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Dexter beats Robertson for championship

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Jacob Amaya goes up and intercepts the ball to seal the victory for the Demons Saturday. (Shawn Naranjo Photo)

The 2018 Dexter Demons made their mark on New Mexico football history Saturday, winning 22-12 over the Robertson Cardinals in the Class 3A state championship game.

Dexter’s Isaac Irigoyon runs in to score after a long catch and run during Saturday’s Class 3A championship game against West Las Vegas. (Shawn Naranjo Photo)

The game featured a little bit of everything one expects and hopes for in such a consequential contest: Big plays on offense and defense, game-changers on Special Teams and shifts in momentum that kept fans of the Demons — who led the entire game but didn’t put it out of reach until the end — confident, but not too comfortable.

In the end, it was a special afternoon for everyone in Dexter, given what the game meant to not only the high school but the community.

Demons head coach Arturo Duran was among those emotional after the hard-fought contest. He expressed after the game what the title, and earning it in Dexter, means.

“It’s an honor,” said Duran, a Dexter High School graduate himself. “To come back and lead the team to a state championship, I can’t be more proud.

“These kids have worked so hard throughout the whole year. I’m so proud of them, every single one of them, from my seniors all the way to my freshmen.”

Dexter jumped out on top early in the contest — which for a quarter or so, threatened to turn into a higher-scoring affair.

The Demons took the opening kickoff deep into Robertson territory and found themselves facing a third and goal on the Cardinals’ seven, which they were unable to convert. Following a theme that began in last week’s semifinal contest against West Las Vegas — pulling out all the stops — Duran chose to go for it on fourth and goal.

Quarterback Jarren Amaro took the snap and after spinning away from a defender, outraced the Cardinals defense to the pylon, scoring the Demons’ first touchdown. After a blocked extra point, it was 6-0, Dexter, with 7:54 left in the opening quarter.

Robertson tied the game 6-6 — also scoring a touchdown after which the extra point was blocked — at the 5:09 mark of the first.

But the Demons quickly found themselves back on top, as Amaro connected with Isaac Irigoyon for a touchdown strike at the 2:29 mark of the first quarter. This time, the extra point missed the mark, leaving the score 12-6 Dexter, a number that would hold until the end of the first.

In the second quarter, the game slowed down a bit, partly because of an odd cluster of turnovers near midfield that saw, within the span of just a few plays, the Demons intercept a Cardinals pass; the Cardinals recover a Demons fumble; and the Demons, shortly thereafter, recover a Cardinals fumble. Neither team was able to score again in the second, leaving the game still 12-6 in favor of Dexter as the half came to a close.

The second half, however, started out with a bang. Dexter kicked off to Robertson — but the Cardinals returner misplayed the ball and Dexter’s Nick Cobos was able to recover it on the Robertson 10, giving the Demons an excellent shot at the end zone.

They would capitalize as Amaro ran the ball in on a quarterback keeper — the point after sailed through this time — to make it 19-6 Dexter with 9:37 left in the third.

But Robertson wasn’t quite done. They added a touchdown (followed by a failed two-point attempt) later in the third quarter to cut into Dexter’s lead, making it 19-12 Dexter.

The Demons would add a field goal in the fourth to make it 22-12 in favor of Dexter, the final.

After the last seconds had ticked off the clock, most of the Dexter faithful — the stadium was packed — stuck around to watch as the players and coaches were honored as champions at midfield. As the team gathered around him, Duran again praised his players — many of whom he’s coached their entire high school careers, in multiple sports.

“I’m so proud of them because of the work ethic they have, and the work they put into it. They’re just amazing. It’s awesome.”