Warriors zap the Chargers, earn a post season berth
When the Warriors football team traveled to Albuquerque to take on the Academy Chargers on Friday afternoon, they weren't exactly sure what to expect.
The Chargers posted three wins in 2012, but their only impressive win came against Class 2A Laguna Acoma, a team Socorro has also beaten. But Warriors head coach Damien Ocampo pointed out Academy hasn't really been healthy all season long, so he couldn't be 100 percent sure what his team was walking into.
What it did walk out with, however, was a regular season-ending 17-8 road victory.
Socorro (6-4) used a solid second half to stymie the Chargers (3-6) offense and racked up 166 rushing yards in an old-fashioned, grind-it-out style of win.
Academy scored in the first quarter and held an early 8-7 advantage even after an Adam Paz touchdown run, but the Warriors defense held the home team scoreless for the final three quarters.
"We made some slight adjustments," Ocampo said. "I know coach (Scotty) Crespin had already made some late in the second quarter to be ready for their stuff on offense, because they were lining up in some different formations than we had seen."
Zach Binger kicked a go-ahead field goal in the third quarter to give Socorro a 10-8 lead, and Tyler Crespin added a fourth-quarter touchdown run to all but seal the win for the Warriors.
"We kind of calmed down, we tackled a whole lot better and we made less mistakes in the second half," Ocampo said.
Paz ran for 86 yards and a touchdown on 20 carries in addition to 20 receiving yards, while Damian Baca chipped in 87 yards on 11 rushes. Mykel Aragon and Zach Robinson both recorded an unassisted sack.
While the win was one Socorro definitely needed to cement itself a playoff position, Warriors and perhaps Chargers fans alike might find themselves a bit perplexed the New Mexico Activities Association saw fit to set the two teams up for a first-round rematch on Friday night.
Socorro was awarded the seven seed, Academy the 11th.
"I'm not really excited abut it," Ocampo said. "It is what it is."
And the reason he may not be too keen on playing the Chargers — even a week after his team proved it can beat them — is that again, no one can really know what personnel they'll bring with them, except for the Chargers of course.
"Academy is going to be a different team. They haven't been healthy all year," Ocampo said. "Nobody has seen a full strength Academy team since I think week two. It's going to be a rough game. We're not going to be playing the same team we played on Friday."
What the whole scenario does is create a situation reminiscent of the 2011 NCAA National Championship game when Alabama defeated LSU in the final after the Tigers had already beaten the Crimson Tide during the regular season.
So if Socorro wins on Friday night at Eddie Castaneda Field, we know what we already knew, that the Warriors can beat Academy. If the Chargers win, that technically puts the two teams back on an even playing field.
Or does it?
The problem is it won't, because whoever loses is obviously going home. And while there is by no means a national title at stake, what is at stake comes in the form of a team in Socorro that has scraped and clawed and fought its way to a winning record, and there's a real possibility it could see its season come to an end against a squad in Academy that is undoubtedly talented, but has a 3-6 record nonetheless.
Regardless of semantics, Ocampo and his squad will still play the hand they've been dealt and prepare for a big, fast, and athletic football team.
"Talk about big. They are huge," he said. "We've got to improve. It's going to be a battle. That game against Academy could have gone either way. We've got a lot of work to do."
Kick-off for Friday's game is set for 7 p.m. at Warrior Stadium.