By Arnie Leshin
Simon & Garfunkel’s “Slip sliding away,” fits in to the problems of the Santa Fe
High School football team.
So far, head coach Andrew Martinez, now in his 5th season after being an assistant at St. Michael’s, was doing fine until District 5-6A came around. His Demons began by rolling over visiting Robertson, then got past Moriarty on the road, and capped it off by stunning the Horsemen at the Christian Brothers Athletic Complex.
They romped over Capital at Jaguar Field to arrive unbeaten at 4-0 in its district opener played at Milne Stadium against Albuquerque Eldorado, and fell behind quickly versus the run-and-gun offense and aggressive defense. Next came visiting, windless, Albuquerque Manzano and it resulted in an unexpected tight tussle that Martinez’ team pulled out.
Back-to-back came more district encounters and losses in Albuquerque to Sandia and at home last Friday night against Albuquerque Clovis, which had won its initial contest the week before.
And now getting caught up, here were the Demons expecting to dispose of the Wildcats. They took charge and were up by 15 points at halftime that backfired into a disappointing 28-21 defeat.
And there’s no letup, for next comes a tilt at 3rd-ranked in 3A Albuquerque La Cueva Saturday night at 7 o’clock. La Cuvas has won seven of eight and headed for the post-season that includes undefeated reigning state 6A champion Rio Rancho Cleveland and runner-up Rio Rancho High, now one and two with the Rams surprisingly at the top of the heap.
It was a familiar sight at Ivan Head Stadium against Clovis, where Martinez again saw a flip of momentum as the third quarter got underway. Against Sandia, his team was down by two in the final seconds before intermission and made back-to-back miscues that resulted in a romp piled on by the Matadors.
It began this time with stellar senior running back Martell Mora, one of the state’s finest ball carriers, fell on a loose ball after fumbling a short hand-off from senior quarterback Luc Jaramillo. It resulted in only a 3-yard loss but Martinez didn’t like this start of this second half.
Even when the lead became 21-6 halfway into the third quarter, Santa Fe High’s defense steadily faltered the rest of the night. A good effort became a disappointing downfall when the visitors scored three-straight touchdowns on three possessions.
The Demons didn’t quit, getting to within 28-21 and at the Wildcats’ 1-yard line before Clovis senior defensive back Robert Nora stepped in with the game-clinching interception of a Jaramillo short toss.
Now 5-3 overall and 1-3 in district, the outcome essentially spoiled any hopes Martinez’ team had of making the playoffs. There still is a possible mathematical chance, but Santa Fe High would have to upset La Cueva and defeat Albuquerque High in the regular-season home finale. Now perhaps if they eliminate the third quarters.
With 28 seconds left in this third quarter, the Wildcats (2-4, 2-1) kept its momentum and turned it into a 21-21 tie with their third PAT kick in a row. Later, Clovis forced another Demons’ 3rd and out, and on a 14-play drive and five minutes showing on the scoreboard clock, it went 78 yards for what proved to be the game-winner with 3:45 to go.
Mora was probably still bothered by an ankle injury that occurred against Sandia and did not have one of his better days in a campaign that saw him gain 200 yards twice along the ground. He was also a key target for Jaramillo, who did have one of his better games in his four years at calling signals with 128 passing yards, a touchdown, and added 78 yards rushing.
Said Martinez: “The third quarter, I don’t know what happens to us. We just have some sort of mental issue, and we can’t seem to get past it. I thought for sure tonight we were going to go out and play well in the third quarter.”
Penalties, fumbles, interceptions, a falling out of the defense, lack of communication, all the things that go into turnaround games that come on in the second half. Yes, it’s only a game, but Santa Fe High deserves better in contests it lost because of its own misfortune.