Playing with a third-string quarterback in his first varsity start didn’t slow down the Coyotes Friday night as senior running back Gabe Najar had a career-high rushing game with four touchdowns, carrying Roswell to a 44-16 win over Farmington.
Four interceptions by the Coyotes and a fumble recovery also played a big part in the dominating win against the Scorpions on a misty night at the Wool Bowl, which many predicted could be a playoff preview between the No. 3-ranked Coyotes and No. 5-ranked Farmington. Both teams entered the game with 2-2 records, with district play looming.
“It’s huge, when you consider the fact that we started our JV quarterback tonight, Dominic Nava,” said Roswell head coach Jeff Lynn. “To go out and play the way we did — we only threw one pass. We got Gabe Najar going. It was Roswell ground and pound football. It was a team win. The defense played well. The offense played well. It was just a total win for us.”
Nava, a sophomore running back, played his first varsity game at quarterback Friday after injuries to junior quarterback Ethan Valenzuela and senior Michael Ponce. Nava said he was excited taking snaps, and reassured having Najar lined up behind him the backfield.
“I felt a little nervous at the beginning, but as we got going, I felt pretty good,” said Nava, adding he hoped to start at QB next week when Roswell takes to the road to play Santa Fe. “It feels good that we could do it with people hurting.”
Najar ran for a career-high 230 yards Friday night, with four touchdowns and numerous first downs that kept the ball in the hands of the Coyotes for most of the game.
“I felt pretty good,” Najar said. “I’ve just got to thank all 10 players that were on the field blocking for me, especially Brandon Perez, who did his job and gave me the holes.”
Lynn said winning the time of possession battle was the game plan for the Coyotes.
“When we get Gabe going, that means the big boys up front are playing well, Victor Bolaños, Eddie Macias, Matty Martinez, Auggie Lucero and Oscar Becker, those kids really played well, too,” Lynn said.
Roswell had no turnovers in the game.
“We were plus-five in the turnover margin, that’s good too,” Lynn said.
Roswell got on the board first, with a 63-yard touchdown drive in the first quarter after a fourth-down conversion kept the drive alive.
On first and goal from the half-yard line, Najar ran a counter play to the middle for a touchdown that made it 6-0 Roswell with 8:01 left in the first quarter. The extra point kick made it 7-0.
Farmington senior quarterback Isaiah Jaramillo tried to establish the passing game for the Scorpions, but sophomore Joel Sanchez snatched the first interception of the game for the Coyotes to end Farmington’s drive.
Later in the first quarter, Farmington faced a fourth and 6 at their 43-yard line when Scorpion senior Justin Williams backed up to punt. Whether intentional or not, Farmington faked a punt, but Coyote senior Travis Curtis stopped Williams, setting Roswell up deep inside Farmington territory.
On fourth and 5 at the Farmington 21-yard line, Najar took the pitch from Nava and picked up a big first down as the first quarter ended.
On third and goal at the 2-yard line, senior running back Daniel Sosa ran to the left side, and squeaked in over the pylon to make it 13-0 Roswell with 11:17 left in the second quarter. The extra point made it 14-0.
Roswell forced Farmington to punt on the Scorpions’ next possession as the Coyotes took over near midfield.
On third and 5 from the Farmington 25, sophomore Jasia Reese broke a leg tackle and bowled over a defender to score to make it 20-0 with 8:09 left in the second quarter. Another good extra point kick made it 21-0.
Farmington bounced back on its possession, when Jaramillo connected with senior Jacob Brown over the middle, who ran into the end zone untouched for a 52-yard touchdown pass that made it 21-6 with 7:32 left in the second quarter. A successful two-point conversion made it 21-8.
Lynn said the key to stopping the Scorpion passing game was keeping pressure on Jaramillo.
“I think when we didn’t get pressure, they looked pretty good throwing the ball,” Lynn said. “I think we pressured that kid pretty good all night. Our defensive front did a good job.”
Roswell then put together a 55-yard touchdown drive with Najar carrying the rock on most downs.
On first and goal from the 5, Najar got stood up at the line of scrimmage, but carried the pile into the end zone for his second rushing touchdown of the night that made it 27-8 Roswell with 2:05 left in the second quarter.
“That’s the way we’ve got to play,” Lynn said.
The extra point kick made it 28-8 Roswell.
The Coyote defense then racked up some points of their own after Roswell punted. The punt rolled to the Scorpion 1-yard line, where Farmington began its drive. Junior linebacker Cade Manzanares then caught Farmington running back Thomas Montoya in the end zone for a safety that made it 30-8 Roswell with 16 seconds left in the first half.
Roswell received the kickoff to open the second half and put together a five-minute, 56-yard touchdown drive, all on the ground.
On third and 4 at the Farmington 11, Najar ran through the middle of the Scorpion defense for his third touchdown of the game, making it 36-8 with 7:02 left in the third quarter. The extra point made it 37-8.
Farmington got on the board again late in the third quarter on an 80-yard touchdown drive, thanks to the passing game.
On second and 10, Jaramillo found junior Kale Lucas wide open in the end zone for a 24-yard touchdown pass that made it 37-14. Farmington was successful on the two-point conversion with Jaramillo connecting with Brown over the middle, to make it 37-16.
But the Coyotes responded with another touchdown drive after senior Nic Salazar recovered Farmington’s onside kick near midfield. Najar continued to break tackles and carry defenders with him, picking up more first downs and chewing up the clock.
On second and goal from the 4, Najar took the ball over the right tackle and into the end zone for his fourth rushing touchdown of the night, which made it 43-16 with 9:04 left in the fourth quarter.
“I just keep doing what I do, and bring them wins, that’s all I can ask for,” Najar said. “We’re just going to keep moving on forward just how we are now right now.”
A quick interception by Coyote junior Justin Carrasco on Farmington’s possession essentially put the game away as the Coyotes continued to chew up the clock with the ground game. After Farmington got the ball back, Reese picked off another Scorpion pass late in the fourth quarter to ensure the game was over.
Sosa took snaps for the Coyotes late in the game.
“I’m real proud of these kids, to come out of this stretch — losing our starting quarterback, losing our backup quarterback — to come out of this stretch and beat two top 5 teams,” Lynn said of Friday’s win and a 22-18 win over Los Lunas on Sept. 15 at the Wool Bowl. “I feel real good about where we’re at right now.”