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The No. 2 sports moment of the year

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Roswell celebrates winning the Blue Trophy for the first time since 2000, by defeating Los Lunas, 42-6, on Dec. 1. (David Rocha Photo)

This was a year where things didn’t look like what they seem for the Roswell Coyotes football team, which played with an unbreakable spirit. After a 42-20 pummeling at home by Hobbs, the seasons looked to be going in a downward trend, with the No. 1 team in the state Los Lunas next.

Coach Lynn had his team hitting on all cylinders in every aspect of the game. The defense harassed all-state quarterback Nick Gaerlan all night as he was injured in that game as well. Seniors Cade Manzanares stuffed the run game and hurried Gaerlan into bad throws on the night.

On Special Teams, the Coyotes returned a punt return by Jasia Reese and a 94-yard kickoff return by speed burner Xavier Gonzales. Roswell had done to Los Lunas what Hobbs had done to them a week earlier, with a 42-20 victory. The win over the Tigers was the match to light the fire to the Coyotes’ season as they only lost one more time to Artesia.

Roswell would get revenge on Artesia in the RDR’s No. 6 sports moment of the year, with Lynn’s first career victory over Artesia on a TD as time expired to send the Coyotes to a rematch with Los Lunas for the Blue Trophy.

“It means a lot to do it with my dad,” Lynn said after the game. “My dad’s had a big influence on us. I’m glad to be here and share this with him. He helped our offensive and defensive fronts today.”

This was Roswell’s first title since 2000 and because they broke a drought, this is RDR’s No. 2 sports moment of the year.

Return to Glory

From the Dec. 2 edition of the Roswell Daily Record

By J.T. Keith 

Swag can do a lot for a person and, for a football team, it can win them a championship. Roswell has had the SWAG tag ever since they beat the Tigers in Los Lunas in the third week of the season — when the Tigers were ranked No. 1 in 5A.

When Los Lunas rolled into the Wool Bowl, they had nothing to go on but fool’s gold as they took the field. The Tigers actually thought they had a chance and the answer to their defeat to Roswell earlier in the season. Los Lunas had every reason to think they had a chance after they had beaten Goddard at home the week prior.

But, Los Lunas doesn’t travel as well, nor do they pass or play defense as well on the road as they do at home. The Tigers’ first mistake was declining to take the opening kickoff to start the game. On the Coyotes’ first drive of the game, they saw plenty of Player of the Year candidate Justin Carrasco, who would score the first of his three touchdowns on the day on a jet sweep around the left end from 17 yards out to give Roswell a 6-0 lead with 7:33 to play in the first quarter.

“Winning the state title means the world to me and my brothers,” Carrasco said. “It is just a surreal moment and we have been training for this moment since last spring. I’m proud of each and every one of my teammates. I remember talking to Victor Bolanos after we had lost to Belen — he told me, ‘Man, you don’t ever want to feel this feeling.’ He scared me to do even more. I persevered this year.”

Once again as it has been all season for Roswell, their Special Teams were special. Roswell held Los Lunas to a three and out on their first possession. The Tigers punted the ball to Jasia “Sweet Feet” Reese, who chased the ball as it was kicked over his head.

“Coach Lynn set up the game plan,” Reese said. “I did what I had to do. I’ve won before in track and basketball, but this is the right team to be on. When we scored the third touchdown, we knew we had them. All glory to God and my grandmother.”

Reese fielded the ball and made two tacklers miss, and set up his blockers in a caravan down the left sideline as he outran the last Tiger with a shot at him and cut to the middle of the field to give Roswell a 13-0 lead and essentially end the game. Roswell would go on to win the game and their first championship since 2000, 42-6 at the Wool Bowl Saturday.

“I’m super excited for these kids and our community,” Coyote coach Jeff Lynn said. “When a football team wins, it takes everybody: administrators, teachers, parents, and coaches. I’m just super happy for our community and our kids. This means a lot to the south side.”

Roswell middle linebacker Cade Manzanares ran through two blockers to force errant throws by Los Lunas quarterback Kade Benavidez. Roswell defensive coordinator Arturo Bolanos called an excellent game, as he knew when to bring pressure with his two linebackers and when to unleash defensive tackle, Xavier Hernandez. Los Lunas could not run or pass the ball on offense during the game.

“It means everything,” Cade Manzanares said. “Just going out like this, I can’t explain how this feels. It feels awesome.”

On the next possession, Roswell’s quarterback Ethan Valenzuela did a masterful job faking and hanging on to the ball as the Tigers’ defense collapsed on Carrasco when he scored a 17-yard touchdown with 3:26 in the second quarter to give the Coyotes a 20-0 lead.

“I love my teammates,” Valenzuela said. “This feels awesome and it wouldn’t be possible without my teammates. The whole offseason I trained and grinded. I knew I would come back.”

The defense pitched a shutout as Xavier Hernandez would sack the quarterback and hurry Benavidez often. Benavidez would become so rattled that he threw four interceptions on the day: one to Dylan Tucker and three to Dominic Nava as he would jump a route and return it for a 34-yard interception touchdown and put the game out of reach in the second quarter.

“I wasn’t reading anything,” Nava said. “I just made a move on the ball and I just jumped the route. It means a lot to do it with these guys — we’ve been through everything together.”

If that wasn’t enough, a penalty by Los Lunas backed them up to punt the ball. Los Lunas’ kicker was trying not to step out of bounds but did just that as the Coyotes’ constant pressure forced a safety making the score 22-0 in the second quarter with 2:29 to play in the first half. Roswell would open a tsunami on Los Lunas in the second quarter scoring 23 points to lead 36-0 and get the clock running for the rest of the game.

“We got outplayed,” Los Lunas coach Jeremy Maupin said. “Jeff (Lynn’s) a good coach and he outcoached us today and today wasn’t a good day to not have it. We knew they were going to blitz us and some things just snowballed on us. Carrasco is a good player and they (Roswell) deserved to win the state championship.”

With the game over, Roswell conceded a touchdown when Benavidez threw an 8-yard slant route to Andrue Garcia with 11:17 to play in the fourth quarter.

“It means a lot to do it with my dad,” Lynn said. “My dad’s had a big influence on us. I’m glad for him to be here and share this with me and he helped with our offensive and defensive fronts today. Our senior class is very special. They’re all good kids and they all make good grades — they don’t get in trouble and they treat people right. I can’t say enough about them, they are just a great group of kids.”

What helped propel this championship run was the way the Coyotes ended last season in Belen. Lynn remembers the call that took away a touchdown and that his team fumbled on the 17-yard line to end their season. Lynn felt like if his team would have been healthy and his team had made a couple of plays last season, things might have ended differently.

Lynn’s already looking ahead and plans to start Dominic Nava at quarterback. Lynn believes that Nava is a baller and has a big future.

“Nava is just a player,” Lynn said. “He’s not great at anything, he’s just good at everything. I can’t say enough about him.”

There are only a handful of father-son coaches that have won New Mexico football state titles — L.G. and Cooper Henderson and David and Jeff Lynn, to name two.

What other Coyotes are saying:

Joel Sanchez: “We didn’t just take them lightly. They (Los Lunas) are here for a reason. We’re here for a reason as well, too. We had to prove we’re No.1 in the state.”

Xavier Hernandez: “This win means everything to me. This was my goal.”