Visiting, underdog Ruidoso wins in final seconds Saturday over stunned Robertson, 57-54, behind the heroics of quarterback Brendan Stewart in state 4A football championship in Las Vegas
Undefeated Manzano wins 6A, as does unbeaten Euncie in 3A, while 5A Artesia hoists its 29th and-a-half title
By ARNIE LESHIN, Santa Fe Today
The last one to have the ball worked wonders for visiting underdog Ruidoso in Saturday afternoon’s 4A football championship played at Robertson in Las Vegas.
It’s usually just a comment made sometime during a high-scoring tight game, but this time it became a reality as the quarterbacking of senior Brendan Stewart tossed a touchdown pass as the clock ticked down and the Warriors celebrated with a wild 57-54 victory.
It was a game of a dozen lead changes, 16 touchdowns, four ties, and numerous highlights.
The exciting finish began with five minutes remaining and the Cardinals in front 47-43. But a drive stalled for them and versatile senior quarterback Arjay Ortiz was called on to punt. But the snap was high, Ortiz caught up with it and tried to boot it, but it went right into the arms of the Warriors’ Josiah Polendo and he returned it to the Robertson 10.
Two plays later, Isaiah Otero ran the ball into the end zone, the point-after was good, and now the visitors had a 50-47 advantage.
Now there was 4:20 left and Ortiz took over, leading the offense, and this included scrambling for a first down on fourth and 18 at his own 30. He ran for 18 yards shortly after, and two plays later, found Jacob Gamel with a 19-yard TD pass with 1:20 left. After the PAT, it was now 54-50.
But Ruidoso also had a talented, confident quarterback in Stewart. Until now, he had connected on 15-of-18 throws for 208 yards and three TDs to go with 81 rushing yards.
Now he had to go 80 yards with one time out and very little time. First came back-to-back 11 and 16-yard passes, both to Gabriel Dorame, then he sped 33 yards past the Cards’ sideline and to their 20. Another toss to Dorame was good to the 5 with 17 seconds showing on the scoreboard clock.
Next he lined up for the shotgun snap, looked to run, but then went to his left
and threw the ball over the outstretched arm of defensive back Ishmael Martinez, and into the hands of Dorame in the right corner.
“I don’t know,” said Stewart, “I was just living for the moment. First I thought of running it in, and when there were some defenders coming towards me, I just tossed it and hoped that Gabriel would grab it. I just wanted to score, and did. It was a great feeling.”
Dorame had seven catches for 56 yards, but most of his heroics came in the last drive. He also connected with Layson Powell for a 98-yard touchdown play, with Powell good for a pair of scores and 189 receiving yards. The running star for the Warriors was Otero carrying 18 times for 176 and four touchdowns.
For Robertson, it was freshman Antonio Padilla who paved the way along the ground in the first half. But when he suffered a deep bruise to his right thigh late in the first half, he was sent to the sidelines, playing no more offense, only some defense in the fourth quarter.
Ortiz engineered his usual game. He passed for 343 yards, four touchdowns, and tacked on two running TDs. It was the third year in a row that his 3rd seeded Cardinals lost in the state final, this time ending their season at 11-2 while the Warriors battled back to finish at 10-3.
Ruidoso, the 4th seed, led 14-7 after one quarter, but Robertson went in front 28-21 at halftime. At the end of three quarters, the Cardinals were up 47-43, but were outscored 14-7 in the final quarter and the wild finish spoiled yet a fourth title for the program. For the Warriors, it was the seventh championship.
. . . The other state championship games wound down the fall season. In 3A, unbeaten, favored top-seed Eunice won its first state title since 2000 by turning away visiting Capitan, the 2nd seed, 34-13.
Capitan, the defending champion, scored first, but the District 4 rival Cardinals outscored the Tigers, 24-7 over the middle two quarters. Eunice joined 6A Manzano as the state’s two unbeaten teams with 13 wins. Capitan wound up at 11-2.
. . . In 4A, it was said that No, 1 seeded Artesia had won its 29th state championship by answering the challenge of previously undefeated visiting
Belen, the 2nd seed, 48-14. But it was really its 29th and-a-half titles when counting the 0-0 deadlock with Lovington in 1987. The program leads the state in hoisting the blue trophy.
The Eagles lost for the first time in 13 starts and still had not won a state football championship. They started well, taking a 7-0 lead in the first quarter with a sell-out crowd looking on. But back came the Bulldogs (11-2) in the second quarter to score three times and take a 21-7 lead at the half.
After that, Artesia went from a lead of 28-14 after three quarters to tack on three TDs in the final eight minutes and secure the title. It was its third state title in the last four years.
. . . In 6A, top-seeded Albuquerque Manzano won its first state football championship and finished undefeated in 13 starts by getting past 2nd seeded Albuquerque La Cueva, 14-7, at Wilson Stadium in Albuquerque.
The second meeting of the season for the two resulted in a tough, tight, dramatic final played before an overflow crowd of about 6,000. Manzano had not hoisted the blue trophy since the school opened back in 1960.
But it wasn’t easy and didn’t come to pass until a La Cueva pass into the end zone failed. The Bears were trying to score and tie the game with a PAT or go for two points and win it, but neither transpired.