By Ryan Lengerich
Junior running back Rob McClelland scored the winning touchdown Friday on a 47-yard dash to the right side of the endzone.
And that touchdown came with 8:36 remaining — in the quarter.
The Rattlers tattooed the Menaul Panthers 54-0 in the 2003 season opener Friday at Rattler Stadium. Menaul had only 24 players on its game time roster including four eighth graders. But it was more than a lack of bodies that hurt the Panthers.
Tucumcari’s front line opened up monster holes allowing the Rattler offense 410-total yards on 21 rushing attempts. Tucumcari had all they needed with the running game, only attempting two passes and completing neither.
“We just came out fired up and wanted to play football,” said senior A.J. Molinas. “The line hardly gets any credit but it usually starts there, and our running backs, anytime they get the ball they can score.
The Rattlers held a 21-0 lead after the first quarter after the score by McClelland and touchdown runs of 8-yards by junior Michael Baca and 35-yards by junior Eric Holt.
The beating only got worse.
On the Rattlers first play of the second quarter junior quarterback Chris McCasland broke loose for a 94-yard sprint untouched into the end zone. McClelland and Holt each added another touchdown and senior Able Vargus fell on a botched punt snap in the Panther end zone for the final Tucumcari touchdown of the half.
The Rattlers took a 47-0 lead into the locker room at half. Tucumcari Head coach Dub Smith said he never would have believed his team would have a lead that large halfway through the game.
“I thought our execution went extremely well for the first ball game,” he said.
Tucumcari’s defensive hitting was as explosive as their offense. Eric Holt dropped Panther running back Bryan Hoefler early in the first quarter and the hitting continued throughout the game.
“We’re a hitting team, that is all we stress to them, if you can hit you can play for us,” Smith said.
Rattlers secondary coach John Span said the win tonight will give the team momentum but not to read much into the final score. He said that while the Panthers didn’t throw as much Friday as they have in past games, he saw enough mistakes to keep Monday’s practice busy.
“We got a win tonight but we got away with stuff you won’t get away with against good teams,” Span said. “That is stuff we will have to go back and work on.”