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Ignacio football ready for Wingate after high-scoring loss

Bobcats return home for Friday’s kickoff
Ignacio senior Cruz Martinez blasts into Grand County's Lane Peterson, dropping the Red Devil junior for no gain during nonconference action Friday night, Sept. 1, in Moab, Utah. The visiting Bobcats lost 42-30. (Joel Priest/Special to the Herald)

Should Ignacio’s home game on Friday versus out-of-state Wingate become a track meet, the Bobcats will at least know they have the jets to keep pace. Even when they begin pushing it themselves.

Opposing Grand County learned that the hard way on Saturday, when not even a 94-yard Austin Paris-to-Connor Swasey connection, putting the home team up 28-18 (after Edgar Hernandez’s point-after kick) with 3:02 left in the third quarter, was enough to break the visiting ’Cats. Instead of trying to slow things down out at Jeff Meador Memorial Field in Moab, Utah, the Bobcats unexpectedly sped them up – catching the Red Devils completely unprepared.

Regaining possession at their 20-yard line after a touchback, Ignacio went hurry-up and, helped by a pass-interference call against Grand County, went 80 yards in 11 plays, with Devante Montoya legging out a 33-yard touchdown reception as time expired.

“He made that decision when he saw their defensive linemen getting really tired,” sophomore quarterback Zane Pontine said, referring to head coach Alfonso ‘Ponch’ Garcia. “He was like, ‘We’re going hurry-up so it’ll make them more tired, so they can’t tackle as well.’”

Pontine’s attempted two-point conversion pass to the senior went incomplete, but with the score standing GCHS 28, IHS 24 and a full 12 minutes remaining in regulation, the game resembled nothing of what Grand County had once tried making it into via its 21-point first frame.

“We need to … not let a passing game go like theirs did; that was bad on our DBs and me,” Pontine admitted. “It was pretty rough.”

“They were locked up on us … when we’d go for passes,” added senior running back Nate Hendren. “And they were pretty big boys, I’m not going to lie; they were pretty tall, so we had to work our way around that.”

And thanks to their up-tempo shift, the ’Cats more or less did, even with Montoya slowed by a first-quarter injury. But even operating with a damaged drive train, Montoya enjoyed a career night with nine catches for 215 yards – including a nonscoring 51-yard grab of senior Rylan Maez’s receiver-option pass on Ignacio’s very first play from scrimmage, leading to Hendren’s 10-yard TD tote two snaps later, cutting GCHS’ early lead to 7-6 with 7:30 left in the opening stanza.

“It was definitely hard,” Montoya said. “I hurt my thigh, like, right in the beginning of the first half, and it was tough the whole entire time after that. But I just had to keep pushing though, like everyone else; I couldn’t let my team down, you know what I mean?”

“We started bringing it back up,” said sophomore Aven Bourriague, who hauled in a 29-yard score from Pontine with only 24.8 seconds left in the contest, as Montoya watched from the sideline. “We just need to work on our conditioning and our mentality; it just falls apart sometimes. And we need to pick that up.”

Simply protecting the football will be even more crucial against WHS; the Bobcats threw three interceptions and lost three fumbles, and were fortunate the Red Devils (1-3 overall, 0-0 UHSAA 2A-South) cashed just three of those turnovers in for TDs en route to prevailing 42-30.

Scoring with a stopped clock could also prove advantageous against the Bears, from Fort Wingate, New Mexico. Junior Charlie Pargin had two PAT tries blocked (Ignacio managed to block one Hernandez kick), while Hendren was denied a two-point reception and a two-point carry. Missing out on a minimum five points, IHS (0-2, 0-0 CHSAA 1A South Central) could have finished within a touchdown on a wild night – begun with the officials receiving the game ball via a Sky-dive Moab tandem jump, and later including a lightning delay called with 10:18 left in the second quarter.

“If you look at it in perspective, (there were) a lot of positives but a lot of negatives,” said Pontine, who ended up with three TDs passing and one rushing. “It was a little better than last game though. But it’s all right; we’ll just try and fix it next week. We’ve just got to get a little more conditioning in, so we’re not as gassed in the fourth quarter as we were tonight.”

Maez finished with three catches for 30 yards, including a 4-yard TD. Senior Marcus Maez caught one pass for nine yards. Bourriague finished with two grabs for 29, and senior center Cruz Martinez even clutched a twice-tipped Pontine pass for minus-5. On the ground, sophomore Lincoln deKay unofficially gained 71 yards on seven carries, and junior D.J. Hendren 23 on three runs setting up Bourriague’s scoring catch.

“Everyone believed in each other, everyone took the time to hype each other up,” said Nate Hendren (14-73 rushing). “No one was talking down on each other; that’s what a team needs to do … to stay together as one. I felt there was a lot of improvement.”

Wingate (2-1, 0-0 NMAA Dist. 5-3A) will arrive at IHS Field for a 7 p.m. kickoff having totaled 96 points in routs of Many Farms, Arizona and Farmington Navajo Prep, but fell 30-18 at home to Tohatchi.

“I’ve got to get healed up, everybody’s got to get healed up,” Montoya said. “We’ve got to put in work this week and be ready for it; we’ve still got a lot to work on, honestly. But I think it’s going to be good.”