fantastic squad. And I’m so sorry their kid (Bitsilly) got hurt, but unfortunately it was a crazy game.”
Tucson unofficially totaled 109 yards and two touchdowns passing on ten completions, but was intercepted twice. Campbell caught two passes for 90 yards and a TD from both Riepel and Tucson, while Montoya grabbed three throws for 12 yards and Riepel six for 80 and a score. He also returned a kickoff 65 yards for a score with 7:21 left in the second quarter, bringing IHS (4-0, 0-0 1A Southern Peaks) back to 16-14 after Campbell’s PAT.
“Wherever you put him he’s going to give you 110 percent – and he was still hurt! He’s still got that banged knee from the Trinidad game,” Garcia said of Riepel, “but that kids got the heart of a lion. To me, he is … the all-around player.”
“It wasn’t too bad,” said Riepel, his right knee called into question. “I just had to dig deep and push through it; my team needed me. We have heart, and it doesn’t matter how many players you have on the field – it all comes down to heart and how hard you want to play, how much you want to win.”
All told, the Bobcats recorded five takeaways including freshman Charlie Pargin’s end-zone recovery of a Denetso fumble with 53.4 seconds left until halftime, bringing IHS back to 38-34 after Campbell tacked on the extra point.
Held to zero yards passing after halftime, Denetso unofficially finished with 91 yards on four completions with one TD – 66 yards to Hale with 5:06 left in the second quarter. Clitso unofficially rushed 17 times for 111 yards and scored twice for Prep (3-2, 0-0 NMAA Dist. 1-3A), while Denetso added 57 yards on 13 carries and also scored twice on the ground. One rushing TD to his name, Tate unofficially tallied 76 yards on ten totes.
Up next, Ignacio will travel Sat., Sept. 25, to Montezuma Creek, Utah, for a 6 p.m. clash with Whitehorse. An opponent originally scheduled for the first weekend in October, then scratched in favor of a rumble with SPC nemesis Dolores, and then re-added when the rebuilding Bears just recently elected not to play, the UHSAA ‘Freelance’-classified Raiders reportedly stood 0-1 overall prior to facing 1A Monticello, UT, on Wed., Sept. 22.
“We’ll just keep pressing on the gas pedal,” declared Riepel. “Don’t let up and keep our minds focused.”
CHSAANOW.COM CLASS 1A FOOTBALL POLL (9/20): 1.Limon, 2.La Jara Centauri, 3.Florence, 4.Buena Vista, 5.Wray, 6.North Fork (Hotchkiss-Paonia), 7.Holyoke, 8.Wiggins, 9.Yuma, 10.Strasburg. Others Receiving Votes – Westminster Flatirons Academy, Ault Highland, Colorado Springs Banning Lewis Prep Academy, Meeker, Monte Vista, Gunnison, Peyton, IGNACIO, Denver Manual, Colorado Springs Christian.