By Thomas Garcia
QCS Senior Writer
The football season came to an end in Quay County with coaches hoping their young players gained valuable experience this year.
The (1-9) Tucumcari Rattlers season ended on Friday with a 52-0 loss to the (10-0) Santa Rosa Lions at Rattlers Stadium.
“We had some success sustaining offensive drives there at the end of the game, but we just couldn’t answer back to their early scoring,” said Wayne Ferguson, Rattlers head coach.
The Lions scored 46 unanswered points in the first half, including four touchdowns from rushing, one on an interception return and two from punt returns. In the second half, the Lions took their starters off the field and put in their second-team offense and defense.
The Rattlers had possession for a majority of the second half, shortened by the mercy-ruled running clock. On Tucumcari’s final chance to score, a fourth-and-goal with two seconds left, the Lions’ Dante Torello intercepted Michael Olivas’ pass 2 yards deep in the end zone and returned it for a touchdown to end the game.
“With the game well in hand we wanted to take our starters out and give our younger guys time to play,” said Mario Trujillo, Lions head coach.
Trujillo said he did not want to take the chance of injury, knowing how physically the Rattlers play. He said the Lions know they simply can’t relax with a lead against the Rattlers. The Rattlers, he said, are a tough team and will continue to fight the entire game.
“My hat’s off to coach Ferguson,” Trujillo said. “We know coming into Tucumcari that the Rattlers are going to be ready to play. We know we have to be smart and respect their physical style of play.”
Ferguson said the younger players who stepped up this season will be a positive note the team can build on next season. He said his youthful players gained experience by having so much playing time this season. Their willingness to step up will help the Rattlers next year, he said.
Ferguson said the team will have only a few seniors returning next year, so the core of the team will continue to be younger players who will again have to step up to key positions. Their time on the field this season will be a strong foundation for them over the next few years.
“We knew there would be a few years of rebuilding,” Ferguson said. “Though with what we have seen, there is hope on the horizon.”
Injuries to starters late in the season and trying to get new players in sync during the playoffs hurt the (6-6) Logan Longhorns in the first round of the state tournament, said Kene Terry, Longhorns head coach.
“I don’t want to take anything away from these guys,” Terry said. “They played a heck of a season and never gave up.”
Terry said the Longhorns lost six of their original starters this season due to injuries, including quarterback Wyatt Strand, who sustained a hip injury during the Longhorns’ district championship loss to Foothill. He said the Longhorns had a new group of players working on both defense and offense with only four days of practice before Friday’s 32-6 loss to Tatum in the semifinals.
Terry said he doesn’t want to discredit Tatum’s win and said the Coyotes had greatly improved since their first meeting at the beginning of the season. He said the Longhorns played a great game as well.
Both teams should be proud of the effort they showed on the field, he said.
Terry said the team gained from seeing the talent and abilities of younger players who stepped up to replace injured starters at the end of the season. He said the Longhorns have some strong freshmen and eighth graders who will add power to the program for years to come.
Terry said he is hopeful the Logan team can increase the number of students who come out for football next season. With more players, injuries might not be such a major issue.
“Our future is bright,” Terry said. “We saw a lot of character and strength from our younger players which has us excited about next year.”
The (6-4) San Jon/Grady Coyotes ended their season on Saturday with an 86-8 loss to the top-seeded Lake Arthur Panthers in the quarterfinal round of the state tournament.
“Making it to the quarterfinals is a great feat for these players,” said Bobby Gomez, Coyotes head coach.
Gomez said he is proud of the season the Coyotes had this year. There were a lot of young players that had to fill key positions this year, and they were able to make a deep run into the state tournament. He said the team’s youth played a role in some of the team’s mistakes at the beginning of the year, but as the season progressed he saw great improvement.
Gomez said the freshmen and sophomores who stepped up will make an excellent core group for the Coyotes. Those players got some great experience and valuable playing time that will help the Coyotes develop next year’s program.
“I have a very positive outlook for next season,” Gomez said. “I’m very excited and ready to start preparing for next year.”