The Gateway Christian Warriors made quick work of the Menaul Panthers at Warrior Field as they beat them 50-0 in one half of play in the first round of the U.S. Bank 8-man State Championship. The Warriors used a smothering defense and an opportunistic offense to gain the mercy-rule victory and earn a spot in next week’s quarterfinal round at Mountainair.
The Panthers, runner-up from district two, suited out only 10 players and could never get their two speedy backs – Ben Morales and Jonathan Chambers – untracked as the Warrior D-line was in the Menaul backfield almost at will. The Panthers’ passing attack was 1-for-9 with -6 yards and two interceptions as Morales was under constant pressure.
Despite the dominating win, coach Shaun Wigley would like to see more from his squad. “We just played down – no fire, no urgency, no ‘hey, it’s the playoffs and it’s one-and-done’. We just played down, especially in half of that first quarter. The trouble is, if you do this in the playoffs, you’re done….we will be coming home next week at halftime if we play that way again in the first quarter.”
The Warriors, in the playoffs for 12th year in a row, got on the board right away as they used a quick 6-play drive to go 49 yards culminating in a 40 yard jaunt by quarterback Wyatt Arlett. The score made it 8-0 with only 1:48 off the clock. Artlett would have a big night as the junior would end up with 71 yards rushing and 129 yards passing and have a hand in five touchdowns.
The Panthers (5-5) would go 4-and-out in their first two possessions and then the Warriors’ Dominic Gomez would make it 16-0 with a 20 yard TD run around left end. The score would quickly go to 22-0 as Arlett would follow the block of Ryan Ellis into the end zone from 11 yards out.
The Panthers would get their initial first down of the game on the next possession, but would eventually turn the ball over on downs. The Warriors would need one play to make it 30-0 as Arlett threw a perfect 36 yard TD strike to Gage Estes. The score would make it 30-0 after one quarter of play.
The Warriors, seeded 7th in the tourney, would end the game in the second quarter. Estes would return an interception 35 yards for a score with 9:18 to go to make it 38-0 and then, following an interception by freshman Titus Arlett, the lead would go to 44-0 as Wyatt Arlett would toss a 17 yarder to a leaping Jacob Ramos in the end zone.
The defense would later get a fumble as they shined throughout the contest. Coach Wigley stated, “Sometimes, even if you are disciplined and not overly aggressive, you can make a tackle. The thing is that it’s not just that because the Mountainair team that we’re going to face this next week is going to stretch the defense on every point – passing, running, outside, inside, blocking, quarterback, running backs, wide receivers, and if we play with that lack of emotion and intensity, it simply won’t work.”
With the running clock in effect, the Warriors had one last possession late and made the most of it. On the final play of the half, Artlett threw a backwards pass to Jacob Truetken, who then handed it off to another Warrior, who did the same, who then pitched back to Arlett, who threw a bomb to a streaking Truetken from 63 yards out to score with no time left on the clock. The score wrapped up the game at 50-0 and sends the Warriors (5-3) off to Mountainair for the aforementioned quarterfinals game.