Not one of the pundits picked them. Not the Albuquerque Journal, not New Mexico Preps, no one except the Roswell football team believed they could go into Willie Chavez Field and not only win but dominate the No.1 ranked team in 5A, the Los Lunas Tigers, 42-20 Friday night.
“This is just another step,” Roswell coach Jeff Lynn said. “We went to Lovington and felt pretty good about ourselves and then last week against Hobbs we laid an egg. We just challenged our kids on Monday. We had an opportunity here tonight and our kids came out and played well. We’re just looking to get better. Los Lunas is going to be there in the end.”
The Coyotes came into their stadium and took the Tigers’ lunch money and pushed them around. The game wasn’t even close as the announcers on TV noted how Roswell dominated Los Lunas from the opening kickoff to the end of the game.
On Roswell’s first scoring drive, the Coyotes controlled the ball and clock converting a third and 2 from the Tigers 39-yard line. On the next play, Jasia Reese caught a screen pass from quarterback Ethan Valenzuela to the Los Lunas 31-yard line.
The Coyotes welcomed the return of Justin Carrasco who was the offensive player of the game and added a lot of nasty as he ran the ball to the 22-yard line for a first down.
“We kind of laid an egg against Hobbs,” Justin Carrasco said. “On the way up here we were focused and we were ready to play.”
Facing a fourth and 4 at the 18-yard line, Valenzuela threw a slant to Dominic Nava on the right side of the field as he crossed the middle and dragged two defenders into the endzone to give the Coyotes a TD as Joel Sanchez added the PAT as they took a 7-0 lead with 8:17 to play in the half.
Roswell had a chance to score another touchdown in the second quarter as they were driving when Roswell was faced with a third and 16 from their own 25-yard line. Coyote quarterback Valenzuela was flushed from the pocket and scrambled to his right and off balanced as he threw a pass to Reese at midfield. Reese outjumped a Los Lunas defender and made the catch — Los Lunas was called for a helmet-to-helmet hit, which added 15 yards to the play.
On second and 12 at the Tigers’ 15-yard line, Roswell threw an interception that was intercepted by Tigers’ Garret Lucero at the 15-yard line. Los Lunas’ quarterback Nick Garland threw a 2-yard slant to Cody Vocu with 29.1 seconds left in the first half as the teams were tied, 7-7.
To start the third quarter, Roswell received her ball and converted on seven of eight third-down conversions and on two fourth-down plays. Roswell physically punished the Tigers as they were walking around with their hands on their hips and gassed as Roswell scored a TD on a 22-yard run by Carrasco to give the Coyotes a 14-7 while taking seven minutes off the clock on an 18-play drive.
Los Lunas came back and scored when Derek Chavez ran a draw play in for a 16-yard touchdown. As soon as Los Lunas kicked the ball off, sophomore Xavier Gonzales took the ball at the 5-yard line. Roswell ran a “Starburst” in which four players gathered and faked like they had the ball, Gonzales took the ball up the middle and only had the kicker to beat. Gonzales gave the kicker a head fake and took it to the house to give the Coyotes a 28-14 lead with 3.8 seconds left in the third quarter.
One the next series, Roswell’s unsung hero Joel Sanchez made the play of the game as he intercepted the ball one-handed at RHS’ 33-yard line to end the game and he returned it to midfield where Valenzuela threw a 16-yard screen pass to Carrasco to make the score 35-14.
“Joel (Sanchez) had been working his butt off in practice,” Carrasco said.
Los Lunas would score a touchdown with 7:56 in the game, but RHS would field the onside kick and go on to score again on a 1-yard run by Reese to make the score 42-20.
“I thought the key to the game was, Los Lunas was not able to get us off the field on third downs,” Lynn said. “We were 12 of 17 on third downs — when that happens, you’re probably going to win a lot of games.”
Stats of the game
Sanchez had six tackles and one interception, Cade Manzanares had 10 tackles, a sack and a forced fumble.
On offense, Valenzuela was 13-for-21 for 145 yards, one TD and two interceptions. Reese had four receptions for 59-yards. Nava had six catches for 91 yards and a TD.
Rushing the ball: Joel Sanchez rushed four times for 68-yards and a TD. Valenzuela had nine carries for 84 yards and Carrasco had 28 carries for 142 and two TDs.
Roswell will play at 7 p.m. against Miyamura for homecoming on Friday.