By Thomas Garcia: Quay County Sun
An interception sealed an 18-15 victory for 2A Tucumcari Rattlers against 4A Espanola Friday.
Rattlers junior Justin Alvarez made the crucial interception with 1:43 left in Friday’s game against the Sundevils at Espanola running out the clock.
Alvarez had already made another critical play in the fourth quarter on 4th and goal when he tackled Espanola running back Rodney Martinez. On the following offensive series, the Rattlers marched 92 yards down the field and junior Andre DeBord scored a touchdown to cap off the comeback.
“I am extremely proud of how these young men played tonight,” said Rattlers coach Dub Smith. “We had some turnovers that hurt us during the game but the team did not get discouraged.”
Turnovers and fumbles frustrated both teams. The Rattlers had three turnovers ï¿½ two fumbles on carries and another from a bad pitch. The Sundevils had four turnovers, three from interceptions.
“On one of our fumbles we were close to the goal line with a chance to score and Espanola recovered it,” said Smith. “Espanola moved the ball all the way to the 8-yard line and had a chance to score. But our defense held strong and stopped them and we marched right back up the field to score.”
“When we turned over the ball we told the rest of the team that it was far from over and to stay positive,” said Debord. “We are a fourth-quarter team and we showed that tonight.ï¿½
The Sundevils threatened to score early in the game from the 25-yard line until Rattlers senior Ryan Fought intercepted a pass and ran it back 58-yards.
The Rattlers possession off of the turnover was short-lived as freshman Lucas Benavidez fumbled the ball and the Sundevils recovered it. Seven plays later, the Sundevils scored a touchdown.
Benavidez made up for the fumble in the following offensive series with a 13-yard scoring run to tie the score 6-6 with 7:32 left in the second quarter.
A penalty nullified an 83-yard scoring return for Martinez, but the Sundevils recovered quickly with a 45-yard reception by Mike Marquez.
The Rattlers got the ball back with little more than a minute left in the first half. Two well-pitched passes by senior Andrez Apodaca moved the Rattlers down the field with a chance to score before the half. The Rattlers drive ended with a completed pass to senior Michael Fazekas, who was tackled with no time left on the clock.
The Rattlers started the second half with a strong defensive presence when freshman Cedar Bomar intercepted a pass and Fought scored a rushing touchdown on the following offensive series.
The Rattler defense held the Sundevils to one more scoring drive forcing them to settle for a 32-yard field goal late in the third quarter.
The Rattlers and Sundevils records are now 1-1. The Rattlers lost their first game to the St. Michael’s Horsemen 40-7 on Sept. 1. The Sundevils won their first game 59-28 against the Shiprock Chieftains Aug. 31.
The Rattlers next game is at 7 p.m. on Friday against the Estancia Bears at Tucumcari.