CAPITAN – Thus far in the 2017 football season, only two teams have truly challenged Capitan.
One was Eunice – a 42-0 rout in October.
The other played Nov. 25, as the Tigers survived a 36-32 game against Santa Rosa in the Class 3A State semifinals.
The win sets up a rematch with Eunice in the State title game. The Cardinals bested Estancia 37-6 in the other semifinal.
“This game is a testament to the heart that this team has,” said Capitan coach James Weems. “I just wish they could do this the entire game. We like the excitement, but not this much.”
While the game may have ended as a high-scoring affair, it didn’t start out that way, and it was defense that proved the difference in the end.
Neither team could put points on the board in the first quarter, with the Tigers (11-1) finally getting in the endzone on an 85-yard run by Stephen Ellison with 8:49 left in the second quarter.
Ellison ended up being Superman for Capitan, putting together an impressive 279-yard performance while scoring three touchdowns.
Quarterback Price Bowen also had a good day, running for 47 yards, throwing for 125 and scoring two touchdowns of his own.
“Coach is always saying we need an equal run and pass game,” Bowen said. “We started off a little iffy on the passing, but when we went through our two-minute drill just before the half, we got a lot better. Everything flourished in the second half.”
Once both teams started scoring, the floodgates were open. Bowen and Ellison were shredding the Lion defense, while Stephen Sanchez and Darren Chavez were running the Santa Rosa single-wing offense with efficiency.
The Lion pair combined for 307 yards rushing and four touchdowns, while Chavez threw for an additional score on a 47-yard pass to Joaquin Romo.
“We don’t ever face a team that runs a single-wing like this, and it’s hard to defend,” Weems said. “It’s hard to pick up and it’s hard to defend. We knew who their go-to guys were, and it’s hard to defend.”
Santa Rosa (8-4) could have had a lot more points, but one score by Sanchez was called back on a holding penalty. There was also an extra point kick by Naheim Chico that was missed thanks to an unsportsmanlike call against Romo after his touchdown that put the ball at the 18 yard line.
Chico also had a field goal blocked in the first quarter.
Actually, for all the scoring, it was a defensive stand by the Tigers that made the difference.
After Price Bowen punched the ball in from the one with a little more than two minutes left, it was up to the Capitan defensive line to keep Santa Rosa from scoring one last time.
The Tiger D came through in a big way, holding the Lions to just four plays from scrimmage. After Chavez brought the ball to the 44-yard line, officials called for a measurement.
It was about a yard short, and Capitan had the ball.
Even with Santa Rosa’s time outs, they could only stop the clock so many times, and the Tigers held on for the victory.
“I wish we’d had that same offense all game, where everybody was so energetic,” Bowen said. “In times of stress or when we’re down, something opens up and we get that extra power to finish out. We knew we could stop them.”
“Obviously, we needed a stop if we wanted to back to (the championship game),” said Capitan defensive end Clay Bob Stearns. “Coach put us in the six front, and I knew I was on their weaker side. I put moves on them and kept looking for the ball and hitting him. It was as simple as that.”
Now Capitan faces Eunice – the only team to beat them this season – in a rematch of last year’s Class 3A State championship.
“We’ve improved and we’ll hope to do what we did against Dexter: Give them a little more running room and try to take the pass away,” Weems said. “We need to slow them own a bit and get our offense rolling. That’s the key.”