Rattler Nathan McDonald makes a run for it, guarded by Adrian Jones in last week's Lordsburg game.
Tucumcari dominated the line of scrimmage on Saturday and the Rattlers are headed for the state-championship football game for the second time in four years.
The Rattlers rolled up 330 rushing yards, limited Lordsburg to 29 yards on the ground, and upended the Mavericks, 19-6, on Saturday at Rattler Stadium.
Tucumcari will play Hatch Valley for the Class 2A state title at 2 p.m. on Saturday in Hatch.
Some Rattlers disclosed what they’re gonna do about it.
"Play better every game — run better, score more, go out there and play football — it'll be my last game in high school," Rattler Eric Holt, a senior, said of the upcoming tryst.
Sophomore D.J Martinez agreed. "Play harder. Step it up a notch. It's a big game coming up, you know — it's all or nothing," Martinez said, adding he will prepare for the last game of the season the way he always prepares for games:
"I try to get enough sleep the night before a game, eat right — lots of carbs for energy — work hard at practice and in the weight room. I don't take any game for granted."
Hatch Valley is the two-time defending state champion. Tucumcari won the title in 2002.
Hatch, which is located northwest of Las Cruces, beat Santa Rosa 32-0 in its Saturday semifinal.
Tucumcari never trailed in running its season record to 11-1.
“I think the bottom line is we controlled the line of scrimmage,” Rattlers Head Coach Dub Smith said. “I’ve said all along that football games are won on the line of scrimmage. Our special teams were really good (Saturday), too. When you do all of those things, you come out most of the time with a win.”
All-state running back Eric Holt returned to the Tucumcari offense Saturday after missing most of the last several games with an ankle injury.
"I kept playing hard even with my injury instead of just sitting on the sidelines,” Holt said. “At least I felt a part of the game with my boys. I love the game of football."
Holt rushed for 123 yards on 21 carries and put Tucumcari ahead 6-0 in the first quarter with an 18-yard run.
Backfield mate D.J. Martinez added 101 yards on 17 carries, including a 14-yard scoring run in the fourth quarter. But when asked the best thing he did in the game, Martinez pointed to a defensive move:
"It was the interception I made in the end zone — it would have been a lot closer if they had scored that touchdown."
Kicker Anas Badshah, a junior, had a pair of second-quarter field goals before suffering a knee injury in the second half that forced him from the game and later sent him for X rays and an MRI, he said.
Freshman Rich Encinias kicked Tucumcari’s final point-after touchdown to complete the team’s scoring.
“Most freshmen don't get a chance to play (in a varsity game),” Encinias said, “much less get to make a point in a state semifinals game. That was very special to me."
Brendon Huerta’s 22-yard fourth-quarter run accounted for Lordsburg’s only score.
“We played a good football team, but our young men were prepared to play football,” Smith said.
Tucumcari averaged more than 5 yards per carry, relying on its offensive line to lead its attack. Defensively, the Rattlers held Lordsburg to 1.6 yards per carry.
Both teams lost a fumble and both were plagued by penalties – 133 yards for Lordsburg and 135 for the Rattlers.
What: State-championship game: Tucumcari vs. Hatch Valley
When: 2 p.m. on Saturday
On the radio: KQAY 92.7 FM
Runs with Rattlers
Krystal Molinas, the girl who runs with Rattlers, has been managing the Rattler football team four years — since she was a sophomore at Tucumcari High School.
Although she is now a college student at Mesalands Community College, she said she promised Rattler Eric Holt she would keep on managing this year because she has been with him from the beginning.
Besides, Molinas said, "They know I know what I'm doing.”
She explained what a manager does:
"The laundry, of course, making sure the equipment is right, putting straps back on equipment, picking up the kicking tee, making sure they get water — making sure they get everything they need."
Molinas, who said she plans a college career around physical therapy, athletic training and later massage therapy, said she used to be a wrestler at Caprock High School in Amarillo, but an ankle injury forced her to give up that sport.
So now she runs with Rattlers. She even knows their secrets, like what they are all so excited about when they tear wildly onto the field just before the game.
"The guys, especially the seniors, just step up there and say whatever they're feeling — like 'Go out there and play a good game.’”
Molinas said that is exactly what happened Saturday when the Rattlers beat the Mavericks 19-6.
"It was a very good feeling," she said, "like in 2002. I was managing back then when we won state at home against Santa Rosa."
-Compiled by QCS staff writer Martha Frost