Coach Wayne Ferguson said it's determination and character that have gotten the Rattlers to their best start in seven seasons. Turnovers helped, too.
Host Tucumcari scored 21 points off Fox turnovers, including the only two touchdowns in the fourth quarter of a 28-14 win over Fort Sumner that puts Tucumcari at 5-0.
Saul Moriel had a 65-yard interception return on the first play of the fourth quarter to put the Rattlers the lead for good, and Dillon Wood iced matters with a 1-yard run following a Luke Smith interception.
Smith also set up a 5-yard scoring rush by Jeffrey Cordova in the second quarter on another turnover, and Zach Hurd rushed for 58 yards and a touchdown while going a perfect 4-for-4 on extra points.
Tucumcari had four turnovers of its own, three on interceptions and one on a lost fumble, on a night where neither team gained 250 yards of offense.
Fort Sumner's offense was generated partially by Tucumcari turnovers as well. The Foxes jumped on the scoreboard midway through the first quarter with an 11-yard run from Dallas McDaneil set up by an interception, and had a third-quarter touchdown to tie the game at 14 following a recovered fumble. That score was a 1-yard run by Michael Giannini.
The Rattlers, however, were able to take the most advantage. Ferguson said the characteristic this Tucumcari squad has compared to previous teams is that others would let mistakes snowball, which this year's squad just keeps going back to work. The Rattlers were coming off a 7-0 win, which probably should have been a loss considering the Rattlers turned the ball over six times that night.
"We are a young team," said Foxes head coach Matt Moyer. "We just have to continue playing and getting better. We have sophomores and freshman stepping up in to large roles and sometimes the pressure will lead to bad decisions."
Ferguson said despite the team's resiliency they will have to focus on better ball control and limit their turnovers as they prepare for the (2-2) Eunice Cardinals next Friday. He said they are a team, which will take advantage of turnovers, and in the following week they will travel to second-ranked Texico — which took a 28-27 win Thursday over the Clovis junior varsity.
"We need to take care of the ball," Ferguson said. "It's not going to get an easier as the season progresses."