By Ryan Lengerich
On the road to the 2002 State Championship, the Rattlers’ opened last season with three consecutive shutout wins.
Tucumcari (3-0) repeated that feat Friday night as junior quarterback Chris McCasland scored all three Rattler touchdowns in a 24-0 victory against Estancia (0-2) at Rattler stadium.
Despite seven fumbles for the Rattler offense, three of which were recovered by the Bears, the Tucumcari defense never allowed Estancia a legitimate chance to score. The Rattlers have outscored their opponents 125-0 in the first three games.
At practice Tuesday head coach Dub Smith told his team that Tucumcari has always taken care of the football. He didn’t make any excuses for the seven fumbles.
“We just didn’t hold on the like we should and that is not typical for us,” he said. “That’s not going to happen any more, they’re just not squeezing the ball and that is a mental lapse.”
McCasland hurdled a would be tackler and took the opening kickoff 80-yards for a touchdown. It was the teams fifth special teams touchdown in the past two games.
“We tell our players that special teams wins ball games,” Smith said. “Special teams in a close ball game will make a difference.”
Senior A.J. Molinas kicked a 21-yard field goal with 1:21 left in the first quarter to push the score to 10-0.
The defense contributed to the scoring in the second half. A McCasland punt pinned the Bears on their own 5-yard and on the second play of the drive senior Abel Vargas tackled Bears running back Tim Moya deep in the end zone for a safety.
McCasland finished the first half scoring with an 8-yard option keeper and the Rattlers led at half 18-0. The only score of the second half came on a similar option keeper by McCasland from 9-yards out.
Tucumcari rushed 47 times for 244-yards, led by sophomore Eric Holt with 92-yards on 17 carries.
McCasland was 1-5 passing for 18-yards. The Rattler defense held the Bears to 105 total yards on offense.
“Every ball game from here on out is going to be a big ball game,” Smith said. “Our schedule from here on out — there are no patsies.”