Serving the High Plains

Raton wears down Rattlers

State-ranked Raton scored four touchdowns in the second half Friday to put the game out of reach during a 41-0 victory against a host Tucumcari team still coping with the recent death of a teammate.

The Tigers (2-2), ranked fifth in Class 3A by, racked up more than 350 yards of offense, mostly in the second half.

Tigers quarterback Jacob Mattorano went 11-for-22 passing for 143 yards and three touchdowns. Joseph Saenz rushed for 118 yards and two touchdowns on 12 carries.

Meanwhile, the Rattlers (1-2) totaled barely 100 yards of offense.

Tucumcari's inability to move the ball for much of the game led to its defense wearing down during the second half.

"I think we just got tired near the end," Tucumcari coach Tarik Embrack said. "It was a tough game. We have a lot of work to do. But I'm not afraid of working and admitting we have work to do."

Tucumcari fell to 1-2.

Rattlers quarterback Nick Romero, harassed by the Tigers defense for much of the night, struggled with a 9-for-22 passing performance for 73 yards and two interceptions. Tucumcari had just 32 yards rushing.

The Rattlers also were hampered by 11 penalties for 68 yards, many for holding, illegal motion or illegal substitution.

"Every time we got five yards, we'd go 10 yards backwards," Embrack said.

The game was less than 24 hours before the funeral of Rattlers freshman player Javion Martinez, who died unexpectedly on Aug. 26 and prompted the cancellation of a non-district game against McCurdy. (See other story in this edition.)

When the Rattlers squad made its on-field entrance just before the game, they were carrying a new flag in addition to the usual American flag and Rattlers flag. It was flag that read "LLJM and LLJG, Forever Ours, No. 3."

The first part was an acronym for "Long Live Javion Martinez and Long Live Jayden Gloms." Gloms, also a freshman athlete, died in a vehicle accident at Five Mile Park in January. No. 3 was Martinez's uniform number. The flag will be used during team entrances for the rest of the season.

Embrack said his team's demeanor during practices leading up to the game was better, but he graded the squad a five out of 10 during the week.

Raton coach Tory Giacomo said he was aware of the tragedy that befell the Rattlers.

"When you have something like that happen, especially in this community, it's a tough thing. My heart goes out to them," he said.

The Tigers took a 15-0 lead by halftime with a 9-yard touchdown reception by Wyatt Berry and Mario Alvarez's 11-yard reception for a score. The Raton defense also scored a safety when it sacked Romero in the end zone.

But the Rattlers defense - a strength all season - showed it was up to the challenge. It forced two interceptions and stopped three other possessions on fourth down, including two in the red zone, during the first half.

"We did everything in our power to keep them in the game," Giacomo said. "We looked terrible, lackadaisical. They thought they would come in here and whoop everybody's butt. They got a butt-chewing at halftime.

"We can't play like that. We're going to be getting into district soon. We've got the toughest district in the state. If we play like we did in the second half, we'll be better. But we still have a lot of room to improve."

Raton, using option pitches and screen passes, reasserted itself in the second half with two touchdowns in the third quarter and two in the final period.

Tucumcari's offense continued to struggle in the second half. The Rattlers' biggest play was a 26-yard reception from Romero to Kamren Apodaca with time running out.

A last-second pass near the end zone intended for Apodaca was broken up, and that sparked pushing, shoving and angry words for several seconds between Tucumcari's and Raton's players.

Officials, who were heard late in the game admonishing Raton's players to cut their chatter near the line of scrimmage, threw flags during the melee but elected not to allow another play.

Embrack said he had no excuses for his team's struggles Friday.

"They just came in and played better than we did," he said. "Raton is one of the top teams in the state, and they played like it. We showed we could keep up in the first half, but we're not ready yet."

Tucumcari travels to Santa Rosa for a 7 p.m. non-district game Friday. The Lions (3-1) defeated Tularosa 34-28 in double overtime on Friday. Santa Rosa is ranked third in Class 2A in the latest coaches poll.

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