Penalties – of which there were too many to be acceptable to even an armchair quarterback, let alone a seasoned high-school varsity head coach – aside, Ignacio’s offense lost yardage on a play just once during last Friday’s vastly improved showing against an out-of-state enemy.
And after the Bobcats repeatedly showed hearts of lions, skipper Alfonso “Ponch” Garcia selected something of an apt metaphor to describe how quickly he hoped his players learned from, then put the 22-6 loss to Newcomb, New Mexico, behind them to begin preparing for a high-altitude test at 2 p.m. Saturday in Leadville.
“In ‘The Lion King,’ when (Rafiki) hits (Simba) in the back of the head, he looks at him and goes, ‘What was that for?’ And (Rafiki) says, ‘Don’t worry about it; it’s in the past,’” paraphrased Garcia. “I told the kids, ‘What just happened is in the past; this game is over.’ All we can do is go back and learn from it.”
Seconds before the referenced stick-swing in the animated film, Rafiki tells the cub, “Change is good.”
Simba then replies, “Yeah, but it’s not easy.”
Indeed, that was the true moral takeaway for IHS, seeing their collective ability to control their emotions and channel them into positive play – resulting in 20 fewer Newcomb Skyhawk points than in the teams’ 2018 meeting and producing a sense of parity with a foe that not only injured multiple Bobcats last fall but later reached the NMAA Class 2A state quarterfinals.
“We just wanted to prove a point that we weren’t scared to hit and that we’re going to go toe-to-toe with anybody, really,” said Joe Garcia, who gained 62 yards on 13 first-half carries. “We knew their best players, we knew their weaknesses or what they could do, and we just wanted to do our best, play our game.”
And against Lake County, Ignacio should be able to, even if reduced oxygen at 10,000-plus feet slows them a step.
IHS will look to topple the Panthers for the second consecutive season after the Bobcats came away with a 41-0 victory in 2018. IHS will also look to follow in fellow 1A Southern Peaks League member Center’s stead in the rematch, as the Vikings stormed Lake County Community Field and left owning a season-opening 39-8 win.
Lake County (0-1), however, mounted a more capable ground attack against Center than what the Bobcats (1-1) stymied in ’18; returning quarterback Luke Allen, a senior, logged 59 yards and a touchdown on 11 carries, and senior Carlos Saucedo – whom Ignacio didn’t see in ’18 – racked up 131 yards on just 18 tries.
Jace Holbrook was credited with a team-best 39 yards on 15 attempts in the shutout at IHS Field. He is back in boss Robert Everard’s backfield for his senior season.
Numbers do appear slightly up in 2019 for LCHS, with 20 players – or double what the depleted Panthers played with during the third quarter of their loss in Ignacio – currently shown on their roster, another promising sign.
IHS has shown the ability to both charge and chuck. The Bobcats’ starting drive against Newcomb included 12 run plays and drained 6:25 off the clock, and senior Ian Weinreich threw three TDs against LCHS last year and has fired four already this year. Defensively, senior Colten Jackson intercepted Newcomb’s Deondre Begay once during a drive, another time on a post-TD conversion try, and IHS also blocked a punt.
“We’re excited,” said Labarthe. “It’s going to be kind of different going up and playing at higher elevation, but I think it’ll be good for us; I think we can come out with another win if we just work together.”
Having lost almost all of his sophomore season to a broken fibula in last season’s clash with Newcomb, Joe Garcia was indeed a must-stop man for the Skyhawks and expressed relief over gaining a measure of revenge with his team-leading rushing output.
“I had a broken fibula, and I had torn tendons in my ankle,” he recalled. “But I’m feeling great like there’s nothing that can stop me right now. Coming back from that, I feel like nothing will stop me.”
Garcia was proud of his back’s performance.
“We said, ‘Remember last year, Joe,’” Ponch Garcia said, paraphrasing pre-game conversations. “And I said, ‘Tonight’s your night. You’re going to work hard and you’re going to make something happen for yourself. Don’t play scared; just get after it.’ And he sure did; he ran the ball amazing. For that big of a line that we played against, it was pretty awesome.”
If you go
Ignacio at Lake County
CHSAA Class 1A football
2 p.m. Saturday
Lake County Community Field, Leadville