RUIDOSO – After one quarter, this game looked to be a barn burner.
It was the No. 8 seed Ruidoso vs. No. 9 Taos, after all.
The teams were locked in a 14-all tie in the first period of their Class 4A State playoff game, Nov. 11, at W.D. Horton Stadium, but after an injury and ejection for a pair of Tigers, the Warriors took off to score 42 unanswered points in a 63-27 rout.
“We knew we could wear some people down,” said Ruidoso coach Kief Johnson. “But we messed up some things ourselves and had to punt the ball a few times.”
Ruidoso (6-5) started things off on a 55-yard ramble from Isaiah Otero – one of four touchdowns he had on the night.
But Taos (6-5) had a strong running back of their own in Ryan McCarty, who answered Otero’s opening score with a 48-yard scramble to tie it at 7-all with 6:14 left in the first quarter.
McCarty had two touchdowns and 87 yards rushing, but could have had a lot more if he hadn’t been ejected in the third quarter following an altercation.
Then there was the injury to Taos defensive end Jacob Martinez which happened just before halftime. He was taken to the hospital with a concussion.
“Their coach told me he was OK, so we pray for him,” Johnson said of Martinez’ injury. “We’re hoping he has a speedy recovery.”
All this let the air out of the Tigers’ tires. Adam Vigil stepped up and had a decent second half with 85 yards on 16 carries, but the tide had turned solidly in Ruidoso’s favor.
Things really started rolling that way when Robert Roller intercepted a pass from Jude Suazo and returned it 36 yards for a score to put his team up three touchdowns a minute into the second half.
“The quarterback threw it right to me as I was running in,” Roller said. “Then Lane Ryen came in to give me a key block to lead me into the endzone.”
Taos’ only score in the second half came on a drive in which the Warriors were flagged two times for late hits and 30 yards.
“Some of our guys made some stupid decisions. Late hits, throwing down, pushing off,” Johnson said. “Make a good play, but then don’t do something stupid to give them 10 or 15 yards. We’ll have some more talks with them about that.”
The victory might – might – be the last home game for the Warriors this season. They’ll head to Las Vegas next weekend for the State quarterfinals against top-ranked and unbeaten Robertson.
The Cardinals beat Ruidoso 47-14 in the fourth week of the season, but Johnson feels this will be a different game – even if they do have to make the long trip to play at Cardinal Field.
“We’ve got play better from the very beginning to the very end next week,” Johnson said. “I don’t feel like we played them our best the first time. Hopefully we’ll be playing with a lot more confidence this time.”