Not the way they drew it upThere were two ways to view Friday’s night’s Magdalena football game, both of which are equally true.
One, second-ranked Mesilla Valley is as good as advertised.
Two, the eighth-ranked Steers aren’t 36 points worse than the Blazers.
In arguably the most important district contest of the year for the Steers (4-4, 1-1 district), they cannibalized themselves, and the Blazers (6-3, 2-0 district) did what good teams do — take advantage. When they needed it most, the Steers’ offense faded. Forced to spend too much time on the field, the defense eventually faltered, and the Steers fell on Mesilla Valley’s sword 42-6 in Magdalena’s home finale.
“This sounds kinda bad in a 42-6 game, but we let that one get away from us, I think,” Steers’ head coach Jory Mirabal said. “I don’t feel like that score is indicative of the game. It sneaks up on you. Suddenly, you look up and it’s, ‘Whoa, here we are.’ Obviously, they’re trying to get what they can so the scoreboard looks like the way they want it to.”
Mesilla Valley’s raging inferno of an offense resembled a flickering pilot light for much of the first half. Both teams entered the locker room at the half separated by just eight points. Eventually, the Blazers cobbled together enough plays on both sides of the ball to pull ahead.
Blazers’ quarterback Devon Tourtillott threw for 230 yards and two touchdowns. Of those balls, Trey Correa hauled in seven for 129 yards and a TD.
Opposite them, the Steers squelched a handful of drives in creative ways — be it turnovers, penalties or just plain poor execution,
Such was the case, when with more than 11 minutes left in the second quarter, and the ball on Mesilla Valley’s 9-yard line, quarterback Dylan Julian was sacked on fourth and goal, and the Steers came away with no points. A little later, Mesilla gift-wrapped an opportunity and put it under Magdalena’s Christmas-in-October tree.
Mesilla’s Jacob Kruse mishandled a wobbly punt that he should have never fielded. The Steers recovered, marched down inside the 10-yard line, but then a option play went horribly awry.
Julian ran to his right, where he was met by outside lineback Hunter Layton. Instead of tucking the ball and eating a loss, Julian attempted to pitch it. Layton swiped the ball, picked it off the ground in stride and returned it 78 yards for a TD that boosted Mesilla’s lead to 14-0.
Perhaps the turning point in the game came only seconds after the halftime break.
The Steers attempted a surprise onside kick, but it backfired. Mesilla recovered at its 46-yard line and drove the remaining 54 yards. Tim Vida broke off a 15-yard TD run, one of his two on the night, that broke Magdalena’s spirits.
The Steers never recovered, doomed to punt on almost every possession thereafter.
“I think it’s a psychological thing when the other team the ball that much,” Mirabal said.
About the only highlight for the Steers’ was wide receiver John Woods’ play. He made six catches for 100 yards.
The Steers only score came with 21 seconds left in the half. On that play, Julian rolled out to his left, targeting Woods. The ball caromed off his hands but fell into Dre Montoya’s lap.
With the loss, Woods said that puts even more of a premium on the Steers’ matchup with third-ranked Capitan next week. That game will undoubtedly be laced with postseason implications.
“I just wish we would have had more of an approach that just because time’s getting low and the score is separating doesn’t mean we can’t bring it back together,” Woods said. “This week I hope everyone on our team realizes this week determines whether we go to the state (playoffs). I always like to go with the approach that we’ve worked hard to get this far why let it go now. What’s the point of working our butts off all season long and then let it go at the very end?”
Thankfully, Mirabal said, he still believes that the Steers have a legitimate chance to stake themselves into the playoffs should they beat Capitan.
And he said what Magdalena learned Friday could be useful next week.
“Yeah, we got beat pretty good,” Mirabal said. “But I feel like we’re a better team than we were last week.”