Big plays boost IHS to 26-19 victory
Home cooking hadn’t turned out so well for John Mall Football prior to last Friday.
But toss in a lot of Homecoming flavor and the Panthers’ recipe for success still didn’t come together – though it tasted just fine in the visiting, win-starved Ignacio Bobcats’ collective maw.
“They thought … we had no wins so they were just going to trample us, and we showed them that we’re not just going to lie down and take it!” said IHS senior Blaine Mickey. “It’s nice not to be the team that they think – because we know how they felt before we were coming in here.”
On their own IHS-like turf for the fourth time in the 2014 season’s first five weeks, the 1A Southern Peaks Conference newcomers – formerly of the 1A Tri-Peaks, brought in partially to replace Del Norte (now part of the 8-man 1A Mountain) – had only one win in their previous three tries, and couldn’t capitalize upon Evan Gonzales’ outstanding running in falling to the Cats 26-19.
Coming off a 14-carry, 137-yard effort in a 46-18 road win at Pueblo Dolores Huerta Prep, JMHS’ star sophomore amassed 217 yards on 32 carries against IHS, scored twice and also added a two-point conversion run, but Mickey’s 11-98, 2 TD figures held more weight – given the Bobcats’ ability to pass.
Despite Panther junior Destry Crockett’s nearly-constant pressure, senior Adison Jones went 9-of-16 for 216 yards and two scores to junior Wyatt Hayes – the first covering two yards with just 0:52 left in the second quarter, and the second going for 74 with 7:31 left in the third.
The latter proved most crucial; with John Mall trailing Ignacio 12-0 at halftime, Gonzales’ 26-yard scoring run (and junior Garrett Quintana’s point-after kick) with 8:32 left in the third had at last put the Panthers on their own scoreboard. After the kickoff, IHS’ offense set up shop at their own 31, but a false-start penalty pushed them back to the 26.
Crockett then kept the crowd roaring with a vicious stop of Mickey for no gain, but the Huerfano Community Sports Complex faithful fell silent the next snap when Jones found his top target with room to roam. Senior Mike Perez then crashed in for the two-pointer and JMHS trailed 20-7.
“We just wanted to come out and get a win, turn our season around,” Hayes said. “We were 0-and-4, had a tough schedule, and wanted to come beat them … get a little confidence! Can’t give up!”
Already with one interception defensively, and destined to end the game with another – snuffing out the trickery of a Gonzales halfback-option throw – Hayes’ fumble recovery in the eventful third again authoritatively put the Panthers in check.
John Mall had clawed back somewhat into the game with safeties 2 minutes, 35 seconds apart. First, junior Andrew Vigil blocked a Hayes punt and the ball bounced and rolled all the way into the end zone, where Bobcat junior Tyler Beebe smartly smothered it – alertly denying JMHS a likely touchdown.
Gonzales then ran Hayes’ ensuing free kick all the way back to the IHS 23, but after Perez stuffed Gonzales at the one-yard-line on fourth-and-goal from the 2, Mickey was then blanketed in the backfield on Ignacio’s first-down play – making the score 20-11 with 2:30 left.
Visibly irate over having been stopped for a loss of yardage, and partial loss of his team’s lead, Mickey quickly made amends after Hayes covered Santos Reyna’s second-down fumble at the Panther 43 with 58 ticks remaining.
Exploding through a lane cleared by classmate Alex Lopez, Mickey took Jones’ first-down give the distance. And though John Mall’s Devon Vallejos picked off Jones’ conversion throw, the damage was done – despite Gonzales scoring from 16 yards out (and then diving in for the deuce) as the quarter expired.
“You da man!” said Lopez on the sideline to Mickey.
“You opened the hole!” Mickey firmly replied.
“They all played hard,” he said. “Finally got it through their heads that we’re playing for each other. We’re not just playing for ourselves to get stats; we’re all a family and we’re trusting each other more. That’s what gives us those big plays like that!”
Every game is new opportunity; it doesn’t matter how much we are losing by Lopez said.
“Never quit – I mean, that’s what got in me today.”
The stadium announcer, prone to amplify advice to his side regarding game situations, had to credit him for a two-way game well played when Lopez had to come off the field as an injury precaution before what ended up being the night’s final play.
“For being a senior, it’s a great feeling. Couldn’t ask for a better feeling, really,” he said of the win. “Especially with my team, our little Iron Cats – we’ve got such a small team … this is big for us.”
The boys played hard and I’m proud of them, head coach Lupe Huerta said.
“This week has been kind of rough because we’ve had to transition different kids – we had so many injuries, [and] right now we’ve got two quarterbacks [Jones backups Austin McCaw and Zach Weinreich] on the line and our center’s 130 pounds! We have one original starter [Lopez] on the offensive line … So they’ve really worked hard.”
Defensively, the Cats played well, Huerta said.
“… And stopping Thirty-two [Gonzales] … that kid can run like the wind! Our primary deal was to try to slow him down and let somebody else beat us.”
Quintana tried his hardest, gaining 74 yards on just six second-half carries, but Reyna, picked once by Hayes, and fellow QB Jeremiah Vigil were held to 22 yards combined on nine.
“We had to … stop them from getting those big yards, [and be] more consistent with pushing them, keeping them held back,” said Mickey.
Perez picked up 52 yards on nine rushes for Ignacio, but Jones finished 8-for-(minus-12). Hayes totaled six receptions for an awesome 189 yards. Perez (1-12), Mickey (1-1) and Timmy Plehinger (1-15) snared Jones’ other three completions.
“It felt awesome! I love making big plays for my team, and just love playing football,” Hayes said. “We came together in practice, ‘brotherhood’ and everything – that’s been our main key and we’re just trying to keep it going.”
Now 1-4, 1-0 SPC, the Bobcats travel Oct. 3rd to Monte Vista to face the 3-2, 1-0 [and sixth-ranked, in the 9/29 CHSAANow.com poll] Pirates. Presently #9, Centauri then visits IHS Field on the 10th.