A tenacious swarming defense and numerous offensive weapons proved too much for visiting Gadsen Friday night, as the Roswell Coyotes opened their 2017 season with a huge win at the Wool Bowl.
Roswell got out to a 41-6 lead at halftime, which proved to be the final score with the continuous clock for more than half the game after Roswell got up 35 points.
Outside of penalties, just about everything else went right for the Coyotes after kicking off to open the season.
After stopping the Panthers on a three-and-out caused by pressure on Gadsen’s quarterback, the Panthers punted. Roswell sophomore Jasia Reese returned the punt for 32 yards, setting the Coyotes up at the Gadsen 33-yard line.
Gabe Najar, Roswell’s workhorse last season, picked up his first first down of the season, running with his head down, right up the middle, a sight seen by numerous Coyote opponents last season.
Later in the drive, on first-and-goal from the 9-yard line, junior quarterback Ethan Valenzuela threw to senior running back Daniel Sosa on the right side, who cut back for a touchdown with 8:12 left in the first quarter.
The first extra point attempt of the season from Coyote sophomore Noah Lujan was low and left, as Roswell stayed up 6-0.
The Coyote defense came up big on Gadsen’s next possession, when junior Justin Carrasco picked off a long third down pass thrown in the vicinity of several Coyotes. However, the Coyotes were unable to sustain the drive, which proved fortuitous for the home team.
On first-and-10 from their 25-yard line, Gadsen fumbled. The ball rolled around for several yards until Reese picked it up and ran it five yards into the end zone to make it 12-0. Lujan’s next extra point kick was very good, making it 13-0 Roswell with 5:07 left in the first quarter.
The Coyote defense stopped the Panthers again on their next drive, setting up a punt to midfield.
Roswell then put together a 52-yard touchdown drive, which ended with Najar running up the right side for 20 yards, followed by a 5-yard touchdown run by Najar in which he wasn’t touched by a defender due to precision blocking from his offensive line.
The extra point from Lujan made it 20-0 with 11:26 left in the second quarter.
A quarterback sack by Valenzuela ended Gadsen’s next drive, still without the Coyote defense giving up its first down of the season.
On first-and-10 from the Coyote 29-yard line, Valenzuela kept the football, and ran to the right side for a 55-yard gain.
Two plays later, Valenzuela threw to the end zone where two Coyotes were open, with Sosa snaring the 17-yard touchdown catch.
Lujan settled in, kicking another extra point middle of the uprights to make it 27-0 Roswell with 9:23 left in the first half.
Gadsen again failed to pick up a first down on its possession, setting up another punt.
Roswell took over at their 30-yard line, and put together a 70-yard touchdown drive.
On fourth-and-20 from their own 48-yard line, Valenzuela threw to Reese over the middle. Reese broke a tackle and got through traffic into the open field for a 52-yard touchdown pass.
The extra point from Lujan made it 34-0 with 5:26 left in the second quarter.
Things just got worse for Gadsen. The Panther returner fumbled the kick, resulting in a Roswell recovery at the Gadsen 30-yard line.
Two plays later, Valenzuela found Sosa wide open in the end zone for a 21-yard touchdown pass.
The extra point from Lujan made it 41-0 Coyotes with 4:24 left in the second quarter. The 35-point lead prompted a continuous clock that ran between most plays.
The Panthers scored the final points of the game after taking over at their own 17-yard line and putting together a sustained drive, capped by long pass and a 3-yard touchdown run. The holder bobbled the snap on Gadsen’s extra point attempt, keeping the score 41-6, which would prove the final score after a scoreless second half.
Coyote head coach Jeff Lynn made numerous substitutions in the fourth quarter, including putting senior Michael Ponce at quarterback and junior Matthew Fuentes in the backfield.
Lynn said he pulled Najar from the game early because of the lobsided score.
“Gabe will get his,” Lynn said. “It wasn’t anything that he did. We pulled him early. We were up big. He’s a kid that will carry a big load for us this year. So don’t read anything into that.”
Lynn said the Coyote offensive attack was based on Gadsen’s defense.
“It wasn’t that we went into it thinking that Ethan would carry the ball more,” Lynn said. “It was basically what they were giving us, we were taking. That’s kind of the way we work. We’re going to spread the ball around and whoever they’re giving us, we’re going to take.”
Lynn had high praise for his defense.
“I thought they played outstanding the whole night,” he said. “We had the one miscue on the long pass right before half, but other than that, they really didn’t have a whole lot of offense success at all. So defense played really well tonight. I was really happy with the way the defense played.”
Roswell will play at Hobbs next week. Hobbs beat Artesia Friday night 56-49 in Artesia.
“There are plenty of areas to improve,” Lynn said. “I didn’t think our offensive execution was great tonight, but we’ll get that cleaned up and move forward.”