The Ignacio High School football team expanded its scoreboard capabilities Friday against Navajo Prep in Farmington.
Junior Nate Hendren recorded his first varsity 100-yard day on the ground. Senior quarterback John Riepel ran for two touchdowns and threw another, and senior Anthony Toledo sealed the deal with two second-half TD carries as IHS devastated Navajo Prep, 54-18.
The ’Cats won the second half 32-0. Junior Devante Montoya was tasked with blanketing NP receiving threat Lane Wilson, who caught two first-half TDs from Xavier Nez, and Montoya ended the game with an interception in the end zone.
“I thought I was going to be out today,” Montoya said. “I have a strained TFL (tensor fascia latae, a hip muscle) right now, so I’m just lucky to be able to play. But … it’s going to be way harder next week: We’ve got to get into our work in practice, go to morning workouts and get prepared. There’s no days off.”
“They were a good team … hit pretty hard a little bit,” said Hendren, who racked up an unofficial 104 yards on 11 carries – including a 14-yard TD just four snaps after he recovered Prep’s onside kick beginning the third quarter. “But I feel like we’re doing pretty good this season; we’re starting out strong and keeping it together.”
“Nate, he’s been coming to the weight room every day – he even came this morning!” said head coach Alfonso “Ponch” Garcia. “He understands now what he needs to do in the backfield … for a running back, because if you don’t stay strong you don’t survive long.”
IHS held a 22-18 halftime lead after NP’s Dayton Yazzie bulled in for a 2-yard TD – set up by a blocked punt recovered at the Bobcats’ 5 with 0:55 left. After intermission, IHS logged 23 run plays against only five passes and booked three scores on the ground while winding the clock.
After Hendren’s score, his brother, D.J. Hendren, smothered Wade Dunbar’s onside kick at the Navajo Prep 49 with 10:52 left in the third. Five snaps and exactly two minutes later, the Bobcats increased their lead to 36-18 via a 29-yard Riepel-to-Montoya connection, plus Nate Hendren 2-point tote.
IHS’ Marcus Maez covered Dunbar’s next squibber at the IHS 49. The resulting drive died on downs after eight plays, but the Eagles (0-4, 0-0 NMAA Dist. 1-3A) only regressed after starting at their own 19. Four consecutive penalties pushed the ball back to the 2, and on first-and-27, Yazzie had no choice but fall upon a botched center-quarterback exchange and concede the ’Cats a safety with 4:57 left.
Riepel then returned the free kick 20 yards to the NP 40, and 4:08 later Toledo ran into the end zone from 16 yards out. Toledo’s conversion run expanded IHS’ lead to 46-18 with 44 ticks left in the third.
Back-to-back quarterback sacks of John by D.J. Hendren and Charlie Pargin quickly regained Ignacio (2-0, 0-0 CHSAA 1A Southern Peaks) the football at the Eagles’ 23 with 10:58 remaining. Toledo promptly took a first-down handoff the distance, and deKay carried in the bonus two-pointer.
“The first half was very lethargic,” said Garcia. “We adjusted at halftime and … guess what? We picked it up. And the blocks? The holes became quite large; our linemen did a fantastic job.”
Riepel unofficially finished with 43 yards on 6-of-14 passing and 84 yards on 11 carries, with two resulting in first-quarter TDs. An Elliott Hendren fumble recovery at the Eagles’ 40 set up one of the scores. Toledo totaled 52 yards on five runs and freshman Lincoln deKay 45 on nine.
Montoya caught all six Riepel completions for 43 yards.
In defeat, Nez unofficially completed 5-of-12 passing for 81 yards and was intercepted once, with Montoya returning the pick 34 yards for a score 6:55 before halftime. Wilson totaled four catches for 72 yards, but logged only one reception – for 10 yards – after Montoya took over coverage duty.
Ignacio will next play at Montezuma-Cortez at 7 p.m. Friday. The Panthers, who went 3-6 last year, improved to 3-1 with a 49-20 win over Hotchkiss-based North Fork on Friday.