Homecoming: Warriors dominate Tigers

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Maybe Socorro’s dismantling of Taos on Oct. 12 wasn’t intended to be a statement intentionally directed toward anyone, but more so a personal affirmation.

Jonathan Miller/El Defensor Chieftain: Socorro running back Zeb Esquivel leaps over Taos defender Johnathan Cordova during Friday night’s Homecoming game. Esquivel caught a touchdown and ran for another as the Warriors won, 34-7.

The Warriors were coming off a tough loss at Hope, a team they probably should have beat. The Tigers were heading into Friday’s contest with a 4-1 record and had previously topped the Huskies on Sept. 7.

It should have been a good game between two teams both looking to put a gold star on their schedule and gain some momentum heading into play in their respective districts.

A good game it was not, at least for the visiting team.

Socorro ran ramshackle over an out-sized Taos (4-2) squad and spared the Homecoming crowd any semblance of drama with a 34-7 shellacking of the Tigers. The Warriors racked up 518 yards of total offense, most of that on the ground. The victory improved the Warriors to 4-2, and a convincing win against a good football team was exactly what Socorro needed to rebuild its confidence. “That’s the best we’ve played, definitely,” Socorro head coach Damien Ocampo said. “I think there was more of a focus. I think that Hope game really woke us up. You hate to lose a ball game to wake you up. But, I was real impressed. That’s the best game we’ve played all year in my opinion.”

And Ocampo pointed out that it was a complete game for his squad, especially defensively. Taos has two players in Isaac Gonzales and Lorenzo Rael that are near impossible to catch in the open field, and for all but one play during Friday’s contest the Warriors kept them both in check.

“We studied game film hard,” Ocampo said. “Coach (Scotty) Crespin and the defensive staff put together a great game plan.”

Taos came out with a game plan of its own though, and for the first few minutes of the contest it seemed to be effective.

On its first possession, Taos quarterback Kevin McCarty hit Rael for a 22-yard gain to the 42, and after a Socorro personal foul the Tigers found their way to the Warriors’ 20-yard line. A Zach Robinson sack left Taos in fourth and long however, and a pass intended for Devin Ortega fell harmlessly to the turf.

On the ensuing drive, Warriors running back Zeb Esquivel coughed up a rare fumble and the Tigers were again immediately threatening. Then Gonzales sprinted down to the Socorro 20 on a toss left, but Robinson broke up another fourth down play to hand the ball right back to the Warriors.

That’s right about when the Socorro offense found its rhythm.

Adam Paz broke out for a 28-yard gain to midfield, then Damian Baca and Esquivel quickly helped Socorro work the ball down to the Taos 5-yard line. After a holding penalty negated a Warriors touchdown, quarterback Tyler Crespin found Esquivel for a 9-yard touchdown pass. Socorro led 7-0 with 3 minutes and 38 seconds left in the first quarter.

After forcing a Taos punt and driving inside the Tigers’ 5-yard line, Socorro fumbled the ball away again, but two drives later Esquivel would earn his way into the end zone again, this time on a hard-fought 16-yard run.

Baca added another Warriors score with three minutes left in the half, and Socorro strutted into the locker room with a 20-0 lead. The margin may have only been 20, but the home team had a calm swagger about it that hadn’t been very apparent so far this season.

“Coach’s theme for the week was if you want it, take it,” Socorro center Sam Boykin said. “And I think after losing to Hope the way we did I think everyone wanted it, and we took it.”

The opening minutes of the second half would prove undoubtedly how much the Warriors wanted it as they all but put the game away with an emphatic and dominating drive.

The Warriors took just two minutes to score, and when Paz shook his way past the goal line to run the score to 28-0, it was looking like Ocampo’s motivational tactic would pay off.

Seve Naranjo scored Socorro’s last points with eight minutes remaining in the game, and not even a 42-yard touchdown scamper by Gonzales two minutes later that put Taos on the scoreboard could dampen any spirits at Eddie Castaneda Field.

Esquivel finished the game with 203 yards of offense while Baca added 105 of his own.

Getting a win against a ranked team is always good, but blowing out a ranked team at home during Homecoming is great.

“It’s so much better,” Ocampo said. “The kids can enjoy everything a little bit more. And for us, as far as the coaches go, we can enjoy at least a little bit more tonight. It’ll be more of a celebration so I think it’ll be good all the way around.”

But in the world of football, not many celebrations last longer than a week or so, and the Warriors will have their hands full when Centennial comes to town on Oct. 19. The program may be in its first year, but it’s a 4A school that has seen a couple of excellent teams this season in Atrisco Heritage and Fabens, Texas.

“Centennial next week, they’re a 4A school, so we’ve got to be a little bit lower on our blocks,” Ocampo said. “We’ve got to be a little more crisp. We’ve got to cover better.”

After Friday’s win, a victory against the Hawks would look great on Socorro’s post-season resume, because it’s never too early to be thinking playoffs.

“If we can take care of business and get a couple more wins out of our next four games, split them, we’ve got a great chance to maybe squeeze in,” Ocampo said.

He added the playoff committee takes into account games a team has played against district champions or district runner-up.

“We’re hoping Raton or Taos pulls off a district champ or a runner-up. That would help us immensely,” Ocampo said.

First things first though, and that’s preparing for the 2-2 Hawks. That process, while never easy, might be made even more difficult now that Socorro is ranked fifth in the state by www.NmPreps.com. The phrase “target on their back” might come to mind, but if the Warriors play with the confidence they did last Friday, they have a great shot of competing with any of the teams left on their schedule.

“Centennial is a good team. They have a lot of talent,” Boykin said. “But I feel like if we play like we did tonight, we should have no problem with the rest of the season.”

Kick off at Warrior Stadium is scheduled for 7 p.m. on Friday night.