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Bobcats know 3-0’s good, but not yet great

Ignacio facing true test after trouncing Trinidad
Ignacio's Cruz Martinez latches onto a Trinidad ball carrier behind the line of scrimmage during nonconference road action Friday. The Bobcats held Trinidad’s' rushers to negative yardage until the fourth quarter. (Joel Priest/Special to the Herald)

TRINIDAD – Awestruck by opposing speedster Joe Ross’ shutout-snapping, tackle-breaking, right-to-left reversing 70-yard touchdown scamper late in a mercy-rule fourth quarter Friday night, the Ignacio Bobcats might have gotten a simple message despite booking a third straight win:

Playtime’s over.

“We made a lot of errors on offense, some on defense,” said sophomore Rylan Maez. “We’ve just got to work more.”

“We got a little sloppy in the second half,” head coach Alfonso ‘Ponch’ Garcia said. “No. 22 (Ross) … he’s a good athlete. To keep that kid contained – and No. 2, the quarterback – were our focuses, and the kids did an amazing job listening.”

“The coaches did a good job … preparing the kids for what we did,” he said. “We didn’t get film until, like, Thursday – and not from (Trinidad), but from the other school (Raton, N.M.) they’d played!”

Whatever was submitted couldn’t have been very intimidating, and the ’Cats showed zero fear right from the outset at Dutch Nogel Field with Maez sacking Miner senior Isaiah Bowman for a 1-yard loss. Three plays later, IHS snuffed out a faked punt and stopped freshman David Romero 9 yards short of a first down.

Set up at Trinidad’s 40 with 9:41 left in the opening quarter, Ignacio needed just three Tyler Barnes carries plus a THS encroachment penalty to reach the end zone in 51 seconds. Barnes then jogged in with the two-point conversion, and the visitors led 8-0.

After the Miners went three-and-out, with freshman Charlie Pargin sacking Bowman for a 4-yard loss on third down and Romero then punting, the Bobcats went back to work from their own 47 after Devante Montoya’s 12-yard return.

Able to cover 53 yards in six plays plus another Trinidad 5-yard penalty, Barnes barged in to score his second 5-yard TD. Junior John Riepel’s attempted conversion run failed, but with 3:48 left in the first quarter, Ignacio was well on the way to a 28-0 halftime lead and a thorough 40-6 triumph.

Barnes would add second-half touchdown runs of 25 and 4 yards to finish with 183 yards on 22 carries.

Ignacio's Tyler Barnes (44) blasts through a Trinidad would-be tackler and into the end zone for one of his four rushing touchdowns Friday night. Barnes again neared the 200-yard mark as the Bobcats prevailed 40-6. (Joel Priest/Special to the Herald)

Senior quarterback Gabe Tucson netted 155 yards passing, on unofficial 10-of-20 accuracy, and threw TDs to both Riepel (28 yards, with 11:09 left in the second quarter) and Montoya (eight yards, 4:45 left in the second).

He was, however, intercepted twice – including once in the backfield by THS sophomore Jesse Gutierrez – plus picked off on two conversion tries. Able to recover two onside kicks, Barnes did also lose a fumble on the third quarter’s first offensive play, and nearly a second (lineman Cruz Martinez smothered the football) three snaps into the Bobcats’ second series after intermission.

Another concern for Garcia was the status of Riepel, pulled from action after banging up his right knee on a hard tackle along IHS’ sideline after a 12-yard reception late in the third. Still without injured senior Shawn Campbell, the short-handed ’Cats (3-0, 0-0 1A Southern Peaks) replaced Riepel with, well, whoever was available – senior Alric Hudson, for one.

“A lineman goes in, and nobody knows what’s up. ... It’s something we’ve got to stop,” Garcia said, addressing Ignacio’s multiple illegal-man-downfield infractions. “But Ricky (Hudson), he was trying his hardest; he wanted to catch a ball so badly!”

Riepel did finish with six grabs for 97 yards and five rushes for 56. Montoya snared three throws for 41 yards, and Maez one for 17. Bowman, meanwhile, was regularly dropped behind the line of scrimmage and held unofficially to minus 19 yards on 16 carries, as well as just 1 yard on his only attempted pass.

“He’s really shifty and we had to get good pressure on him,” Maez said. “We just went with the calls and just got him.”

Ross’ big-gainer bumped his unofficial rushing totals to four carries and 94 yards as Trinidad fell to 0-2 overall – dropping Ignacio’s three victims to a combined 0-8 so far this season.

Three of Farmington’s Navajo Prep’s opponents, meanwhile, are a combined 1-7, meaning Prep will be just as psyched to face a real challenge Friday at IHS Field as Ignacio’s last slated nonconference opponent.

Kickoff is set for 7 p.m.

Playing their program’s first football since fall 2019 and seeking their first postseason appearance since 2015, the Eagles will arrive standing 3-1 overall and 0-0 in NMAA Dist. 1-3A.

Having dispatched their enemies in the same high-scoring manner as Ignacio, Navajo Prep’s only loss to date was by a 22-14 score to perennial 2A contenders Escalante in Tierra Amarilla two weeks ago, but the Eagles rebounded at home Thursday by blowing out District 5-3A Crownpoint 42-6.

“We’re just going to do the same game plan,” Barnes said. “Hopefully the line carries it out, and me, John and Gabe will do our parts in the backfield and we’ll see how it goes.”

“They’re loaded in the upper class,” Garcia said. “Until we see film, we’ll go from there. Right now we’re going to let the kids enjoy tonight.”