Miners bury Bobcats in opener, 45-6 

Ignacio senior Devante Montoya (11) breaks a kickoff return outside, leaving two North Fork players in his wake during season-opening, non-conference action Saturday, Aug. 19, at IHS Field. Montoya intercepted two passes plus recovered a fumble defensively, but the team managed just six points offensively in a loss to the Hotchkiss-based Miners.
Ignacio senior Rylan Maez tackles North Fork's A.J. Lozano (44) for a loss Saturday, Aug. 19, during season-opening non-conference action at IHS Field. On offense, Maez caught a third-quarter touchdown pass for the Bobcats' only points in a loss to the Hotchkiss-based Miners.
Ignacio senior Cruz Martinez (56) loses himself inside the cool of a frozen towel during a timeout Saturday, Aug. 19, at IHS Field. The Bobcats began their 2023 season hosting Hotchkiss-based North Fork in non-conference play, with an early-afternoon air temperature in the 90s that was likely higher on-field.
Joel Priest | Special to Drum
Joel Priest | Special to Drum
Joel Priest | Special to Drum

First-quarter hole inescapable for IHS  

Recording two interceptions and one red-zone fumble recovery on the defensive side of the football, plus gaining 74 yards on four kickoff returns, Devante Montoya turned in the sort of performance Saturday afternoon, August 19, which Ignacio head coach Alfonso ‘Ponch’ Garcia hopes will be repeated as often as possible in 2023. 

“I’ll tell you what, (Devante’s) our ace. He’s one of our captains, so he should be one of our leaders,” Garcia had said after a non-conference game last fall. “I’m not going to lie, he’s probably going to be our main target (offensively) because he’s our most experienced kid.” 

Unfortunately, visiting North Fork not only limited Montoya’s targets as a receiver but held the senior to just one catch for eight yards while pressuring – and often sacking – sophomore quarterback Zane Pontine. Meanwhile, NFHS sophomore Braeden Flores put up a stat line he might remember for quite some time: 

Six point-after-touchdown attempts with as many makes, one made field goal in as many tries and, despite seeing most his action as the Miners’ placekicker (senior incumbent Maddie Brezonick was unavailable), three ‘victory formation’ kneel-downs as the guests’ third option at quarterback – polishing off a season-opening 45-6 road win at IHS Field. 

Hotchkiss-based NFHS got on the scoreboard via their very first drive – an all-run 6-play, 44-yard push consuming just 2:17 of the first quarter and capped by senior fullback Lane Allen’s 5-yard touchdown carry – and never lost the upper hand. 

Junior Payson Pene then intercepted Pontine two plays into the Bobcats’ ensuing possession, putting North Fork (1-0, 0-0 1A Western Slope) in business at IHS’ 14-yard line with 7:53 left in the first. And though an apparent TD by senior Hayden Moreno was wiped out by penalty, the Miners still added to their lead when Flores booted a 31-yard FG with 6:00 remaining. 

Moreno would break up a long Pontine pass on 2nd-and-11, and Ignacio (0-1, 0-0 1A South Central) soon sent lineman Stephen Habel back to punt on 4th-and-7 with the ball snapped from the Bobcat 18. The move-in freshman’s kick grossed 27 yards, but netted minus-18 after Moreno took it to the house and increased NFHS’ lead to 16-0 prior to Flores’ second PAT. 

An intentional-grounding infraction off-tracked IHS’ next series, leading to another Habel punt. But after the Miners set up shop at Ignacio’s 49 with 1:55 to go, Montoya picked off a first-down throw and returned it 23 yards to North Fork’s 39. The opening 12 minutes, however, would expire with Pontine sacked on third down and IHS trailing 17-0. 

Habel punted, and though the unreturned kick netted just 16 yards, the Bobcats managed to force a turnover-on-downs at NFHS’ 48 after seven plays. The stop came at a cost, however; senior offensive/defensive lineman Kyle Rima was lost for the rest of the non-conference contest to a possible knee injury while helping tackle Allen with 10:09 left in the first half. 

A sack of Pontine by Miner sophomore Joe Hollembeak sufficiently disrupted Ignacio’s subsequent drive, and after another Habel punt, North Fork needed just two plays and 37 seconds to go 72 yards and inflate the score to 24-0 – via a 47-yard Moreno run with 5:19 left, plus Flores PAT. 

Montoya returned the resulting kickoff a promising 29 yards out to the IHS 33, but the ’Cats would again go three-and-out. And again, the enemy made them pay. Following Pene’s return to the North Fork 44 of a Habel punt, the Miners capitalized and used only 1:17 worth of clock to surge 56 yards in four plays – the last being a 10-yard Pene TD run with 1:21 left until halftime. Flores’ right leg was again accurate and NFHS would go back to their locker room up 31-0. 

Pene returned IHS senior Wade Dunbar’s second-half kickoff 14 yards to the Miner 47, and North Fork’s drive began with 11:54 showing on the clock. With 11:45 showing, the outsiders’ advantage had grown to 38-0 after Moreno took a handoff from senior Hunter Moreno and blasted right through the middle for a morale-crushing 53-yard score. 

Set up at their own 48 with 3:31 remaining following Montoya’s second pick and 21-yard return, the ’Cats finally broke through and avoided a shutout fate. Helped by a 10-yard penalty tacked onto a 4-yard run by sophomore Lincoln deKay, Ignacio got on the board with 1:32 left when senior Rylan Maez dove and stretched the football just over the goal line, completing a 27-yard TD reception from Pontine along the visitors’ sideline. 

Junior Charlie Pargin’s PAT try, however, was virtually smothered by NFHS sophomore Stellar Cook, leaving the score standing 38-6 after the 4-play, 52-yard possession. But the success was short-lived; after covering Dunbar’s squib kick at their own 37 with 1:31 remaining in the quarter, the Miners covered the required 63 yards in four swift snaps and hit paydirt for the last time via Hayden Moreno’s 35-yard TD pass to Hunter Moreno, who somehow caught the ball between Montoya and senior Marcus Maez, then slipped into the end zone with 0:26.1 left as the converging ’Cats collided. 

In defeat, Pontine threw for 53 yards unofficially on 4-of-13 accuracy and was intercepted twice. deKay gained 55 hard yards on 22 carries, including 23 on his last two before Miner sophomore Jaeger Nay picked off a Pontine pass at NFHS’ 10 with 6:37 left in the game (North Fork then pieced together a plodding drive, netting just 26 yards, which mercifully killed it all off). Rylan Maez totaled three catches for 45 yards. 

Ignacio will next travel to Moab, Utah for a 7 p.m. showdown on Sept. 1 with Grand County. Off to another rough start, the 2A-level Red Devils (2-9 overall in ’22) already stood 0-2 before an 8/25 trip to 1A Gunnison Valley (2-0), last season’s UHSAA 8-man State Champion squad. 

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