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Cardinals give good show at home

By Todd Fuqua

Photo by Todd Fuqua Corona's Connor Cox, right, reaches out to tackle Pine Hill receiver JoJo Lee, Oct. 18, at Corona.

CORONA – So the football field has seen better days. And the scoreboard clicks when it changes, and the 2 on the home score doesn’t change, and a student had to run in front of the stands with a dry erase board to show the score.

And the field is little more than a sticker patch. And portions of the stands are roped off because they’re unsafe.

Photo by Todd Fuqua Corona's Sam Brown, far left, scores a touchdown in front of Pine Hill defenders Miguel Pablano, center, and Raheem Alonzo, Oct. 18, at Corona.

Photo by Todd Fuqua Corona’s Sam Brown, far left, scores a touchdown in front of Pine Hill defenders Miguel Pablano, center, and Raheem Alonzo, Oct. 18, at Corona.

Whatever, Corona football came home Oct. 18, and a big crowd was treated to some truly enjoyable football.

It was enjoyable even through the Cardinals lost to Pine Hill 63-53.

“They executed the plays well, had their blocks and the momentum,” said Corona coach Matt Lovato. “We kind of lost that in the third quarter.”

Playing in only their second – and possibly final – game of the year, the Cardinals showed how much difference seven days can make right away. A week after falling to Pine Hill 51-24 a week before, Sam Brown took the opening kickoff and ran in 50 yards for a touchdown before 30 seconds had passed.

Photo by Todd Fuqua Corona center Cabel Cox is tackled by Pine Hill's Darren Spencer, Oct. 18, at Corona.

Photo by Todd Fuqua Corona center Cabel Cox is tackled by Pine Hill’s Darren Spencer, Oct. 18, at Corona.

After a three-and-out by the Warriors, Brown caught the ensuing punt, and ran it back 55 yards for a touchdown. Less than four minutes in, and the Cardinals had a 14-0 lead.

Three minutes later, Brown caught a 20-yard pass from quarterback Jim Racher for a score, and Corona had scored almost as many points in one quarter as it had in the entire game a week before.

“The butterflies were gone this week,” Lovato said. “They stepped up, they knew what they had to do and they knew what they were up against.”

Photo by Todd Fuqua Corona's Jim Racher, center, is tackled on a punt return, Oct. 18, at Corona.

Photo by Todd Fuqua Corona’s Jim Racher, center, is tackled on a punt return, Oct. 18, at Corona.

Corona isn’t without a tradition of football success. An 11-man squad finished second to Hagerman in the Class 1A state championship in 1977, while six-man teams were second in 1984 and 1987 – both before and after six-man football was officially sanctioned by the New Mexico Activities Association.

With their team ahead 22-0 after one quarter, it seemed as though that tradition was being revived.

Pine Hill began a comeback, getting to within three points with 3:20 left in the first half, but Corona answered with another Racher to Brown score at 2:15 to put the Cardinals up 28-19 at the break.

That lead increased near the start of the third quarter, as Brown ran another long touchdown and Jaime Morales ran in the point after try.

But then Pine Hill continued to cut into the lead, until JoJo Lee scored his fourth touchdown of the day to send the Warriors ahead with seven seconds left in the third.

Corona added a few more scores, but it wasn’t enough to overcome Pine Hill’s ability to pass for yards in the second half.

“We came a long ways, even from last week,” Lovato said. “They were up on us right from the get-go, and we had to catch up the entire game.”

This marked the end of a very abbreviated season for the Cardinals, but Lovato sees good groundwork laid for a team next season.

“None of these boys had ever played football before this year, and I’m very pleased with all of them,” Lovato said. “We let everybody know we have a team for next year.”

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