Carrizozo’s eight-man football season was fraught with almosts.
The Grizzlies almost had enough players to field a truly loaded team this year, they almost earned a few big district wins and almost had a really good game against Gateway Christian, a team heavily favored to win this year’s State title.
As it was, Carrizozo ended its season at 6-4 with a 61-6 loss to the Warriors on Nov. 11.
“We actually came out and played a really good game,” said Carrizozo coach Dale Jackson. “The score doesn’t paint a good picture.”
Near the end of the first quarter, Gateway (10-0) led by a single touchdown. The Warriors were up by more at halftime, but not enough for a running clock. Carrizozo was fighting.
Even after things fell completely apart in the second half, the Grizzlies weren’t about to give up.
“At the very end, and this is indicative of the game, they (Gateway) scored to go up by 49, and a PAT would end it. They hadn’t missed all night,” Jackson said. “We had three back there to block the kick. We were able to block it and get the kickoff.”
So the game didn’t end, but it didn’t last much longer than that, coming to an official end on the 50-point mercy rule just after the start of the fourth quarter.
But Jackson was proud to see his team wouldn’t quit.
“When they could have said it was over and just let the kick go, they were fighting to the last second. As a coach, I found that the bright spot,” Jackson said. “These were some big-hearted boys that worked hard. I was as pleased as you can be in a loss like that.”
Carrizozo wasn’t helped when two more players had to come out of the game with concussions, and Jackson had to put in eighth and ninth graders to play, leaving just one uniformed substitute on the sideline.
That highlights the question of whether Carrizozo will continue as an eight-man team or – in light of their obvious enrollment numbers – instead drop to six-man next season.
Jackson said there are a few other questions that need to be resolved as well.
“I want to visit with Dusty Young at the NMAA and find out how they’ll handle that and a couple of other issues. Are they looking at things for 11-man, for example? There’s some great differential in the numbers,” Jackson said. “This isn’t griping, but we play teams with three times the enrollment in their high schools. If you have 25-32 kids, can’t you play 11-man?”
Even with the low numbers, the Grizzlies had a lot of quality.
“We had a good group of kids that I would stack up with anybody,” Jackson said. “I would’ve ranked Garrison (Ventura) number one in the state on defense. We just didn’t have enough of those players.”