Warriors back on the winning side
The weather on Friday night at Warrior Stadium may have been pleasantly cool when Socorro hit the gridiron against Raton, but the Warriors' offense was anything but cold as it battled to a 35-13 victory against the Tigers to improve to 2-1 on the season.
After sputtering out a bit in a muddy week two loss at Ruidoso, Socorro's offense came out firing on all cylinders as it rumbled to a 21-0 first quarter lead, then added two touchdowns late to seal the win.
The early scores were a huge plus for a team that was looking to regain a little bit of footing against a talented team in Raton that has seen some quality teams in 2012.
"I think it was huge for us. I think we needed a little confidence boost," Socorro head coach Damien Ocampo said.
"Especially with a team like this (Raton). You don't ever want to play catch up with a team like this. I would say that's the best non-win team in the state right now. They've got talent."
The loss dropped the Tigers to 0-3 on the season.
The Warriors were paced by Zeb Esquivel, Adam Paz and Damian Baca, as the Socorro offense racked up 442 total yards on the ground.
Junior running back Esquivel proved again that he's a bruising, battering work horse as he ran for 163 yards and four touchdowns, three on the ground. Paz added 124 yards rushing, and Baca chipped in 121 yards on the ground and a touchdown of his own.
"The blocking was incredible," Baca said. "I think tonight, we played the best offensive game we could have."
And that level of blocking is a huge positive for Ocampo and his squad, as the head ball coach noticed some execution issues up front during a week one win over West Las Vegas. The Warriors hog mollies may have also been a tad humbled after the Socorro offense managed just 10 points against Ruidoso on Sept. 7.
Friday evening was a different story however, as Ocampo said he was very impressed with his offensive line.
"I thought those guys focused. I thought all offensive lineman and the rotators definitely did a great job," he said. "I think they took it to heart last game. They really, really worked on getting better and it showed tonight."
While the Warriors obviously run the ball by committee, they blocked by committee as well against Raton. Gary Lam stepped in when Seve Naranjo tweaked his knee, and Ethan Smith, Isaac Beltran, Felipe Romero, Sam Boykin, Mykel Aragon and Jose and Adam Vasquez all saw time on the o-line Friday.
"I think the kids getting off the ball, and really focusing on their techniques, it really showed tonight," Ocampo said. "Tonight it was great."
And that all showed up on the scoreboard very early for Socorro.
On the first play from scrimmage, Paz took a reverse right and ran 30 yards to the Raton 28. Esquivel knocked off 24 yards on the next play, and two plays later he took it in from the four-yard line to give Socorro a six-point advantage just 82 seconds into the game.
Esquivel scored his second touchdown from seven yards out on the coat tails of a 39-yard scamper by Baca. When he ran in his third score with just more than a minute left in the first quarter, Esquivel helped his team to a 21-0 lead.
The Tigers scored with 3:02 left in the half when quarterback Toby Henson hit Jordan Mendez out of the backfield for a 41-yard pass then punched it in 40 seconds later on an identical play, but the score could have been much different. Three times in the first half Raton had the ball inside the Socorro 20-yard line, and three times the Warriors fended them off.
On one occasion, Raton's Seth Parker was stopped inside of the Socorro one-yard line, and later on in the half Beltran picked off a Henson pass on second and goal for the Tigers.
"I think we're competitors on defense." Ocampo said. "I think our coaches are very competitive and that shows to the kids."
Even though quarterback Zach Binger threw an interception in the Raton end zone just before halftime, Socorro felt good going into the locker room. Ocampo said there was no panic. His team made some adjustments on defense, one adjustment on offense, came out in the second half and played ball.
The third quarter was both scoreless and rife with questionable penalties called on both teams, but the defense held and the Warriors kept their composure.
Binger stripped the ball out of a Raton ball carriers hands with five minutes left in the game, completely swinging momentum in Socorro's favor. That helped set up Esquivel's fourth score, a 28-yard quick pass from quarterback Tyler Crespin in which Esquivel broke at least five tackles en route to the end zone. Baca capped Socorro's night off with a 44-yard run with 3:00 left on the clock.
Ocampo said he is generally proud of his team and their effort.
"A lot of times young kids, and when you have a young team with brand new starters, it's hard for them to rebound off of big plays, off of penalties. And they did," he said.
Even though Baca and Ocampo both agree there was far too much arm-tackling during Friday's contest, overall it was a good showing on both sides of the ball.
"We were playing some pretty good defense, but against a team like that you can't make a mistake," Ocampo said. "They run their screen game so good, I thought we did a fairly good job. They did exactly what we thought they were going to do, and tonight the kids picked it up."
Socorro will travel to Laguna to take on Laguna-Acoma next Friday night, and even though the Hawks are 1-2 this season, the Warriors will try not to look past them and on to an Oct. 6 showdown with Hope in Albuquerque.
"We spend so much time drilling in their heads every week that we play a faceless opponent," Ocampo said.
"What matters is our effort, playing the Warrior way. I hope they're not looking past Laguna. It's going to be a good measuring stick to where we are in regard to the Hope's and the Albuquerque Academy's."
Kickoff Friday in Laguna is at 7 p.m., and the Warriors have a bye week on Sept. 28.