It was a perfect finish to the season Friday night for the Ignacio High School Bobcats.
With a chance to secure the team’s first winning record to close out a season since 2013, Ignacio passed for five touchdowns and shutout Del Norte to secure a 40-0 home victory to finish a five-game regular season during a shortened schedule because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Our kids came out focused after a great week of practice,” IHS head coach Alfonso “Ponch” Garcia said. “I am so proud of my kids and I love them. I am so happy we had the opportunity to work together this season with such a wonderful group of young men.”
It came on senior night, homecoming and as Ignacio (3-2, 3-2 1A Southern Peaks League) debuted new uniforms in front of their home fans. Coach Garcia got the new uniforms a couple of weeks ago but never told the players until it was time to suit up for the game Friday.
“To see the excitement, it was hard to describe,” coach Garcia said. “To see their eyes and their faces light up, it was a motivator. It was for our seniors, their last game. It was priceless.”
IHS junior quarterback Gabe Tucson threw for all five of the Bobcats’ touchdowns. He was 14-of-23 passing for 260 yards.
It was running back Joe Garcia’s initial 4-yard rushing touchdown that gave the Bobcats a 7-0 lead with 3:37 to go in the first quarter. Garcia had intercepted a pass three plays earlier tog et IHS the ball before going into the end zone. He finished the night with 13 carries for 50 yards and the score.
A little more than a minute later, Ignacio recovered one of four Del Norte fumbles on the night. Trajan Garcia would recover the first for IHS. Two plays later, Tucson would hit Dylan Labarthe on a 19-yard TD pass to give IHS a 14-0 lead with 2:21 to go in the first quarter.
Early in the second, Tucson really aired it out on a 64-yard TD pass to John Riepel. Shawn Campbell missed his only extra point of the night, as he would go 4-of-5 on extra point tries on the night, but the IHS lead was 20-0 with 9:31 to go in the first half.
One minute later, after Ignacio’s Jace Carmenoros recovered a fumble for IHS. One play later, Ignacio was in the end zone again. This time, it was a 9-yard TD pass from Tucson to Lawrence Toledo. A 2-point conversion run attempt by Garcia was denied, but IHS held a solid 26-0 lead it would carry into halftime.
On Del Norte’s next drive, it was another fumble, this time recovered by Clint Talamante Benavidez.
It would be two third quarter TD passes from Tucson that helped IHS put the game away with a mercy-rule running clock. Both went to Campbell. The first was of 36 yards before they connected again on a 30-yard TD with 1:47 to go in the third quarter to make it 40-0.
“I told my coaches tonight that I wanted to make sure every kid touched the ball,” Coach Garcia said. “It was so nice to see all the seniors score a touchdown and be part of it.”
Coach Garcia was able to play a handful of reserves in the fourth quarter but let his team leaders largely finish the game on the field to celebrate the team’s success.
Del Norte (1-4, 1-4 SPL) was led by the running of senior Isaac Peerman, who had 28 carries for 123 yards. Del Norte threatened to score twice, including on its last drive of the game, but stalled before every cracking Ignacio’s 10-yard line. IHS knocked Del Norte quarterback Malachi Gallegos out of the game early in the second quarter, forcing the Tigers to run most of the night.
IHS will lose a talented senior class that had been with Coach Garcia for all four years. The rebuilding process may be difficult with low numbers among returning sophomores and a small freshmen class. For now, the coach is enjoying what the team accomplished during a difficult year.
“From where we started to now, to see the outcome of what we have done, it is crazy,” Coach Garcia said. “This is an amazing finish led by a great group of seniors who were the strength of this team.”