Penalties, personal fouls, bad tempers and their inability to capitalize, or get off the field on third downs, left Roswell’s football team in a deep hole with 6:38 left in the first half. If not for a touchdown by senior Gabe Najar with 2:17 left in the second quarter, the Coyotes might have been in a bigger hole than trailing 21-13 at halftime against Aztec last week.
Coyote coach Jeff Lynn talked to his team at halftime and told them to settle down and relax. How did Lynn do this? He made an adjustment with his middle linebacker. His linebacker was getting too deep in his drop when Aztec’s quarterback Cody Smith dropped back to pass. Smith would pull the ball down and run it on a quarterback draw: either right or left. Another adjustment Lynn made was his defensive backs were getting caught looking in the Tiger backfield and not reading their keys.
Lynn assured his team they were still in the game and could win. He told them to play south side football.
“South side football is our core values,” Lynn said. We want to be good teammates, and we want to care about each other, and have each other’s back. The other thing is we want to be physical. We run and hit.”
Lynn’s goal was to wear the Tigers down in the second half. Aztec had six players going both ways for most of the game. The turning point in the game was, for most of the first half, the Coyote offense ran jet sweeps parallel to the line of scrimmage, working the legs of the Aztec defense.
Ponce ran the ball up the middle for 18 yards to midfield. From there, it was exclusively Najar on a belly dive over the guard and center holes along both sides of the line. Najar finally wore the Aztecs down to make the score 21-19.
Roswell’s defense rose up and held Aztec’s offense forcing them to punt on fourth and three on their 45-yard line.
Roswell scored a TD on their next possession and converted on a 2-point conversion with Najar scoring on a dive up the middle to make the score 27-21.
What broke the Aztec’s back was after the score, Roswell did an onside kick and controlled the ball for almost the entire third quarter as they scored and added another 2-point conversion to give them a 35-21 lead.
“We had the momentum,” Lynn said. “We went down and scored twice. We went down and scored to open the (second) half, then we got a stop and scored again. We felt like that was the right call at the right time, and we were fortunate to recover it. I felt like it was the perfect opportunity to onside kick to keep the pressure on them. It worked in our favor, and we were able to go down and score and make it a two-score game.”
Lynn felt like against certain teams, he doesn’t know how an opposing team will attack his offense. Normally, it takes a quarter for his staff to figure out what kind of scheme the opposing team is running.
“In the first quarter, you saw they stopped us,” Lynn said. “At halftime, we could watch the iPads and make the necessary adjustments. We saw how they were playing us, and we decided that we needed to run Najar on our belly play.”
This is the third year in a row that the Coyotes have been one step away from the championship game. This Saturday, they face a Belen team that defeated them 29-7 earlier this season on Sept. 22.
In that game, Belen shut down the Coyote rushing attack, holding them to 68 yards on the ground while giving up 191 yards through the air. For Roswell to continue to the title game, they will have to shut down Belen’s rushing game. Belen ran the ball 45 times for 376 yards, while passing the ball six times for 48 yards playing Roswell earlier this season.