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Ruidoso brings its 2nd-seed to another site in the City Different

By Arnie Leshin 
There’s always something added to surprises when you play high school football up at Raton.
And last Saturday afternoon, neither the 6th-seeded Tigers or visitors from 2nd-seeded Ruidoso weren’t well prepared. You always have to check weather conditions up there some 3 hours north of Santa Fe. And so the night before while 4th-seeded St. Michael’s was playing down at top-seeded Socorro in the other state 3A semifinals, it rained for quite some time.
It slowed down while the teams were already at sleep, Raton at home and Ruidoso in a hotel.
But the next day when the teams headed for pre-game practice and the cheerleaders were slushing aside on the sidelines and some fans carried umbrellas, they were trying to dry the playing field. unfortunately it was still pretty wet and there was quagmire in some spots. Fortunately, at least the sun broke through.
Good turnout up there as usual, play ball. 
 
After a scoreless opening quarter, the home side broke through on back-to-back runs from All-State four-year starter Daymon Walton that was capped by a 27-yard sideline dash into the end zone. The point-after was good, while the Warriors were having difficulty with the footing, it stayed 7-0 at the half. 
 
But in the final two quarters, it was Ruidoso’s swift 5-foot-11, 160-pound senior Logan Sandoval who found a way to cut down Raton’s rushing game, which of course included Walton, who has the state 4-year rushing record and the anchor leg on the program’s track and field sprint relays. 
 
Then there was Sandoval, also a splendid sprinter and a versatile football player who is his team’s No. 1 wide receiver, a crackdown defensive back and also one of the better linebackers. So now we’re late in the third quarter, and after a fumble recovery by Raton led to a touchdown and upped the lead to 14-8 following, a burst up the middle by the Warriors’ top running back senior Kaden Sago followed by quarterback Cooper Pritchett two-point conversion, it was Walton time again.
 
He hauled in the ensuing kickoff at his own 24 and took off, first up the middle and then some more speed behind the blocks, but then came Sandoval out on the chase, first getting to Walton then grabbing him by the legs and downing him. This stopped the Tigers’ in their tracks, and on their next possession, it occurred again. 
 
This time it followed a Pritchett 28-yard sidelines pass to Sandoval, who lateraled to Sago, and he sped the rest of the way behind a masterful Sandoval block, but the two-point PAT failed this time by Pritchett but now the visitors took their initial lead at 15-14. Walton did follow to score with a short scamper via a pitch-out that eluded Sandoval, but the trying two-pointer didn’t make it although Raton did get the lead back at 20-15.
 
So now it’s the fourth quarter and the scoreboard clock is winding down. When it reached 2:24, long-time Ruidoso head coach Keaf Johnson called a time-out when his team stopped Raton on fourth and eight at midfield.
“Heck,” he said, “we were down by one and on the road against a tough team, so we needed to call on our offense, maybe run down the clock, and score a touchdown or kick a field goal.”
 
The initial play went to Sago, who gained 11 yards up the middle. Next it was Pritchett with a fake handoff to Sago and a pitch-out to Sandoval, who sped to the Tigers’ 23 before stepping out of bounds. One more time out left, and Johnson, now in his 16th season with the Warriors, made sure that Sago got the handoff and he took off and avoided several would-be defenders to reach the corner of the end zone as the clock now showed one dozen seconds.
 
And that was it. Not even Walton could break one after the kickoff bounced into the end zone and it was game time. Last year, Raton lost 6-0 at St. Michael’s in the semis, now it was one it took at home on a messy field that didn’t help either side. 
 
Next stop, Ruidoso is the City Different, where a switch in sites now moved the title game from St. Michael’s to Ivan Head Stadium up the road after it was approved by the Santa Fe Public School.  
 
The lone loss for the Warriors came in their second game. a 24-14 defeat at Portales, a team that lost in the state 4A semifinals to Lovington. For the Horsemen, it was a 28-20 setback versus district foe and defending champion Robertson. 
 
But that’s all water under the bridge now, as well as whether conditions at Raton.   
TEAM SCHEDULES:
2ND-SEEDED RUIDOSO (11-1)
8/19 Gadsden (H) W 20-0
8/25 At Portales L 26-14
9/1 At Chapparal W 42-0
9/9 At Robertson W 21-13
9/16 At Cobre W 36-21
9/23 Tularosa (H) W 43-6
9/30 Tucumcari (H) W 45-0
10/7 At NMMI W 50-0
10/21 At Hope Christian W 45-9
10/28 At Dexter W 43-6
11/11 At West Las Vegas W 52-14
11/19 State 3A State Semifinals at Raton W 21-20
11/26 State 3A Championship at Ivan Head Stadium, Santa Fe
TEAM SCHEDULES:
4TH-SEEDED ST.  MICHAEL’S (11-1)
8/20 Taos (H) W 20-8
8/26 At Capital W 28-20
9/3 At Santa Fe High W 47-0
9/10 Los Alamos (H) W 45-0
9/30 At West Las Vegas W 51-20
10/8 Robertson (H) L 28-20
10/15 At Raton W 28-21
10/22 El Paso Cathedral (H) W 55-30
10/29 Santa Fe Indian School (H) 64-14
11/12 Thoreau (H) W 50-0
11/18 State 3A Semifinals at Socorro W 14-7
11/26 State 3A Championship at Ivan Head Stadium, Santa Fe

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