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Fort Sumner/House Football Champions

Fort Sumner and House high schools joined together to bring the area a state 2A football championship after going 11-0 and overwhelming visiting Escalante, 55-7, for the championship

Before 2011, Fort Sumner had won nine start titles as the Foxes in Class A, but this one was for House, too

Arnie Leshin

By ARNIE LESHIN, Santa Fe Today
From 1995 to 2010, Fort Sumner had won nine state football champions, all in Class A reserved for the smaller schools.

But in 2011, there was a numbers problem for a program that didn’t have trouble scoring points. Without a junior varsity, they couldn’t field a varsity. It was a time when the school’s area saw families relocating, and so the sport was abandoned that year.

To the rescue came a neighbor, which is what neighbors are for. Not far from Fort Sumner was House High, which also couldn’t field a football program. It was another Class A school with a small enrollment. Presto, the school officials met several times, and just like that Fort Sumner/House became a football team known at the Foxes.

In its first season, attendance wasn’t bad. Both schools and those in the area were curious. It wasn’t like the times when Fort Sumner dominated Class A and packed the stands, but it was getting there, and most important, it made for better neighbors and more football.

Well, this past Saturday, Fort Sumner/House celebrated its first state football title in what is now 2A. It lost the last two years in the championship, 28-20 to Escalante and 34-26 to Lordsburg. The one last year became its only loss in a dozen starts.

But this one was one for the Foxes, for Fort Sumner and House, it capped an undefeated season with a resounding 55-7 domination over Escalante on its home field. It finished at 11-0 and was the second time it defeated the Lobos during the campaign.

Brad Holland took over as head coach when it became Fort Sumner/House, and he accomplished this in five years. It wasn’t easy.

There were practices when players from either school had exams, injuries for players who lacked varsity experience, plus Holland had to put a staff together because when Fort Sumner was forced to take that one year off, its coaching staff had found other positions.

“I am so proud of these kids,” he said. “Coming together as one is not easy, but I knew we were getting there, and sure enough, we won state. The past two years, we were very disappointed in losing at state, but these kids put it all together this time.”

No doubt the Foxes filled the scoreboard against Escalante. They scored 14 in the first, 27 in the second, 14 in the third, and then Holland emptied his bench as the home crown rose to cheer those coming off the field. Both lines did their job, especially holding the Lobos to only seven points while taking a 41-7 lead at halftime.

While those in attendance thought it would become a mercy-rule, running clock tilt, it didn’t, and even Escalante head coach Dusty Giles was happy the game went the entire 48 minutes.

But his team was outclassed. It was forced into five turnovers and getting completely forced out of its usually strong running game. After Fort Sumner/House scored with eight minutes left in the first quarter to go 7-0, the Lobos also made a run, but back-to-back penalties had them turning the ball over on downs.

“That was important for us to stop them right there,” Holland said, “because it was right after our offense did its part and now it was our defense taking over. We were in complete control after that.”

When Escalante (8-2) scored its only touchdown, it came with 4:11 remaining until halftime and now trailing 28-7. The Foxes scored twice more before intermission, and the advantage grew to 48 points by the end of the third quarter.

It was a statement made by Fort Sumner/House, and these neighbors now have their own state championship.

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