Warriors rumble to season-opening win

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Jonathan Miller/El Defensor Chieftain. Zeb Esquivel brushes of a Dons defender during Socorro's game against West Las Vegas in Friday. Esquivel rushed for three touchdowns and more than 200 yards.

Even if things didn’t go as perfectly as Socorro head coach Damien Ocampo had scripted on Friday night, it’s never a bad thing to walk away from a season-opening game with a 45-20 win.

Socorro dominated the first half at Warriors Stadium as it rumbled to a 28-0 halftime lead against the West Las Vegas Dons, and it never looked back.

“I like the kids having success because they work really hard,” Ocampo said. “They’re a good, hard-working bunch.”

The gridiron Warriors hit the ground running against the Dons, as it took them only four plays on their opening drive to open up a 7-0 lead.

After senior running back Damian Baca blew open a 40-yard run on a second and five, senior running back Adam Paz and senior quarterback Zach Binger connected on a 25-yard touchdown pass.

The remainder of the opening quarter was scoreless after that, but junior running back Zeb Esquivel reeled off a 25-yard run to open the second quarter. After Binger hit junior tight end Ethan Smith with a 15-yard pass on the right sideline, Esquivel finished the drive off with a two-yard plunge to extend the Warriors’ lead to 14-0. And Esquivel was just getting warmed up.

On the ensuing West Las Vegas possession, the Dons had advanced the ball to the Socorro 41 yard line and were looking at a fourth-and-one.

The Socorro defense stuffed the play, and took advantage of the good field position. Esquivel reeled off another huge gain, this time for 37 yards, to the West Las Vegas 22. A few plays later, Baca ran it in from 22 yards out to make the score 21-0.

Then just before the half, Esquivel tacked on another touchdown with a 42-yard scamper into the end zone.

He racked up 152 yards and two TD’s in the first half, and finished the game with three total touchdowns and more than 200 yards on the ground.

“My line did a hell of a job tonight and without them I couldn’t have done any of it,” Esquivel said. “Every game I just try my hardest. It doesn’t matter if I get 200 yards every game, I always put out 110 percent, and tonight I just had a good night.”

If there was any doubt as to the outcome in the second half, all fears were laid to rest when senior cornerback Adam Paz picked off Dons quarterback Jose Montano in Socorro territory and returned it 25 yards.

Later that same drive, Binger hit Baca for another touchdown pass from 23 yards out, and Esquivel belted off a 52-yard run with 2:30 left in the third quarter to all but put the kibosh on any hopes of a miraculous Dons comeback.

West Las Vegas did score their first touchdown after that on a 60-yard Nicholas Maestas run to make it 42-7, but the Dons did most of their scoring against Socorro’s freshman and sophomores when it still had its first team in.

“I’m just happy that there was a lot of effort tonight. I’m happy the young kids got in,” Ocampo said. “All of their scores were against our young guys.”

As with any season opening contest however, it was by no means a perfect outing for the Warriors. The Dons rushing attack consistently stretched out the Socorro defense and there were some execution errors on offense, both signs of a team that may have gone in with some pre-game jitters.

“I think everything was expected,” Ocampo said. “I think they were shaky. I think they were nervous. I think we did some bad things because their heads were elsewhere, but for the most part we calmed down.”

Socorro made a couple of mental mistakes on special teams that need to be addressed, and Ocampo said he’ll also be looking for a defensive front seven this week that can bring it against a Ruidoso squad that many expect to do good things this year.

Almost ironically, RHS beat 2A Lordsburg by a score of 45-20 on Friday.

“Ruidoso, they’re the real deal,” Ocampo said. “Those guys have been starting since they were sophomores. They’ve got some excellent players and if we cant improve some of the stuff we did tonight, it’s going to be a long night in Ruidoso next week.”

Kick-off in Ruidoso will be at 7 p.m. this Friday, Sept. 7.