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The No. 6 sports moment of the year

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Roswell’s Dylan Tucker catches the game winning pass against Artesia Nov. 23 at the Wool Bowl. (Shawn Naranjo Photo)

That’s why they play until the final whistle. It had been five years and it looked to be six years and counting for Roswell head coach Jeff Lynn. If his team was going to get his first win as a coach over Artesia, he would need a Hail Mary or a miracle at the Wool Bowl.

It took an inspirational speech from former football coach Rueben Bolaños who gave a speech from the heart and told the team to never, never, never give up. In two plays that will forever go down into Coyote lore as “the pass and the catch” on consecutive plays, RHS quarterback Ethan Valenzuela and Dylan Tucker will forever be celebrated as the two players that helped put Roswell in their first championship game since 2000.

The importance of the final two plays — without them, no one knew whether Roswell would win coach Jeff Lynn’s first Blue Trophy. Had the game went into overtime, things might have been different. Tucker’s touchdown came as time expired — shutting the door on giving Artesia a chance to get the ball back and to either score or force overtime. Prior to the score, Artesia’s quarterback, Trent Taylor threw a 22-yard touchdown pass to running back Jagger Donaghe to tie the game at 42-42 with 14 seconds left to play.

Roswell’s win over Artesia ended an 18-year state championship drought. For that, the Coyotes are RDR’s No. 6 sports moment of the year.

Miracle play puts RHS in state championship

From the Nov. 24. Edition of the Roswell Daily Record

The Coyotes seemed to be a step slow, and couldn’t cover the Bulldogs receivers — they couldn’t tackle running back Jagger Donaghe as he scored three touchdowns in the first half to give them a 21-7 lead going into halftime.

Right before the Coyotes came out for the second half, Roswell coach Jeff Lynn didn’t panic and neither did his players. Principal Reuben Bolanos came out and gave the team a pep talk to encourage them.

“You’ve been working too hard,” Bolanos said, “to not come out and play one play at a time. You’ve got to win one play at a time. Artesia never gives anything up for free, you have to earn it. Go out there and play ball like you know how to play ball and most importantly, have faith in each other, talk to each other, believe in each other, communicate with each other. You’re in a heavyweight bout and your going toe to toe on all the rounds until somebody drops. Remember what I’ve told you before: Never give up. Never give up. Never give up, in that order. Never give it up.”

Roswell never gave it up as they looked like a totally different team in the second half, scoring 28 unanswered points and never punting the ball in the second half. RHS scored on offense and defense and again on Special Teams, but the miracle was, they scored with no time on the clock to win the game 48-42, Friday night at the Wool Bowl.

With 14 seconds left in the game after Artesia’s quarterback, Trent Taylor threw a 22-yard touchdown pass to Donaghe to tie the score at 42-42. The Bulldogs kicked the ball out of bound and put it at the 35-yard line of Roswell.

Roswell quarterback Ethan Valenzuela called Virginia in the huddle. When Artesia broke the huddle, they put their best defensive back, Ty Johnson on Jasia Reese who had been killing them all game long, and the other defensive back on Tucker. Reese was in the left slot and Tucker was out wide toward the sideline.

On the last play, Lynn called “empty” as Valenzuela dropped back and threw a 50-50 ball to a streaking Dylan Tucker down the sideline and Tucker outjumped the defensive back and caught it at the 35-yard line of Artesia with 9 seconds to play. RHS coach Jeff Lynn used his last timeout to set up another pass play.

“I wasn’t expecting to get it at all,” Tucker said. “I just went up and made a play. When I caught the last pass, I wasn’t expecting to get the ball. When I caught it, I thought there was no time left on the clock. When I caught it, I saw that there was no time left and I felt like I had to score. I never make a move, but I felt like I had to. This game means everything to me, especially to make those last two catches. To catch a pass from Ethan (Valenzuela), that was the best feeling ever. This makes up for us losing to them earlier in the season because we are still alive.”

Valenzuela took the snap as Artesia brought a blitz, he was pressured as he scrambled to his right, running down the right side was Tucker, and with his sights set on the ball that Valenzuela had just heaved off his back foot, Tucker came down with the ball at the 20-yard line and made a move to the sidelines. Tucker made a move on the guy and skirted down the right sideline to score as time expired to give the Coyotes a 48-42 win as bedlam broke out and fans stormed the field.

“This is big,” Valenzuela said. “We were just going to go deep and see what happens. I had faith in Dylan (Tucker). On the last play, they blitzed so I just rolled out and I saw Dylan wide open and I let it go. I have been dreaming about playing for a state title since I was a little kid — it means everything to me.”

The win was a big one for head coach Jeff Lynn — it was his first since he has been a coach at Roswell and the first win that they have had in 17 years.

“This win is big,” Lynn said. “We’ve got another game next week, we have to refocus. Our kids’ feet are off the ground right now, but we have to get the ground on Monday and get them ready to play another game. I told our kids at halftime to relax, we just need to go out and execute a little better. Everything is fine, just take a deep breath, we’ve been here before.”

Lynn celebrated this win with his family. He will give his team the weekend off. He has no preference on who they play.

Roswell will play either Goddard/Los Lunas in the Wool Bowl next week for the 5A championship.

Artesia 7, 14, 7, 14-42

Roswell 0, 7, 28, 13-48