Quay County Sun - Serving the High Plains

Rattlers fall to Escalante


August 28, 2019

Ron Warnick

Tucumcari running back Robbie Hartmann works his way through Escalante's defense during the second half of Friday's game at Rattler Field.

Escalante quarterback Brendan Giles torched Tucumcari's defense for six passing touchdowns and 223 yards during a 40-14 victory during a storm-delayed season-opening game Friday at Rattler Field.

Worse yet for the Rattlers, coach Wayne Ferguson's fears about injuries to his thin ranks of skill players came true - for one game, at least.

Running back Robbie Hartmann provided most of the highlights for the Rattlers with two touchdowns. He returned a kickoff 89 yards for a score in the third quarter. He also scored on a 2-yard run during the period, set up by a 50-yard pass to Ryan Birch from scrambling quarterback Jesus Ramos. Hartmann rushed for 56 yards on 11 carries and totaled 160 yards on four kick returns.

TJ Lampkin totaled 49 yards rushing on 12 carries. Ramos had 35 yards on 13 carries despite being tackled for a loss seven times and connected on 2-of-7 passes for 74 yards.

But Ramos injured his elbow in the third quarter and spent the rest of the game on the sidelines. Wide receiver and cornerback Vicente Sepulveda suffered a suspected concussion in the same period. Lampkin sprained an ankle early in the game but stayed on the field, filling in for Ramos when he went down.

The status of those players for their noon game Saturday at Albuquerque Academy probably won't be known until a day or two before. Regardless, the injuries amplify the problems with the Rattlers' lack of experience at wide receiver and defensive secondary.

"We're pleased we didn't roll over, but we didn't really expect this," Ferguson said of the injuries and that his team fell behind 26-0. "It's going to be a long season if we got hurt."

Escalante totaled 142 yards rushing in 25 carries. But it was the Lobos' passing- mostly by Giles - that caused the most headaches for the Rattlers, going 12-for-20 through the air. Wyatt Horan caught three passes for touchdowns.

What frustrated Ferguson was at least one of Escalante's passing TDs occurred when the defense batted the pass in the air and another receiver caught it. He said that reflects a lack of experience in the secondary.

"We're really thin in those areas, and the most important part of the defense is the secondary," he said. "Everyone thinks it's up front, but it's not. If you've got a good secondary, you've got a good defense.

"We'll have to learn from it, but we're green, green, green in some places."

Ferguson said a lack of seasoning at wide receiver also hampers Tucumcari's passing game.

"At wide receiver we're very inexperienced, no speed," he said. "It's going to be a learning process for us."

Escalante coach Dusty Giles said he wasn't happy with his team's penalties - 14 flags for 132 yards, including a player ejection - but was pleased with about everything else.

"You're going to make mistakes with penalties or blocking assignments," he said. "But what I was pleased with was every play, I saw maximum effort."

Tucumcari's defense forced Escalante to punt from its territory on the first series. A 15-yard run by Lampkin moved the Rattlers to near midfield, but Tucumcari lost a fumble.

It took four plays for the Lobos to take advantage of the turnover. Brendan Giles connected with Dante Salazar for a 33-yard touchdown with 6:35 left in the first period. Escalante scored on the two-point attempt for an 8-0 lead.

With about three minutes left in the period, ominous clouds made way for gusty winds, rain and lightning. The referees ordered players and fans to evacuate the field and stands for an hour. Rattler Field's lights also winked out for about 20 minutes because of a power surge likely caused by lightning.

When play resumed, Lampkin caught a 24-yard pass from Ramos to move Tucumcari to the Escalante 31. Ramos' 13-yard scramble gave the Rattlers a first down at the 13, but they moved the ball no closer. Ramos' 30-yard field-goal attempt fell short.

Giles struck again with a 50-yard TD pass to Salazar for a 14-0 lead as the first quarter expired.

After a kickoff to Tucumcari, the referees suspended the game for a mandatory 30 minutes after seeing a lightning strike to the south. In all, weather conditions led to 90 minutes in delays. The final buzzer than didn't sound until well after 11 p.m.

The Rattlers moved the ball near midfield again, but a Ramos scramble lost yardage and a fourth-down pass fell incomplete.

Ferguson said Escalante did their best to disrupt Tucumcari's offense.

"They're aggressive," he said. "They put nine people in the box and blitz everybody and try to overwhelm you. We made some adjustments but we didn't block it very well sometimes."

On another possession, Tucumcari fumbled at its 17-yard line. That led to a 17-yard TD pass from Giles to Gilbert Martinez for a 20-0 lead late in the second quarter.

Two personal-foul penalties by Escalante gave Tucumcari a first down at their foe's 26-yard line with 33 seconds left in the half, but the Rattlers didn't capitalize.

The Rattlers fumbled again after the second-half kickoff. Giles then connected to Horan for a 50-yard touchdown and a 26-0 lead.

Ramos scrambled out of the way of Escalante's rushers and found Birch downfield for a 50-yard reception and a first down at the 6-yard line. Hartmann carried it into the end zone four plays later for Tucumcari's first score.

Giles made it 34-6 after throwing a 9-yard TD pass to Horan. Hartmann took the ensuing kickoff, found a seam down the right sideline and galloped 89 yards for a touchdown. He also scored the two-point conversion.

Escalante's final score occurred when Horan recovered his own fumble in the end zone after catching a pass batted by a Tucumcari defender. It resulted in a 32-yard touchdown.


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