Goddard’s Lukas Gutierrez stiff arms a Capital defender during the Rockets’ 27-26 victory Friday night at the Wool Bowl. (Shawn Naranjo Photo)
The Goddard Rocket football squad overcame a dismal first half to eke out a 27-26 victory over the visiting Capital Jaguars Friday night at the Wool Bowl in the first round of the U.S. Bank state football championships.
With the victory, the Rockets advance to play the top-seeded and undefeated Centennial Hawks next weekend in Las Cruces.
The Rockets, who’ve earned a trip to the postseason for the last 14 consecutive years, have now also won a playoff game for 11 straight seasons. Both the Rockets and Jaguars were coming off close emotional losses in their regular-season finales – Goddard to Roswell High and Capital to Espanola for the District 2-5A title – but it was obvious from the start that the team from Santa Fe had shaken off the loss a little quicker than the host Rockets.
The game was slightly reminiscent of the last time the two squads played in the playoffs in the 2007 season. Capital played their hearts out in the rain and snow only to ultimately fall to a favored Goddard squad 21-6. Ironically, the 2007 season was also the last time the Jags sported a winning season until this year.
The Jaguars parlayed four first-half turnovers into a 12-7 halftime lead over the Rockets, who at times resembled their JV squad with so many different players filling in due to injuries.
Both squads battled through a scoreless first quarter as Capital had three possessions and only gained 33 yards – 28 on one run. Goddard had two possessions and both ended in interceptions.
The Rockets finally got on the board as Cameron Stevenson threw a beautiful 50 yard strike to Diego Miranda with 5:56 to go in the half. The score came after an initial Goddard drive stalled at the Jaguar 25 and a Capital drive that ended at the Rocket 33.
The Jaguars came back with a 10-play 92-yard drive to cut the lead to 7-6. The visitors needed only 2:24 to drive the length of the field as elusive Jaguar quarterback Augustine Larranaga threw the first of his four touchdowns on the night. This one went for 35 yards on a 3rd-and-20 situation.
The Jaguars then were the beneficiaries of the third Rocket turnover and capitalized. They needed only five plays to drive the 18 yard distance as Larranaga threw an 11 yard toss with :40 seconds remaining.
The Rockets’ final possession ended with their fourth turnover as the teams went into halftime with the Jaguars up 12-7.
The Rockets played turnover-free football in the second half as they tacked on three touchdowns to the Jaguars’ two.
The Rockets needed less than two minutes to take the lead as Stevenson hooked up with Miranda again to make it 14-12. The pass from 38 yards out capped a quick 4-play drive.
Capital answered immediately with a 5-play drive that ended with Larranaga throwing a 23 yard TD pass. He set up the score with a nice 32 yard run earlier. The score made it 18-14 Jaguars.
Both teams traded possessions and then the Rockets took the lead for good as Stevenson ran in a 2 yard qb sneak to make it 20-18 with 2:45 to go in the quarter. The 51-yard 5-play drive was aided by an earlier 21 yard pass to Devon Quiroz in the flats.
The Rockets managed to contain Larranaga, the reigning 400 meter state track champion, on the next Capital possession and add to their lead. The Rockets used a quick 4-play drive to go 55 yards to make it 27-18. Lukas Gutierrez rambled 35 yards to set up his own 1 yard plunge for the score with 11:18 left in the game.
Capital made things interesting as they scored with 4:54 to go on another Larranaga TD pass to make it 27-26, but the Rockets used a bid dose of senior Ethan Featherstone down the stretch to run out the clock. With the Rockets on their own 20 yard line, they managed to milk the entire clock out as they went the length of the field. On the final drive, Featherstone caught a pass for 21 yards and ran the ball 4 times for 39 yards.
With the loss, Capital falls to 7-4 (all four losses on the road) while the Rockets move to 6-5 and onto the quarterfinals in Las Cruces against highly favored Centennial.