Tigers roar into first state ti­tle

The Taos News - - SPORTS - By Sheila Miller [email protected]­news.com

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

John Denne

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).

Mor­gan Timms/The Taos News

Taos Tigers re­act to their state cham­pi­onship ti­tle Satur­day (Dec. 1) at Anaya Field in Taos.

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