Roswell quarterback Dominic Anaya goes airborne to score a touchdown in the Coyotes’ 19-10 victory over visiting Piedra Vista Saturday afternoon at the Wool Bowl. (Shawn Naranjo Photo)
Rushing for just 28 yards in a whole game might not seem statistically impressive for a ball carrier, but for Luis Mendoza it was a marvelous performance.
Mendoza carried the ball just seven times but his work in the fourth quarter Saturday afternoon was a crucial factor as Roswell knocked off Farmington Piedra Vista 19-10 at the Wool Bowl.
For the first three quarters in the Coyotes’ homecoming game, a pair of fleet-footed players in quarterback Dominic Anaya and tailback Jared Perez kept the offense moving effectively enough. Holding a 19-10 lead in the fourth quarter, the Coyotes (4-2) turned to the burly 5-foot-5-inch, 188-pound junior Mendoza, who churned out 24 yards on six carries, each time draining seconds off the clock as the Panthers (4-2) were out of timeouts.
“I felt like once we got to the fourth quarter and we were up two scores we could probably be a little more conservative,” Roswell head coach Jeff Lynn said. “They didn’t have the kind of offense that was going to go 80 yards in one play. They’re more of a ball-control offense and I just felt like if we hand it to him he’ll do a good job for us.”
While Anaya and Perez combined on 34 carries for 138 yards, most coming in the first 36 minutes, Mendoza had merely one opportunity until the final period. Except for one slight bobble of the ball, which he didn’t fumble anyway, Mendoza had the game in his hands on offense, while the Panthers were making a mess of things on both sides of the ball.
The Panthers used two quarterbacks and each was intercepted in the first half, they had a punt blocked with nine seconds left to set up a Sergio Carvajal 26-yard field goal for a 17-3 halftime lead and were short on a 35-yard field goal attempt with 3:57 left to play. Piedra Vista was forced to kick from 25 yards out only because a few plays before they had lost 17 yards on a snap over quarterback Elijah Gamboa’s head.
If those mistakes were not enough, the Panthers were duped by Carvajal’s fake punt that went for a 10-yard gain and extended a third-quarter possession. Rudy Castillo blocked the kick for the Coyotes, and Anthony Fuentes recovered at the 9-yard line.
“I was happy with our defense,” Lynn said. “Our defense played well today. I thought our special teams were better than theirs today and I thought our offense did enough. Our defense played exceptional and our special teams was what won the game.”
The fake punt came midway of the third period at the Roswell 33-yard line. Carvajal scooted past the right side of Piedra Vista’s defensive line on the fourth-down-and-three-yards-to-go play. Although the Coyotes ended up punting a few plays later from Piedra Vista’s 44-yard line, Carvajal pinned the Panthers at their 9. The Coyotes’ defense allowed just four yards and forced a punt, but the snap sailed over Christian Chavez and out of the end zone for a safety, putting the Coyotes ahead 19-10 with 3:29 left in the third quarter.
The decision to fake the punt came from the sideline, Lynn said.
“It was a momentum thing. They had come and marched down the field. We needed to give our defense a rest and get them off the field and the fake punt shifted momentum back into our camp. It was my call. We studied them all week and we knew we had it,” Lynn said.
Anaya scored off-tackle from one yard out for the game’s first score at 11:36 of the second period, and he hurdled into the end zone from five yards to put the Coyotes ahead 14-0 at the seven-minute mark.
Trailing 17-3, the Panthers took the second-half kickoff and marched 80 yards in just eight plays to score on Gamboa’s one-yard burst at 8:44.
Saturday’s game was the first of five straight at the Wool Bowl for the Coyotes to end the regular season. The victory was a significant point in Lynn’s 27th game in three seasons as Roswell’s coach, but he stopped short — maybe by a yard — of labeling it a hallmark.
“I told the kids on Thursday sometimes there’s certain wins where you see your program turn the corner, and I felt like maybe today that was the kind of win this was,” Lynn said. “This was a big game but we’ve got a big game next week. This isn’t going to be the biggest game we play all year.”
The Coyotes host Moriarty, another 4-2 team, on Friday followed by 5-1 Artesia. Including the final two games against Lovington and Goddard, those four teams have a composite record of 13-10.
“We can’t get wrapped up in beating a No. 3 team because we’ve got bigger fish to fry,” Lynn said.
Reporter Jeff Jackson can be contacted at 575-622-7710, ext. 311, or firstname.lastname@example.org.