A date with des­tiny

Taos ral­lies for first state foot­ball fi­nal

The Taos News - - FRONT PAGE - By Jesse Moya [email protected]­news.com

As the 2018 Taos Tigers foot­ball team read­ies for Sat­ur­day’s state cham­pi­onship game at the home­town Anaya Field, the com­mu­nity also read­ies for that age old tra­di­tion of small-town high school spirit.

The gen­er­a­tions­long tra­di­tion of com­mu­nity sup­port has fol­lowed the Tigers through the 2018 foot­ball sea­son to this one fi­nal game where the team will lay it all on the line and not just for them­selves, but for all of Taos.

“This is huge,” said Taos High Ath­letic Direc­tor Nickie Mc­Carty. “This is just some­thing unimag­in­able. These boys have made our town proud. They’ve rep­re­sented our school and our com­mu­nity well.”

Un­der coach Art Abreu Jr.’s lead­er­ship, the team has steadily bet­tered their record since 2014 and is go­ing into this state fi­nal with the best record in re­cent Tiger foot­ball his­tory. Sev­eral on the team have been play­ing for Abreu for the past four years. Each game has brought more fans to Anaya Field.

Af­ter a sea­son where the Tigers suf­fered only one loss and held five teams from scor­ing, they will face off against the Bloom­field Bob­cats for the State Class 4A cham­pi­onship, a first for Tiger foot­ball his­tory.

The New Mex­ico Ac­tiv­i­ties As­so­ci­a­tion keeps foot­ball records only as far back as 1950 and, in those years, the Taos Tigers have never made it to the cham­pi­onship game.

Com­mu­nity mem­bers and par­ents have waited all sea­son, and some a life­time, to see the Tigers reach this point. Many are see­ing it as the turn of a tide in Tiger ath­let­ics. Sev­eral who don’t know the dif­fer­ence be­tween the line of scrim­mage and an end zone will still be out in full force to watch this his­toric game.

“This game is go­ing to have a last­ing im­pres­sion for gen­er­a­tions,” said Tiger par­ent Mani Mead­owcroft. “Win or lose, it’s go­ing to be won­der­ful for the com­mu­nity. To get to this point, this group of boys have been amaz­ing.”

Mead­owcroft knows, more than many, the im­por­tance of Sat­ur­day’s game as he once put on the pads and ran out onto Anaya Field as the Tiger quar­ter­back in the early ‘90s.

As a for­mer player, Mead­owcraft said Taos has not al­ways been known for foot­ball. That the team has made it this far is an in­cred­i­ble feat for the school and town. He also said he was proud to see such an event hap­pen­ing in Taos and was even more ex­cited to see his son on the field as a Tiger dur­ing this his­toric event.

But he won’t be the only player fill­ing the seats in Anaya Field Sat­ur­day.

Play­ers over the years have re­turned or re­mained in Taos to cheer on the Tigers and of­ten end up right in the mid­dle of the mix of their for­mer school. Daniel Gonzales is one of those Tigers and has ded­i­cated his years to an­nounc­ing all but five Tiger foot­ball games and most of the bas­ket­ball games.

“Each year I’ve seen them de­velop and get bet­ter,” Gonzales said. “Even at the St. Pius game, I could see we were just barely off. The next week they came back and whipped the next team. Right then, I knew it was a team that had each other’s back. They had a set­back, so what? That was just an­other les­son learned.”

Gonzales has been an­nounc­ing the Tiger games since 1989 and does so on a vol­un­teer ba­sis. When asked what keeps him com­ing back, he sim­ply said this was his way of giv­ing back to the com­mu­nity that raised him.

Sport­ing the clas­sic black hat with a bright or­ange paw print, Gonzales en­ters into his arena with his voice ready to call the games for Tiger fans. Not only is he a ded­i­cated fan and vol­un­teer, Gonzales also was co-cap­tain of the 1976 Tiger team.

Gonzales said he re­mem­bers the ded­i­ca­tion and pride Taos had for their sports teams. He re­calls the en­tire town cre­at­ing a mo­tor­cade of cars from the Río Grande Gorge Bridge to es­cort the team in from a vic­to­ri­ous road game.

“I knew that the town was so be­hind us (then), that no mat­ter what hap­pened, we were cham­pi­ons,” Gonzales said. “What these kids have done to this town is given ev­ery­one great hope and the feel­ing of be­ing cham­pi­ons.”

Gonzales said he has not seen sup­port like this sea­son in quite a while. He feels that the team has taken their train­ing and ded­i­ca­tion over the past four years and molded them­selves into their top shape. While he re­mains con­fi­dent in the team’s abil­ity, he is en­cour­ag­ing the Tigers to sim­ply play their game and to know the en­tire com­mu­nity is be­hind them.

“These boys have re­ally worked hard and ded­i­cated and sac­ri­ficed sum­mers, hol­i­days and birth­days to get at the place they’re at,” coach Abreu said.

With only a few days left, Abreu will have his team prac­tic­ing and fo­cused for Sat­ur­day. He said he ap­pre­ci­ates the en­tire com­mu­nity com­ing out and show­ing its sup­port. Tick­ets are be­ing sold for what will be the game of the year at Anaya Field. Com­mu­nity mem­bers and busi­nesses have shown their sup­port for Tiger ath­let­ics.

“This is about ev­ery­body. This is about the com­mu­nity and county of Taos,” Abreu said. “This is some­thing beau­ti­ful and will be ap­pre­ci­ated for gen­er­a­tions to come.”

Tiger fans are on the edge of their seats in an­tic­i­pa­tion for the game, which could bring a blue tro­phy to the cases in the halls of Taos High school. Kick off is at 1 p.m. sharp Sat­ur­day, but seats will not be saved for this game, so be sure to grab tick­ets and get in early.

Mor­gan Timms

Taos Tigers pre­pare for Sat­ur­day’s 4A state cham­pi­onship game against Bloom­field dur­ing Wed­nes­day (Nov. 28) night’s prac­tice at Anaya Field.

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