Thu Sep 7th, 2023
Special to the Drum
Ignacio scores last in 42-30 road loss
Sooner rather than later, the time will come when someone has to fill Devante Montoya’s cleats.
Though with the legs to potentially last 48 minutes of football thanks to his cross-country experience, and with still-growing strength found upon wrestling mats for which he has an avowed affinity, Aven Bourriague doesn’t necessarily expect to be ‘that’ guy.
But with the senior standout finally sidelined Friday, Sept. 1, due to an early-game injury, and Ignacio still with a chance to have the last laugh, the sophomore sure looked – and played – the part.
Taking possession at their 36-yard line with 3:38 left in a non-conference clash ending almost as intensely as it began, the Bobcats reached the 48 via runs by senior Nate and junior D.J. Hendren, then gained Grand County’s 29 four snaps later after a 12-yard D.J. Hendren carry.
Even though a road win wasn’t for the snatching, the guests, trailing 42-24, weren’t giving in without a fight. And on first down from the GC 29, sophomore quarterback Zane Pontine proceeded to throw one of the game’s best balls, and bulls-eyed Bourriague – paralleling, ironically, the hosting Red Devils’ sideline – in stride for a touchdown, the final points (Nate Hendren’s subsequent two-point conversion carry was stopped short) in a 12-point loss.
“Our quarterback told me … something, and I said, ‘Huh?’ He was like ‘Aven, I want you to GO,’ so I went!” said Bourriague. “I think of Devante like an older brother; he helps me out in lots of ways, and I tried to do my best. So it was good!”
“I’d seen the ball go up in the air and next thing you know we’re in the end zone,” recalled Nate Hendren. “It was just one of ‘those’ moments, and I’m really proud of Aven – took the ball into his hands and right into the end zone. He stepped it up.”
“Oh, that was exciting!” Montoya said. “That’s, like, one of my little brothers right now … my little disciple, so it was really exciting to see him do that.”
Including the presentation of the game ball to the officials by a Skydive Moab tandem, landing upon Jeff Meador Memorial Field right about the 6:53 p.m. target time, excitement was never lacking – both before and after a lightning delay called with 10:18 left in the second quarter.
Catching a non-scoring 51-yard option pass from fellow senior receiver Rylan Maez, who’d caught Pontine’s initial lateral in the right flat, on the Bobcats’ first play from scrimmage, Montoya would enjoy a career night and finish with nine receptions for 215 yards, including a 33-yard TD from Pontine – bringing IHS back to 28-24 – on the third quarter’s last play.
That grab capped an 11-play, 80-yard drive executed in hurry-up fashion catching Grand County – which had just went up 28-18 via sophomore Austin Paris’ 94-yard pass to junior Connor Swasey with 3:02 left, plus freshman Edgar Hernandez’s point-after kick – unprepared.
“He made that decision when he saw their defensive linemen getting really tired,” Pontine said, referring to head coach Alfonso ‘Ponch’ Garcia. “He was like, ‘We’re going hurry-up so it’ll make them more tired, so they can’t tackle as well.’”
Fortunately for GCHS, the break between quarters offered vital recharging time, and the Red Devils (UHSAA Class 2A; 1-3 overall) took advantage. Set up at the Ignacio 49 with 11:52 remaining in the game after an unsuccessful Bobcat squib kick, Grand County scored seven plays later with Swasey toting in a 4-yard TD. Hernandez had been 4-of-4 in PAT tries, but head coach Dennis Wells called for a two-point play instead and Paris hit senior tight end Lane Berry to increase GCHS’ lead to 36-24 with 8:18 left.
The Red Devils were then able to milk precious time off the clock, after Berry’s low kickoff crashed into an Ignacio up-back and caromed backwards enough for Grand County to smother the fumble at IHS’ 46 with 8:14 left. Late in the resulting drive, Montoya nearly intercepted a Paris throw but couldn’t hang on to the ball with a clear path to paydirt before him – leaving Paris fortunate to then quick-kick a punt downed at the Bobcat 5 with 5:42 remaining.
Two bubble-screen passes to Montoya, running behind Maez’s effective blocking, advanced the ball out of danger to the 23-yard line, but after a penalty pushed the ball back ten yards, Maez’s option attempt was easily picked by Paris at the 45. And with Montoya removed from play due to a lingering thigh injury, GCHS went for the proverbial jugular with junior J.T. Dowd trucking in a 45-yard TD with 3:48 left.
Hernandez’s PAT was blocked, indicating the ’Cats still had fuel to burn. Which was no small achievement considering how much had been consumed during the opening quarter, in which the Red Devils threatened to quickly dispatch the ’Cats.
Scorching hot from the outset in balmy conditions giving way to a brief thunderstorm (which closed to within six miles), Paris punished Ignacio for seemingly any and all early mistakes. Attempting five first-quarter passes, he completed four with three ending up in the end zone.
First came a 29-yard strike to Berry with 9:06 left, capping a 6-play, 50-yard drive using only 2 minutes, 54 seconds. After Nate Hendren completed the visitors’ subsequent 3-play, 61-yard response with a 10-yard carry around right end with 7:30 remaining (junior Charlie Pargin’s PAT was blocked), Paris connected with Dowd for a 62-yard TD on 3rd-and-13. Hernandez’s second PAT of the night was successful, putting Grand County up 14-6 with 6:05 left.
Sacked by Berry on a third-down play during Ignacio’s next series, Pontine lost a fumble which GCHS senior Shayne Randall recovered at the Bobcat 21 with 4:17 still to go. Five plays later, Paris fired an 8-yard dart to Berry, and Hernandez’s third PAT increased the home team’s lead to 21-6 with 2:55 remaining.
But the visitors countered; including a 47-yard carry by sophomore Lincoln deKay on first down from the IHS 30, the ’Cats went 70 yards in four plays, with Pontine finding Maez (3-30 receiving) on a 4-yard slant for a TD with 1:23 left. Pontine’s conversion toss to Nate Hendren went incomplete, and the score stood GCHS 21, IHS 12 after a wild first quarter capped by Maez sacking Paris for a 3-yard loss.
Ignacio (0-2 overall) would later approach as close as 21-18, via a 4-play, 78-yard drive capped with 4:13 left in the second quarter by Pontine following senior center Cruz Martinez four yards into the end zone (Randall then blocked Pargin’s kick).
“If you look at it in perspective, (there were) a lot of positives but a lot of negatives,” said Pontine, alluding to Ignacio’s six turnovers. “It was a little better than last game though. But it’s alright; we’ll just try and fix it next week. We’ve just got to get a little more conditioning in, so we’re not as gassed in the fourth quarter as we were tonight.”
“Everyone believed in each other, everyone took the time to hype each other up,” Hendren (unoff. 14-73 rushing) said. “No one was talking down on each other; that’s what a team needs to do … to stay together as one. I felt there was a lot of improvement.”
Looking ahead, Ignacio will next welcome the Wingate Bears, from Fort Wingate, N.M., to IHS Field for a 7 p.m. kickoff Friday, Sept. 8. After totaling 96 points in season-opening routs of Many Farms, Ariz., and in-state Farmington Navajo Prep, WHS (a NMAA Dist. 5-3A member) most recently ended up on the wrong side of a 30-18 score against Tohatchi (Dist. 1-3A).
“I’ve got to get healed up, everybody’s got to get healed up,” said Montoya. “We’ve got to put in work this week and be ready for it; we’ve still got a lot to work on, honestly. But I think it’s going to be good.”