GALLUP — For one quarter and one play, the Crownpoint Eagles were Tucumcari’s equal on Friday night. Then the Rattlers marched 66 yards in seven plays and rode the momentum wave to a lopsided quarterfinal playoff victory as expected.
Tucumcari, 10-1, dropped Crownpoint 37-6 to advance to next Saturday’s semifinal round of the Class 2A state playoffs. The Rattlers will play the winner of today’s game between Eunice and Lordsburg. Tucumcari Coach Dub Smith said next week’s game will be played Saturday in Tucumcari, but the time won’t be known until tonight.
Tucumcari hammered Crownpoint 62-6 earlier this year, but Coach Smith had predicted a tighter playoff matchup. He was right, at least for one quarter.
The Rattlers’ Adrian Jones picked up a Crownpoint fumble on the opening kickoff and ran 23 yards for the game’s first score. The teams traded possessions after that, then Crownpoint stunned the favored Rattlers with a 99-yard, 15-play drive that ended with a touchdown on the first play of the second quarter.
Only a failed two-point coversion run kept Tucumcari in front, 7-6.
Then the Rattlers’ fortunes changed for good. Or rather the Rattlers’ changed their own fortunes, Coach Smith said.
“We felt like we had not been playing like we could (throughout the first quarter), but we didn’t panic,” Smith said. “We told them ‘Hey, get back out and do what we know you can do.’ And they did it.
“I’m especially proud of the way the kids didn’t lose their composure and they kept playing hard. You know if you keep playing hard, good things can happen. And that’s what happened tonight.”
With all-state running back Eric Holt still nursing an injured ankle — he ran three plays and left early in the first quarter — Tucumcari relied on quarterback Josh Benavidez and wide receiver Jones for its offensive spark.
They teamed up for touchdown passes of 14 and 36 yards in the second quarter. The 14-yard TD capped a 66-yard drive that allowed Tucumcari to answer Crownpoint’s lone score.
“Adrian Jones made some great, great catches,” Coach Smith said.
“Adrian has really improved a lot. He was our most improved ballplayer last year … and this year he has grown by leaps and bounds. That’s what makes coaching so much fun is when you see a young man like him develop and improve. We are real proud of him. We’re really proud of all these kids, the way they’ve improved and worked hard.”
Tucumcari 7 21 6 3 — 37
Crownpoint 0 6 0 0 — 6
T: Adrian Jones 23 fumble return (Anas Badshah kick)
C: 2 run (run failed)
T: Jones 14 pass from Josh Benavidez (Badshah kick)
T: Jones 36 pass from Benavidez (Badshah kick)
T: Nathan McDonald 15 pass from Benavidez (Badshah kick)
T: McDonald 82 kick return (kick failed)
T: Badshah 29 field goal
First downs 15 12
Rushes/yards 39/202 32/111
Passing yards 128 109
Total yards 330 220
Comp/Att/Int 8/12/0 13/28/1
Penalties/yards 9/75 6/55
Fumbles/lost 3/1 3/3