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Coyotes too tough for Tigers, win 56-33

Roswell’s Talon Sanders intercepts a Los Lunas pass Friday night at the Wool Bowl. (David Rocha Photo)

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The Roswell Coyotes and Los Lunas Tigers played for all the marbles last time they squared off at the Wool Bowl. The Coyotes secured last year’s state championship with a home win against the Tigers just over nine months ago.

That 2018 state title contest was no doubt still fresh in the minds of Roswell fans — as well as coaches and returning players — as the lights came up at the stadium Friday night. Given the atmosphere and winning pedigrees of the teams involved, one might easily have mistaken this week-four regular-season matchup for a playoff contest itself.

But atmosphere and implications aside, the 2019 playoffs are many weeks away — with much on-field business to take care of between now and then. The Coyotes took care of theirs on Friday night as they defeated the Tigers, 56-33, in the championship-game rematch.

Head coach Jeff Lynn was pleased with the execution of his offense — and also thought his defense played well.

“They (the offense) did a good job,” Lynn said. “We felt like we had a good game plan, and felt like they did a good job of executing it. And I thought we did a good job defensively. That’s a good offensive football team we played.

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“I thought it was a good team win.”

Though we’re four weeks into the season, Friday’s game at the Wool Bowl was the Coyotes’ home opener. They entered the contest 3-0, having won at Ruidoso in week one, 53-13; at Lovington in week two, 76-54; and at Hobbs in week three, 36-29. Roswell was ranked No. 1 in 5A, according to MaxPreps.com.

Los Lunas, meanwhile, was 2-1 coming into the game. They beat Piedra Vista on the road, 28-0, to begin the season, then lost to Clovis, 30-15, in week two, also a road game for the Tigers. Last week, they played at Sandia and got back in the win column, 28-3.

Friday night, Los Lunas received the opening kickoff and marched methodically downfield, setting themselves up in the red zone with a fresh set of downs and what felt like a little momentum. But the Coyotes’ Talon Sanders intercepted a pass in the end zone to end the scoring threat, and Roswell’s offense wasted no time in capitalizing on the turnover.

Dominic Nava hit Joel Sanchez for a big gainer, and Jasia Reese capped the drive by rambling into the end zone for the game’s first score. With 3:18 to go in the first quarter, Roswell led 7-0.

The teams traded touchdowns, possession by possession, throughout the first half.

On Los Lunas’ next drive, a Tiger touchdown toss tied the score with 2:27 remaining in the first.

With 11:20 to go in the second, Roswell reclaimed the lead as Nava threw a touchdown pass to Sanchez — but Los Lunas came back and again tied the game, 14-14, with 7:18 left in the second.

The teams were tied 21-21 after each made another trip to the end zone, Roswell’s coming thanks to another touchdown toss from Nava to Sanchez.

Then came what will surely go down as one of the plays of the year.

Roswell had the ball with the first half winding down. On fourth down, with only a few seconds left on the clock, Nava heaved the ball downfield, into a waiting crowd of Coyotes and Tigers.

It looked as if the pass might be intercepted, but the ball bounced off a Los Lunas defender instead — and into the hands of a streaking Roderick Sedillo, who hustled it into the end zone as the Wool Bowl crowd erupted.

Lynn would say of the play, after the game, “That was pretty cool. I’ve had some of those go against me, too, so it’s nice to get one going your way. A little bit of luck, a little bit of hustle there — that was a nice play.”

The extra point made it 28-21, Roswell, as the first-half clock read 0:00.

The Coyotes’ offense seemed to take it to another level as the second half began. With 10:40 left in the third, they increased their lead to 35-21 on a Reese touchdown run.

Then the defense chipped in with a pick-six by Sanchez, making it 42-21.

A new narrative began taking shape: Roswell continued scoring — but unlike the first half, the Tigers couldn’t keep pace. Los Lunas’ drives began to sputter.

The Tigers would score a couple more times, once with 39 seconds left in the third and again in the game’s final minute (both point-after attempts failed).

But that wasn’t nearly enough, as Roswell never really eased up, adding two more touchdowns on runs by Reese, making for the 56-33 final.

The Coyotes will return to the road next week, facing off against Miyamura, while Los Lunas will host Cibola.

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