LAKE ARTHUR — For about a quarter and a half, the underdog Lake Arthur Panthers hung tough in Saturday’s state 6-man championship game.
Then senior Mike Urioste and the Clovis Christian Eagles got into the flow.
Urioste, who scored nine touchdowns in a semifinal win over Hondo, added eight TDs and 296 yards rushing on 25 carries as CCS pulled away to a 60-13 win, capping a perfect season.
Clovis Christian’s defense held the defending champion Panthers in check until its offense could get going. Urioste scored on a 21-yard run with 6:02 left in the half for a 20-7 lead and the Eagles (10-0) steadily pulled away from there.
“It should’ve been a tough game, but we just kept going,” said Urioste, who also made several key plays on defense. “The line was blocking great, and it made it easy to run.”
While CCS scored 571 points this season, the Eagles allowed only 92, an average of 9.2 per game.
“We stuck to our game plan and played defense,” CCS coach Jason Swann said. “We gave up 92 points for the season; that’s got to be a record.
“I couldn’t be prouder of the boys. We had our power running game and we just went right at them.”
Junior Scott Fly, an effective defender who has played little on offense this year, filled in for junior Kevin Naceanceno (broken thumb) in the backfield and added 71 yards on six carries, including a 31-yard TD run in the second quarter.
Naceanceno, wearing a padded cast on his thumb, played mostly in the CCS secondary. He carried just once for one yard.
“I didn’t know what to expect,” Fly said of playing offense. “It was just something that happened.”
The Eagles had their hands full for a while with Lake Arthur senior Angelo Rivera, but once they zeroed in on him they were able to put it in cruise control.
Rivera, playing a deep back, was essentially a quarterback for the Panthers. He finished with 108 yards on 17 rushes, but couldn’t break enough long runs to keep Lake Arthur around.
He went 12-for-27 passing, but it netted only 72 yards and he had several dropped by his teammates.
“I told the team (before the game) we had nothing to lose today,” said Panthers coach Jose Porras, whose squad saw a seven-game winning streak end. “Nobody thought we’d be in this position. I told my kids they’d fought hard all year (to get here).”
CCS held the Panthers (8-4) to five first downs.
“The dump-down passes were getting to us a little bit, but we adjusted quickly,” Urioste said.
Trailing 34-13 at halftime, Lake Arthur opted for an onside kick to start the second half. The Eagles’ Daniel Graham recovered at midfield, and Urioste took off on runs of 25 and 15 yards, the latter for a score to all but seal the outcome.
“We came out just a little lazy, I thought,” said CCS senior Mike Root, who played quarterback for the first couple of series. “I was a little nervous because I’d never played quarterback, but I only had to give it and pitch it and go.”
Rivera broke a 46-yard TD run on Lake Arthur’s second possession, tying the score 7-7. He also threw a 9-yard TD pass to freshman Miguel Rubio with 11 seconds left in the half.
“We were more conditioned than they were,” Fly said. “That’s one of the main factors why we won this game.”