By Ryan Lengerich
Rattlers head coach Dub Smith wanted to force Hatch out of their dominant passing game, but didn’t expect a dominant running game as a substitute.
That is exactly what happened when junior Chon Pallares rushed for 155-yards and a touchdown as No. 2 ranked Hatch Valley (10-2) invaded the defending champion’s home for a 46-29 win against the top-ranked Rattlers.
The win gives Hatch a trip to the schools second state championship game to be held Saturday against rival Lordsburg. Hatch defeated Lordsburg 26-24 earlier this season.
Hatch was able to capitalize on sloppy Rattlers offense. The Bears converted two of three fumbles for touchdowns and Pallares returned a interception for a score.
“We made mistakes and that hurt us — that is the bottom line,” Smith said. “You get this far and mistakes catch up with you.”
The Rattlers opened the game by holding the explosive Hatch offense at bay on their first possession. Senior A.J. Molinas’ 34-yard field goal gave the Rattlers a 3-0 lead. It was the only lead they would have in the game.
The Bears used their no huddle attack to score 26 unanswered points in the game. A 64-yard drive on the Bears second possession was capped by a 1-yard sneak by junior quarterback Brett Henson. The Hatch defense recovered an errant lateral by Rattlers senior quarterback Chris McCasland. Henson hooked up with junior Ryan Franzoy for a 12-3 Bears lead.
Henson finished the day with 16 completions on 44 attempts totaling 266-yards, four touchdowns and two interceptions. Hatch racked up 455 total yards to Tucumcari’s 377.
A fake punt fumble set Henson up for his second passing touchdown of the half when he hit sophomore Roy Hackey on a 47-yard crossing pattern. A two-point conversion gave Hatch a 20-3 halftime lead.
While the Bears scored on two passing touchdowns in the first half, head coach Charles Gleghorn said the running attack was the key.
“That is why we run that no huddle offense, to see what they are going to give us,” Gleghorn said. “They were giving us the run so we had to keep taking it.”
The Bears dealt the Rattlers an early second half blow that quieted the Rattlers supporters. On a second-and-eight play, McCasland’s pass was intercepted by Pallares and returned 60-yards for a score and a 23-point lead.
The Rattlers and Bears traded touchdown throughout the second half. Rattlers senior Rob McClelland scored twice from 19 and 20-yard runs. Junior Michael Baca also added two short touchdown runs.
But the Bears had an answer each time the Rattlers threatened to make the game close.
“Anytime you play a team like Tucumcari, the defending champions, they are not going to stop,” Gleghorn said.
The Rattlers graduate ten seniors from this years team. Smith said injuries affected his team more than in past years, but his players responded.
“They played hard, sure we would like to win but our kids — they fought until the last go round,” Smith said. “This team, since I have been here, has had to overcome more than any team, and to be where we were, they overcame more than any team.”