CARRIZOZO – Friday’s District 3-Eight Man opener between Carrizozo and Cloudcroft promised to be a good one.
The Grizzlies were coming in unbeaten, while Cloudcroft’s only loss was to Mountainair the week before.
After taking advantage of Bear miscues in the first half, though, it was Carrizozo that ended up succumbing, 30-26, on a last-minute score by Cloudcroft.
“That’s a good team we played, and coach (Matt) Strickland does a great job with them,” said Carrizozo coach Dale Jackson.
“That team played with a lot more heart than we did,” Strickland said of Carrizozo’s fast start. “I give coach Jackson props for his work with the boys.”
Carrizozo (3-1, 0-1 District) came out on fire from the very start. They lost the coin toss and were kicking off, but the Bears (4-1, 1-0) muffed the reception and the Grizzlies recovered.
After that, it was a short two plays and 30 seconds later that Austin Dennis walked into the endzone from two yards out to score the opening touchdown and give Carrizozo a 6-0 lead.
“We hadn’t done an onside kick like that in two years,” Jackson said. “We needed to be aggressive, and I was proud of the boys”
Later, the Bears fumbled again, and Carrizozo made them pay with a short run by Nikko Chavez and a 12-0 lead.
By halftime, the Grizzlies were up 20-6.
In the first half, things were fairly even between the teams – with roughly the same yardage, first downs and penalties between the two.
The biggest difference was turnovers. Cloudcroft had four giveaways, Carrizozo zero.
“Their kids had so much passion for this game and were flying downhill better than we were,” Strickland said. “They were just a better team than we were in the first half.”
The best the Bears’ defense could do was get a safety after a bad snap sent Guevara into his own endzone to fall on the ball.
That bad snap over Guevara’s head was a harbinger, however, as the Grizzlies were the ones with the miscues – both mentally and physically – that eventually ended up costing them the game.
After the Bears scored to make it 26-22 – a drive which included a 70-yard ramble by Cloudcroft quarterback Dylan Eldridge – the Bears got the ball right back with a successful onsides kick.
That play in particular seemed to give Cloudcroft a burst of energy, while the Grizzlies were flagged for a facemask during the drive which put the Bears into the red zone.
Four plays later, Cloudcroft had another touchdown and the lead for good.
There was still plenty of time, however – almost eight minutes – and Carrizozo had the ball.
But the fumble proved to be Carrizozo’s undoing, at Cloudcroft was able to recover.
A later Grizzly drive was stopped by continuous penalties and bad snaps. This was despite a 46-yard pass reception by Jacob Narvaez on 4th and long that seemed to give Carrizozo a chance.
““There were two drives where we just went flat,” Jackson said. “I told the kids, the reason we lost this game was about penalties. We can’t have that many big penalties against a good team.”
Carrizozo will need to address the penalty and turnover problems before they face off against Tatum next week.
“This is a real big game, we lost to them last year,” Jackson said. “Hopefully they’ll come in with the right attitude. We learned from our situation last year, and hopefully we’ll come in ready to play. Tatum’s a good team, too.”