CAPITAN – Ever since last December, the Eunice Cardinals were looking forward to seeing Capitan on the gridiron again.
Almost one year after the Tigers beat Eunice, 27-26, for the Class 3A State championship at Tiger Field, the Cardinals returned to the scene, Oct. 6, and easily defeated Capitan 42-0.
More than a rematch of the State title game, this was a clash of unbeatens, 1 vs. 2, and the opening District 4-3A contest for both squads.
“The revenge thing is right, our kids have been looking forward to this game all season,” said Eunice coach Ken Stevens. “We’ve been putting a lot of work in the offseason in the weight room with this game in mind. We wanted to come out and prove that we’re a better team than we were last year.”
It turns out Eunice (7-0, 1-0 district) had the formula needed to hand Capitan its first loss, going to the air repeatedly and shredding the Tiger secondary.
Ninety-one percent of the Cardinals’ total offense came from passing – 374 yards – and every touchdown they scored but one was a reception.
Eunice quarterback Mason Caperton threw for every one of those yards and all five offensive touchdowns, finding Michael Copeland in the endzone twice.
Copeland ended the contest with 118 yards on just three receptions.
“We had a little more speed on the field last year, and in the secondary we’re young,” said Capitan coach James Weems. “They found the weak point and that’s what they went after. That’s what got us.”
The one score that wasn’t a TD pass came from the defense, when Eunice’s Felix Gonzales fell on a fumble in the Capitan endzone midway through the third quarter.
By that point, the Cardinals had already made a statement on defense by stopping the Tigers (6-1, 0-1) on the ground.
Normally potent with the run, Capitan was able to gain just 17 yards as a team, with Stephen Ellison’s team-leading 26 yards offset by a number of tackles for losses in the game.
Injuries didn’t help, either. Starting quarterback Price Bowen suffered a rolled ankle that kept him on the sidelines the entire second half, with the play calling duties falling to sophomore Garrison Weems.
“I’m not going to blame this on the injuries to our team. Our second stringers tried to make something happen, but it’s tough to do against a team like that,” said coach Weems. “They’re the number one team in the state, and they proved it tonight. We’ve got work to do.”
Even with this big loss, Capitan is still a formidable opponent, and will need to regroup before their next big matchup at Tularosa on Oct. 13.
The Wildcats are coming off a 46-14 thrashing of Loving and – like the Tigers – are 6-1.
Tularosa’s only loss this season has been a 15-6 loss to traditional rival Ruidoso.
“They’re smart enough to know we’re still a good football team, we’ve just got to regroup from this,” Weems said. “Not everybody else has the speed Eunice does. They have the best team in 3A right now, so we need to find a way to defense their speed and hopefully see them again.”