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Bobcats opening ’22 against Arizona foe

IHS to host rarely seen Red Mesa on Friday
Ignacio's John Riepel, center, outleaps a pair of Monte Vista defenders to catch an 8-yard touchdown pass last season. Riepel will be one of Ignacio’s senior leaders this season. (Joel Priest/Special to the Herald)

Barely able to qualify for the Arizona Interscholastic Association’s Class 2A state playoffs last fall after just playing the required-minimum six games, Red Mesa H. S. – located a ways west of its Teec Nos Pos mailing address – will not only stand as Ignacio’s first football foe in 2022, but give the Bobcats the unique honor of a Four Corners team in Colorado actually facing at least one crew from each of the contiguous Four Corners states.

Kickoff time is set for 6 p.m. Friday at IHS Field.

Guided by head coach Sandy Benally and able to nab the 16-seed in the aforementioned postseason bracket, RMHS finished 4-3 overall in fall 2021 after suffering a 69-14 loss to well-seasoned, then-undefeated No. 1 Parker, which led 42-0 after one quarter and 62-0 through two.

Despite posting a winning record, during the offseason Red Mesa decided to make a change at the top, and newcomer Toqua-Hanai Ticeahkie – who, in addition to having played collegiately for two schools and semipro football in Oklahoma and California, saw professional action with the Arizona Adrenaline (American Indoor Football Association), New Mexico Wildcats (AIFA) and Oklahoma Yard Dawgz (arenafootball2/Arena Football League) – will oversee the team in ’22.

After rumbling with Red Mesa, however, Ignacio may not see action – due to a scheduling snafu involving a slated Aug. 26 season-opener versus now-2A Parachute Grand Valley – again until Sept. 9, when Whitehorse (Utah) arrives for a 7 p.m. start.

Blown out 54-0 in Montezuma Creek, Utah, last season by Ignacio, Whitehorse – a UHSAA ‘Freelance’ program in football – was originally scheduled to begin their season Saturday against Fredonia (Arizona), but the AIA website’s schedule shows the contest as having already been canceled. One of WHS’ losses last season came by a slim 14-8 margin at Red Mesa.

IHS will travel to Farmington, on Sept. 16 for a 7 p.m. showdown against Navajo Prep, having edged the Eagles 53-52 at home last fall. Alfonso ‘Ponch’ Garcia’s Bobcats will then visit Montezuma-Cortez on Sept. 23, with the Panthers coming off a 3-6 overall (1-3 2A Southwestern) showing in Fall ’21.

Class 1A Southern Peaks Conference play for Ignacio (5-4, 0-4 SPC last year) begins Sept. 30 on the road, as the ’Cats travel once again out to Trinidad, now a SPC member – replacing Dolores, now part of the 1A 8-man ranks – in football after finishing 0-7 overall and 0-3 in the four-team, Peyton-paced 1A Santa Fe last season.

Also under new leadership in 2022, Trinidad’s Miners have not won since Oct. 18, 2019, when THS hosted and defeated Ellicott – giving Trinidad a fifth-place finish in conference, just ahead of EHS – for their only win that year.

Center (3-6, 2-2 SPC last season) and Monte Vista (6-4, 3-1; CHSAA 1A state qualifier) will visit IHS Field on Oct. 7 and 14, respectively, before the Bobcats head out to La Jara on the 21st to test the defending state champion, Centauri (12-0, 3-0 in Fall ’21; the Falcons’ game against Del Norte was ruled a no-contest, with both sides struggling against COVID-19.)

Regular-season play for IHS concludes Oct. 28 with a home finale versus DNHS. Able to beat Trinidad – by a 58-8 margin – as well as claim a forfeit over the injury-depleted ’Cats in 2021, the Tigers finished 2-7 overall, 1-2 SPC.

SIGNALS CROSSED: Grand Valley Athletic Director Jason Arthur tried offering some insight Wednesday afternoon as to the scheduling ‘oops’ concerning the Cardinals (5-4 overall last fall), moving up a classification this fall, and Bobcats.

“I don’t know the exact circumstances because I’m new,” he said, “but apparently there was some miscommunication. We’d sent out a request for a game, and found someone had scheduled it but, from what I know, never heard from Ignacio.”

“But we ended up on their schedule,” Arthur continued. “I don’t know how it happened; we did have someone scheduled already. We’re actually traveling to Ellicott, but meeting them in Evergreen (Aug. 27) … because it is such a long ways. Didn’t want an overnight trip so we found a neutral site, thankfully.”