Thu Sep 12th, 2019
Special to the Drum
No one knew more than Newcomb, N.M., quarterback Deondre Begay just how hard-fought the second half of the visiting Skyhawks’ Sept. 6 game in Ignacio would be.
Unluckily, but likely not unexpectedly, for the hosting Bobcats, no one did more to deny them victory than Begay, whose last full first-half drive had ended with IHS senior Randy Herrera sacking him on third down, then senior Colten Jackson intercepting him on fourth.
And though NHS went into halftime clinging to a shaky 8-6 advantage, the elusive senior quickly learned of the home team’s resolve almost immediately after intermission; Bobcat sophomore Tyler Barnes barged through his protection to register a nine-yard sack, and two plays later Begay’s fourth-down punt was blocked—setting Ignacio up at the guests’ 42-yard line with 8:24 left in the third quarter.
“We just wanted to prove a point, that we weren’t scared to hit and that we’re going to go toe-to-toe with anybody, really,” said junior Joe Garcia, who gained 62 yards on 13 first-half carries. “We knew their best players, we knew their weaknesses or what they could do, and we just wanted to do our best, play our game.”
“When they hit us just keep driving forward—that’s what Coach told us,” junior Dylan Labarthe said. “Every time you get hit…don’t go back. Just keep pushing up the field.”
And as well as the ’Cats were managing to do so defensively, they’d already done so offensively—beginning the contest with a run-powered 14-play, 62-yard march capped by a 12-yard touchdown toss to Labarthe from senior Ian Weinreich with 5:35 left in the starting stanza.
Counting the brief kickoff return, the drive consumed an impressive six minutes, 25 seconds, and most importantly kept Begay and senior running back Deontay Begay off the gridiron.
“It was the best feeling,” Labarthe said of taking the early lead in such authoritative, no-frills style, “since last year…how that whole thing went down with Newcomb. We just needed to…show them that we’re not here to ‘play.’ It was good momentum for us to do that.”
“Yeah,” agreed Garcia. “We wanted to put up points first—hit them in the mouth first—and just take time, show them what our game is about.”
42-6 winners in 2018’s injury-filled fracas, Newcomb promptly countered with a 7-play, 52-yard drive and took the aforementioned two-point lead with 1:47 left in the first quarter via a six-yard Deondre Begay pass to senior receiver Sean King, and subsequent Deontay Begay conversion carry.
“That’s mainly their bread-and-butter,” IHS skipper Alfonso ‘Ponch’ Garcia said, of Newcomb’s twin terrors. “They’re going to go to that, and…I’m so glad they’re graduating!”
Playing with a chip on their collective shoulder after taking a 50-0 pounding from 4A Aztec, N.M., the previous week, the 2A Skyhawks effectively stripped their offense down to its most basic, yet potent form after Bobcat kicker Alvaro Ros Ortiz, a sophomore foreign-exchange student, missed a 27-yard field goal five plays after IHS’ punt block.
Awarded the ball at their own 20, NHS assembled an all-run, 14-play drive which ate 5:02 off the clock and culminated with a three-yard Deontay Begay plunge. Deondre Begay’s attempted two-point throw, however, ended up in Jackson’s hands—leaving the guests with a 14-6 lead and just 1:14 left in the third.
Ignacio’s ensuing possession began at Newcomb’s 47, but penalties and two Weinreich incompletions quickly pressed the ’Cats into punting. Given another chance to kick, Ros Ortiz made amends for his FG-miss, with a 52-yard boot that rolled dead at the Skyhawk 1 as the quarter expired.
Refusing to even consider going aerial—head coach Bill McLaughlin called just one pass play after intermission—with a read-option offense operating efficiently, Newcomb again went to work with the brothers Begay pushing the ball out to the 19 before Deondre Begay was forced to punt.
Angling the ball towards IHS’ sideline near midfield, the ’Hawks benefited from the game’s biggest break when Jackson bobbled a running catch and NHS senior Jarvis Enrico recovered the muff at the Newcomb 44—essentially a 25-yard pickup.
Deontay Begay then gained two yards on first down, and a penalty advanced the Skyhawks to the Bobcat 39. Four snaps later, Deondre Begay sprinted for a 19-yard TD to finish the game-altering, 99-yard grinder, and Deontay Begay’s two-point tote increased Newcomb’s lead to 22-6 with 7:07 remaining.
An outstanding Lawrence Toledo kickoff return situated Weinreich & Co. at the NHS 42 with 6:55 left, but after Toledo—showing no ill effects from a probable neck stinger suffered during Ignacio’s season-opening 26-20 win (in overtime) six days before over the 4A Bloomfield, N.M., JV—dashed 13 yards down to the 5, the ’Cats were unable to breach the end zone via two Joe Garcia carries and Newcomb took over on downs at their 1.
With just 3:28 left, the Skyhawks’ plan changed not one bit. And after five run plays, the last being a 24-yard Deondre Begay breakaway to midfield, Deondre Begay knelt for a five-yard loss in ‘victory formation’ to secure the 16-point win.
“The score doesn’t dictate the game,” said Ponch Garcia, excited over the fact his squad channeled any hostile emotions lingering from last year’s loss into a quality performance. “The battle that we had…I’m proud of the kids, proud of my coaching staff—they all did an amazing job getting ready. And we’re going to play them again next year; I would like to see the improvement my kids are making.”
“We’re growing,” he continued. “The kids are getting better…. and it could have gone either way.”
“We watched film on them, and the whole time…it was ‘Watch the quarterback and running back,’” said Labarthe. “So, we need to work on that a little more, but I think we did OK for the most part.”
Combining for 35 carries and 193 yards after halftime, the Begays—the only ’Hawks to carry the ball—unofficially totaled 291 yards rushing on 52 tries, led by Deondre Begay’s 30-198 figures. He also completed three of seven passes for another 86 yards—senior Leandreth Begay caught two for 80—to give NHS (2-1 overall) nearly 400 yards of offense.
Weinreich finished with 77 yards passing for Ignacio on 6-of-13 accuracy, and also gained 45 yards on eight carries. Labarthe, meanwhile, logged 44 on seven and Toledo 22 on four. Sophomore Shawn Campbell caught two passes for 55 yards.
“Our line did a wonderful job,” Ponch Garcia said. “Without the front five we’re nothing.”
Up next, the Bobcats (1-1, 0-0 1A Southern Peaks) will travel north to Leadville for a 2 p.m. start Saturday, Sept. 14, against Lake County. The Panthers (0-1, 0-0 1A Foothills) got an early taste of SPC ferocity in their 9/6 season-opener, losing 39-8 to Center.
“We’re excited,” stated Labarthe (3-17 receiving). “It’s going to be kind of different going up and playing at higher elevation, but I think it’ll be good for us; I think we can come out with another win if we just work together.”
GLAD TO BE BACK
Having lost almost all of his sophomore season to a broken fibula with 6:38 left in the second quarter of last season’s clash with Newcomb, Joe Garcia was indeed a must-stop man for the ’Hawks and expressed relief afterwards over gaining a measure of revenge with his IHS-leading 69 yards on 16 attempts.
“I had a broken fibula, and I had torn tendons in my ankle,” he recalled. “But I’m feeling great…like there’s nothing that can stop me right now. Coming back from that, I feel like nothing will stop me.”
“We said, ‘Remember…last year, Joe,’” Ponch Garcia said, paraphrasing pre-game conversations. “And I said, ‘Tonight’s your night. You’re going to work hard and you’re going to make something happen for yourself. Don’t play scared; just get after it.’ And he sure did; he ran the ball amazing! For that big of a line that we played against, it was pretty awesome.”
Through Ignacio’s first two games of 2019, Garcia has rushed for 142 yards on 32 carries with one touchdown.