Rattlers ride interceptions to topple Dons

By Kevin Wilson: Freedom New Mexico

At 5-foot-6 and 175 pounds, Angelo Montano stands as one of the bigger backs in a Tucumcari Rattler backfield that has to outquick and outwork bigger defenses.

“We know we’re going to be outsized every game,” Montano said, “so we work on keeping our feet moving every time we get wrapped up in practice.”

Montano was still working, long after he delivered an early knockout blow in Tucumcari’s 40-8 victory over the turnover-prone Las Vegas Dons, finishing with 121 yards of offense and a three-touchdown night one rarely sees.

Tucumcari (3-0) never trailed, and quickly led when Montano picked off a George Martinez pass and returned it 19 yards to the house just 12 seconds in to set the tone for Friday night.

“Any time you can get a pick six, it really puts the opponent on their heels,” Tucumcari coach Wayne Ferguson said.

But Montano was just getting started. He scored the Rattlers’ second touchdown early in the second on a 17-yard run, part of a 10-carry, 109-yard rushing night. Midway through the third, he had Tucumcari’s only completion of the second half, a 12-yard option pass to Dillon Wood to make it 28-8.

Throw in another Montano interception, and three more from his Rattler teammates, and it was a tough night all the way around for the Dons, who were outgained 353-245 on the night.

“We always give a lot of credit to our coaching staff,” Montano said. “They do a great job of getting us prepared. West Las Vegas has great receivers, but we knew to watch the quarterback (and wait for him to) focus on one receiver.”

Dons coach Michael Ulibarri was also quick to credit the Tucumcari coaches for their game plan.

“We were planning for them to double up on (junior receiver) Jordan (Romero),” Ulibarri said. “Then they did that, and we just didn’t throw the ball well.”

The Dons got their lone score with less than seven minutes left in the second quarter, as Martinez escaped pressure in the pocket and found Johnathan Roybal on a slant route for a 52-yard touchdown.

In addition to the defensive effort, Montano got a lot of help on offense, with Leon Vigil carrying the ball 11 times for 71 yards and touchdown runs of 22 and 4 yards, and junior Zach Hurd carrying three times for 81 yards and a 52-yard score down the left sideline.

“We’re not the biggest, but we do have some size,” Ferguson said. “We do have back that, when they hit the hole hard, they’re tough to catch.”

Tucumcari faces Farwell next week, while the Dons travel south to face Ruidoso.