Tigers roar into first state title
No football games appear in fairy tales, so the Tigers wrote their own.
It was a perfect day for a football championship and one that made history. Well over 2,000 fans—bundled up against the freezing temperature and biting wind—packed the bleachers on both sides of Anaya Field in Taos Saturday (Dec. 1), spilling over onto the patches of grass and standing against the railings. From the opening drive, those frozen fans couldn’t turn away even a minute before the final whistle that sealed a Taos victory with a 14-7 score.
The tension of the 4A state championship final between Taos and Bloomfield never eased; the two teams’ scores were never more than one possession apart, and every play had the potential to alter the course of the game and Taos Tiger history.
The Tigers planned to win. Their opening kickoff return, wasn’t designed to put them in good field position. It was engineered to put them on the board. Anthony Maestas caught the ball and sneakily handed it off to Justin Good, who a few steps later placed it under the expert care of Jonathan Garcia; Garcia then picked and blazed along a path to the end zone. The Tigers had points on the board within the first few seconds.
From that moment until the final minutes, it was a battle of the defenses. During the season, both teams had usually scored more than twice the total points of this game. Each team was contained by the exceptional defense effort of the other.
Near the end of the first half, the Bobcats converted thirdand-12 near the 43-yard line into a touchdown reception. Showing what he could do with the luxury of time that was denied him for most of the game, Bobcat quarterback Rogelio Gonzales dropped back and went deep to wide receiver Ethan Beevers. Beevers a few yards from the end zone. He made it, and the kick tied the game at 7 all.
So it remained until the final minutes of the third quarter. Under immense pressure from the Taos defense, Bloomfield went three up, three down and was punting from their own backfield on fourth-and-11. The punt was nearly blocked by Tiger Aidan Leblanc, who got another chance to put pressure on the kicker when a penalty on the Bobcats called back the kick.
Bloomfield was forced to punt again 10 yards back, snapping the ball from its own 8-yard line. Under pressure from Leblanc and the rest of the Taos line once again, the punter fumbled.
The Tigers’ Noah Armijo was ready. He recovered the ball in the end zone, putting 6 more on the board and, with the extra point, establishing the lead that Taos maintained for the final quarter.
For the Tigers, the end of the game was as storybook as the beginning. With 3:25 left, it was 14-7 Taos with the Bobcats in possession in their own territory.
A late hit called on Taos put the Bobcats on the Tiger 48. Bloomfield had earned its place in the championship game, and the next play proved why once again. With 2:35 left in the fourth and final quarter, Bobcat quarterback Gonzales lobbed the ball to Kenyon Mosley, who plowed down the right side of the field, covering first 10, then 20, then 30 yards, and still going.
Fast and tenacious, the Tigers’ Good forced Moseley out of bounds at the Taos 2-yard line.
With 2:20 on the clock, the Bobcats were 2 yards away from a state championship. The Taos defense would test its mettle.
The air was electric with palpable hope and expectation from both sides.
The Bobcats rushed, but the attempt was stuffed by Estevan Valerio, who sent Bloomfield
As Noah Armijo recovers a fumbled Bloomfield punt for a Tiger touchdown, Aidan Leblanc, Clayton Demas, Isaiah Martinez and Estevan Valerio celebrate the new Taos lead on the way to their state championship victory at Anaya Field in Taos Saturday (Dec. 1).
Taos Tigers react to their state championship title Saturday (Dec. 1) at Anaya Field in Taos.