No. 8 Monte Vista motors through Ignacio

It was only fitting that a Minnesota Twins-like lowercase “m” adorned their helmets.

And with jersey numbers so close together on the listed roster, it became difficult – much more so for those wearing Ignacio’s red-and-white – to tell Monte Vista High School running backs Vance (junior Jacob) and Valdez (sophomore Michael) apart Friday, Sept. 27 at IHS Field.

Able to also rotate fullback Brenen Ramirez effectively into the ground game, Pirate head coach Manny Wasinger looked indeed wise for virtually holstering quarterback Michael Sanchez’s arm – and Ignacio could toot their own collective horn for forcing that decision, with sophomore Joe Herrera intercepting the senior on MV’s first snap in the teams’ 1A Southern Peaks Conference opener.

The visiting skipper, however, appeared especially villainous midway through the third quarter when Bobcat senior receiver Antonio Torres – who’d caught an 11-yard TD from junior Adison Jones five plays after Herrera’s pick – was coldly speared, face-to-face while in a crouching position after turning to see a Jones pass sail high, by a Pirate defensive back nearly a full second after the whistle blew.

Justifiably enraged, IHS head coach Lupe Huerta stormed the field demanding – more vehemently than usual – increased attention to safety after seeing it blatantly compromised.

Wasinger, meanwhile, instead of outwardly trying to defend his man’s actions, elected to join his side’s fans – all pretending not to have seen the open-field hit – in simply yelling at the officials to have Huerta removed from the field.

A 15-yard personal-foul penalty was assessed in Ignacio’s favor, but in a battle already filled with flags, the incident truly put a black eye on Monte Vista’s efforts ­– including Vance’s dominating 20-carry, 200-yard night, capped off by a splendid 62-yard ramble with 1:49 left in the third which upped the Pirates’ already insurmountable lead to 44-8.

Valdez (7-62, 2 TD) had initially tied the game at 8-8 with 3:41 left in the first quarter on a two-yard run, then also plowed the two-pointer in to polish off a 4-play, 23-yard drive after MVHS (4-1, 1-0 SPC) blocked a Wyatt Hayes punt.

Ignacio lineman Jack Frost fortunately fell on a Jones fumble on the first offensive play after Valdez’s score, but Hayes then punted three snaps later. Vance gained 35 yards on a first-down rush from midfield, Valdez then carried twice down to the Ignacio 5, and fourth wheel Daniel Borunda then carried for the go-ahead six points with 0:40 left, after a series lasting just 71 seconds.

The Bobcats’ next series extended into the second quarter, but ended quickly with a well-pressured Hayes punt that netted just 19 yards to the IHS 41. Eighth-ranked Monte Vista again capitalized, with the first of three clock-chewing drives in the frame. Vance completed the first on the seventh run in an eight-play push, scoring from four yards out with 7:49 before halftime.

Valdez later finished the third of the grinders, galloping 30 yards on the sixth run in another eight-play march, with Medina booting another point-after for a 22-point lead which survived intact the half’s last 1:39 – largely in part due to a Dillon Martinez deflection of Jones’ long attempt toward the end zone after driving the Cats (3-2, 0-1) from their own 30 down to the MV 30.

Rather than the deserving Ramirez (11-93), the final Pirate score went to backup RB Jacob Naranjo on a five-yard rush with 8:10 left in the game. But even with mercy-rule timing now also against them, the locals – with new logos on their own hard hats – still weren’t abandoning ship on a chilly night.

Hayes punted to end a three-and-out after Jones was sacked, but with Wasinger at last inserting his reserves, Ignacio regained the ball when Charles Rohde recovered a third-down fumble at the MV 25. Huerta sent out Austin McCaw to see what the sophomore could do with the last 1:03.

His first pass was caught by Clayton Jefferson, after it somehow caromed off both Torres and a Pirate, and taken down to the 20. Another completion to the senior picked up 16 yards to the 4, but when it looked like IHS would break into double digits on the scoreboard, Brandon Medina barged into the backfield for the closing sack.

Unofficially, Jefferson led the Cats – who were without both Adam Herrera and Nick Herrera – with seven catches for 89 yards, and also snared one from Sanchez (2-for-10, 21 yards). Torres held onto four for 33, Hayes four for 45 and Perez one for minus-3. Jones was unofficially 14-of-40 for 143, with one INT.

Up next for Ignacio will be an Oct. 5 trip out to the San Luis Valley to face Centauri in La Jara. At the time ranked No. 5 in 1A, the Falcons (4-1, 1-0) flogged Center in their previous game, 45-0, on the road.

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