By Thomas Garcia: Quay County Sun
The Tucumcari Rattlers upset the undefeated Capitan Tigers to move on to the 2A football playoffs semifinals 33-30.
“This was an unbelievable game. Both teams played well and it went down to the wire. This win was a total team effort. We are very proud of our boys. They rose to the occasion. We look forward to playing next week and taking care of business so we can move on to the championship,” said Rattlers coach Dub Smith.
Capitan’s coach Jodie Scott said, “We were on 2nd and goal and instead of scoring points, and increasing our lead on the Rattlers we fumbled and turned it over. I feel that was the turning point in the game. I have nothing but respect for Tucumcari, they deserved the win.”
The Rattlers advance to the semi-finals and will play Friday against the winner of today’s game between No. 3 Lordsburg and No. 7 Dexter.
Until Friday night the Capitan Tigers had a 10-0 record. The Tigers attacked with an impressive passing game where quarterback Tillman Freeman had over 200 yards and two touchdowns. The Rattlers countered with a relentless ground assault.
• Fullback Brian Lopez had 23 carries for 189 yards and two touchdowns.
• Running back D.J. Martinez had 15 carries for 159 yards and one touchdown
• Kicker Anas Badshah had two field goals — one from 27 yards and another from 31 yards.
• Defensive tackle Drew White had two sacks and two tipped passes.
• Defensive tackle Josh Villegas recovered the only Tigers fumble turnover.
Assistant coach Wayne Ferguson said, “Sacking the quarterback is always a big play in football. Drew White was in on two crucial sacks for us in the fourth quarter.”
Lopez said, “We trailed by 10 at one point and it would have been real easy for us to throw in the towel. But the team didn’t do that and I’m real proud of that. There were three huge plays I felt in the game — my run back and Anas’ field goal before the half, Josh Villegas’ fumble recovery and that last first down.”
In the second quarter the Rattlers turned the ball over once leading to a 9-yard touchdown rush by Tigers Pierre Quiroz. Lopez rushed for a 19-yard touchdown on their following possession. Late in the second quarter, the Tigers moved down the field 83 yards in four plays, ending in another touchdown rush for Quiroz to give the Tigers a 17-14 lead.
With under a minute, the Rattlers marched down the field from their 29-yard line deep into Tigers territory with a 69-yard rush from Lopez leading to a 27-yard field goal by Badshah tying the game 17-17 going into the half.
Late in the third, Rattlers quarterback Matt Smith was picked off by Tigers running back Nick McCullough who ran it back 35 yards for a touchdown giving the Tigers a 30-20 lead. In the following series the Rattlers moved down the field 42 yards resulting in a 2-yard touchdown rush by junior Andre DeBord bringing the Rattlers within three points 27-30.
Then early in the final quarter, the Tigers were threatening to score again but fumbled the ball on second and goal.
Rattlers senior Josh Villegas recovered for the fumble for the Rattlers. The Tiger turnover lead to a Rattlers touchdown giving the Rattlers a three point lead 33-30. The Rattlers controlled the clock for the rest of the fourth quarter.
White had back-to-back sacks on the Tigers quarterback resulting in a 14 yard loss and with a incomplete pass the Tigers were forced to punt with 3:30 left in the game.
The Rattlers moved cautiously down the field making sure to take valuable time off the clock knowing the Tigers still had all three of their time outs.
The Tigers had to use their time outs to stop the clock as the Rattlers kept the ball on the ground. With less than a minute left on the clock, the Rattlers gambled on a 4th and 4, and Lopez rushed for seven yards to allow Tucumcari to run out the rest of the clock.