Quay County Sun - Serving the High Plains

Raton grabs win over Tucumcari


September 19, 2018

Raton’s Aden Vanderwater proved to be a one-man wrecking crew against Tucumcari, scoring five touchdowns and making four interceptions during a 35-14 football victory Friday night at Raton.

Vanderwater also kicked all five extra-points for the Tigers (2-2).

The turnovers and a 17-play drive in the first quarter that stalled spoiled a solid rushing attack for the visiting Rattlers (1-3). Seth Martinez led Tucumcari with 127 yards on 23 carries. TJ Lampkin rushed for 71 yards on 13 carries and threw for a 38-yard touchdown during a halfback pass play late in the game.

Tucumcari sophomore quarterback Alijah Jimenez threw an interception on the second play of the game, setting up an 8-yard touchdown run by Vanderwater. That early pick proved to be a harbinger of a bad evening for Jimenez, who went 3-for-11 passing for 20 yards and four interceptions — all in the first half when Raton surged to a 28-0 lead.

Tucumcari coach Wayne Ferguson said the four picks weren’t entirely Jimenez’s fault.

“There were two interceptions where the defense made good plays,” he said. “The other two were poor throws and rattled confidence.”

On Tucumcari’s next possession, the Rattlers drove to Raton’s 1-yard line, but the Tigers repelled several end-zone bids, including on fourth down.

“We had a couple of missed blocking assignments that got stuffed,” Ferguson said of the stalled drive. “We shot ourselves in the foot a little bit.”

Two Tucumcari offsides penalties gave the Tigers less worry about being tackled in the end zone for a safety. Vanderwater then faked a handoff and ran 89 yards for a touchdown on the first play of the second quarter for a 14-0 lead.

Vanderwater made his second interception of the game near midfield, but Raton’s drive stalled. Vanderwater’s third pick of the night minutes later, however, set up a 38-yard run for his third touchdown and a 21-0 lead.

Another interception set up a 3-yard touchdown run by Vanderwater with 23 seconds left in the half. Raton led 28-0.

Ferguson said “it crossed our minds” to replace Jimenez with backup quarterback Ayden Lusk, but decided against it.

“I don’t know whether putting in a freshman who’s brand new to the system is the answer,” he said. “In the second half, we talked to our quarterback and considered what he was seeing through his facemask. What we see isn’t always what a football player is going to see. We told him to relax and trust his reads.”

Though Tucumcari’s rushing attack, which finished with 227 yards, proved effective, Ferguson said the Rattlers can’t rely on that solely.

“We’re going to play better teams, and we’re going to have to throw the ball some and hit the receivers when they’re open,” he said.

In the third quarter, Tucumcari embarked on another long drive — this time, 15 plays and 79 yards — that ended successfully when fullback Jonathan Clark scored on a 1-yard plunge for a touchdown. Jesus Ramos kicked the extra point to make the score 28-7.

Raton responded with a 72-yard drive that Vanderwater ended with a 10-yard TD run for a 35-7 lead.

The Rattlers ended the night on a bright note when Lampkin, after he and Martinez moved the first-down chains several times with rugged running plays, on a halfback pass play threw for a 38-yard touchdown to Rod Dunlap with 31 seconds left. Ramos kicked the extra point for a 35-14 score.

Ferguson said Lampkin, a junior, recently earned his way into more plays on the first-string offense.

“He’s one that works hard, and he spent time in the weight room this summer so he got a little bit bigger and a little bit faster,” he said.

Tucumcari’s next game is at home at 7 p.m. Friday against longtime Route 66 rival Santa Rosa. The Lions are 3-1, with their only loss a 21-14 decision to undefeated Dexter during the season’s opening week.


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