Home Sports Local Sports Defining moment forces showdown with Artesia

Defining moment forces showdown with Artesia

In this file photo from Oct. 19, Coyotes’ Cade Manzanares jumps on a loose ball after Roswell forces the fumble. Roswell tackles the Bulldogs again tonight at 7 p.m. at the Wool Bowl. (Shawn Naranjo Photo)

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Roswell football players have wanted this since they lost 36-35 to Artesia in the Bulldog Bowl on Oct. 19. It left a bitter taste in their mouths and perhaps spurred them on to win the district title. Roswell knew that for the most part, this day would come — that to win it all, it would not be complete or as satisfying if they didn’t have to beat the defending state champions. Roswell did their part by demolishing Valley, 49-8.

Roswell’s Cade Manzanares is looking for someone to hit. The senior will be playing against Artesia at the Wool Bowl Friday. (David Rocha Photo)

This is the third year that Coyote coach Jeff Lynn has been knocking on the door of the championship game. His team is playing its best football at the right time of the season and getting some key players back from injuries. The Coyotes were happy to welcome into the lineup big, 290-pound Xavier Lomeli at guard to give them some much-needed size and another set of fresh legs to run behind.

“We try to be inclusive at RHS,” Lynn said. “We try to keep kids involved. When injuries happen, some other kids like Dominic Sanchez — we weren’t really counting on him to play a role for us this year, but when the lineman went down he had to step up. Armando Silva, another kid that stepped up. We think keeping kids involved adds depth for us and it pays off. Know we have these kids back and that adds depth. We don’t sit around and moan … we just go about our business and try to get better.”

These two teams meet again, for the second time in four weeks. This is a game about winning and not revenge, and it is going to take Roswell playing their best game at the Wool Bowl to continue to play another week in the championship game.

“I think the first year we made it to the semifinals,” Lynn said. “It was a new experience for us. In some regards, we were happy to be practicing on Thanksgiving. I don’t feel like we had a sense of urgency. I felt like last year we did have. We felt like we had a good game plan — we just turned the ball over at the wrong time. We probably should have won that game. If anything feels different this the year is our kids are not satisfied and they’ve been committed the whole year, and they’re a fun group to coach. There’s not a lot of motivating on your end.”

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Lynn feels like they missed their quarterback, Ethan Valenzuela — as a team they were banged up. This year his team is healthy.

Much credit goes to Lynn as he saved his team’s season after a devastating home loss to Hobbs, 42-20 at home. Lynn regrouped his team and took them on the road and smacked the No.1 team at the time, Los Lunas, 42-20. That is the game the swag came back, and set them on a five-game winning streak until the controversial loss to Artesia.

“We went to summer and we didn’t lose anyone,” Lynn said. “We go out to Lovington and put up 50 points on them and felt like, maybe we got a little bit complacent and full of ourselves. That loss brought us back down to earth, that probably wasn’t the worst thing to happen to us this year. The loss to Hobbs was probably a defining moment for us. Kids knew that they had to recommit and go back to work.”

Artesia did their part by dispatching Piedra Vista on Saturday with a 39-20 victory to advance to the semifinals. The Bulldogs’ welcomed starting quarterback Trent Taylor back under center for the first time since Oct. 26., which allowed backup Clay Houghtaling to move back to his slotback/receiver position.

Out of the two quarterbacks, in the last game, Roswell had trouble stopping Houghtaling because of his ability to pull the ball down and run, which he did several times to keep drives alive. Taylor is the better passer of the two, and he surprised Roswell last game when all of his receivers were covered and he would pull the ball down and run for a first down and keep drives alive.

In this game, nothing is going to change, except that the Bulldogs used their best two-point conversion play that the Coyotes have seen, so that element of surprise is gone. Both teams have played each other enough to know both systems and what plays are going to be run.

“It’s tough playing a team twice,” Roswell coach Jeff Lynn said. “It’s hard to get away from something that worked in that first game. It’s hard to balance what worked and they are going to make adjustments. To know what their adjustments are going to be, it’s hard to have a counter to that, so, it’s a little bit of a chess match going on with that as far as scheme. We’re so familiar with them, we play them on a freshman, junior varsity and varsity level.”

Look for Artesia to continue to throw the ball all around the yard to receiver Braxton McDonald. McDonald scored on a 70-yard touchdown as he got behind the Coyote defense. He also ran patterns in the middle of the field as he wound up with over 150 yards receiving. JR Bustamante ran a lot of circle routes out of the backfield in the middle of the field to hurt the Coyotes as well. When they did run the ball senior running back Jagger Donaghe would run between the tackles.

“We’re making progress,” Artesia coach Rex Henderson said before they played each other the first time. “We started out with two losses early and all three of our losses are to 6A teams. We learned a lot and I’m concerned with Roswell’s speed. We have to make sure the first guy that gets there makes the tackle on them and not let them get big plays or it could be a long night.”

Artesia has lost one game the rest of the season, as Goddard intercepted a pass at their 5-yard line and controlled the last five minutes of the clock. Goddard ran quarterback Dalton Bowles, left, right and up the middle as they drove the ball to the one-yard line of Artesia before kicking a field goal with seven seconds left on the clock to win the game 31-28.

In this game look for a whole lot of featured running back Justin Carrasco — he ran for 271 yards on 41 carries. Also, look for the Coyotes to lighten his load if the other running backs are running hard and getting good yardage. Look for Angel Caballero and Roderick Sedillo to see carries as well. In the last game when they needed Carrasco on third down, he was out of the game with cramps from carrying the ball so much. Look for him to run the ball, but for the coaches to spell him a bit and save him for the end of the game.

Roswell has the advantage on special teams. They can put any host of speedsters back there to run the Starburst on kickoff returns and they have returned a punt or kickoff for a touchdown in every game this season. Look for the dangerous Jasia Reese to be in on punt returns and kickoffs. In the last game against Artesia, he took one back 80 yards with 14 seconds left in the third quarter. No team has found an answer for the Coyotes “Starburst” kickoff return — they can put Reese, Carrasco, Dylan Tucker, and Xavier Gonzales back there.

What started out as a need to improve this season has grown into a strength for the Coyotes. Joel Sanchez is always around the ball, Dominic Nava has had interceptions and recovered punt blocks and taken them to the house. Half linebacker, half cover guy and late bloomer Jesus Molina may be the hardest hitter of the defensive backs and has come on of late to intercept passes, come from deep in the defensive backfield on blitzes and has laid players out. They will need to play as a unit and get one, maybe two turnovers in this game to give their team a chance to win.

As of late, the Coyotes defensive line has been playing well. They may be outweighed but they are getting off blocks and refusing to stay blocked. Sack master Xavier Hernandez had three sacks against Valley — he must continue to keep the pressure on Taylor. Linebacker Cade Manzanares has to continue to be the team leader and make big plays on defense and special teams as he has all season.

There was a lot of controversy surrounding last game, but the real key of the game is that Roswell has to limit Artesia’s big plays and get off the field on third downs and stay awake for their trick plays. The Coyotes are one game away from playing for the state title. They have the team they wanted — it is up to them to do something with this opportunity.

“We are excited about the opportunity,” Lynn said. “Our kids have had a great week of practice, it should be fun. Let’s play football.”