Gridiron Steers fall to Lobos in first round of playoffs

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Magdalena head football coach Billy Page knew his team was going to have to focus heavily on the defensive side of the ball in the days before it traveled to Tierra Amarilla to take on Escalante in the first round of the Class 1A playoffs.

The Lobos put up 54 points in a season-opening win over the Steers on Aug. 31, and Mag knew stopping a team that has racked up more than 4,700 yards of total offense in 2012 was going to be a challenge.

For all but a few minutes on Nov. 9, the Steers did just that, but the second-ranked Lobos were just too much for the visiting Steers and ended up with a 38-0 victory.

The final score doesn't necessarily indicate how Magdalena played, and Page said with a few minutes left in the first half of the game, his team was only trailing by a few points.

"We did play pretty well until six minutes left in the first half," he said. "The score was 6-0. We did what we had to do. We played really well. I was pleased."

But high-powered offenses, when paired with an opportunistic and stingy defense, can score in spurts. The Steers lost an onside kick, which led to an Escalante score, and two plays into its next possession Magdalena fumbled the ball away to the Lobos, who took full advantage. In the span of about 100 seconds, the home team opened up a 22-0 lead.

"The wheels, I wouldn't say they fell off, but they kind of got wobbly," Page said.

In the second half, the Steers managed to hold Escalante to just two scores, but they simply couldn't get their running game going while playing in the cold, constant rain and on a wet field.

"I thought we did a decent job in the second half," Page said. "It was raining, it was cold and they had to play in the same weather, but our option game wasn't what we wanted it to be."

Magdalena doesn't have the type of running game that allows it to power the ball up the middle with great consistency, but more of a quick option offense requiring it to spread the field and make decisive upfield cuts. When footing is poor, that can be a futile task.

"We don't run that power game," Page said. "We don't have that type of lineman."

Page said his team did do some good things, managed to move the bell fairly well and wound up with about 250 total yards on offense. It just couldn't find the end zone.

Despite the early exit from this year's playoffs, the idea the Steers got to the post-season is a feat in itself for a program only in its fourth year of playing 11-man football.

"My expectation as a coach, you want the kids to believe they can," Page said. "So yeah, it was a goal we had set for ourselves, to make the playoffs. Have a winning season, make the playoffs, and we met both of those goals."

Page also pointed out that you can't just make the jump to 11-man football, wave a magic wand and expect instant success in the form of state titles. It's a process requiring patience and measuring progress in small steps, and so far these Steers have done precisely that. They've made progress, and now that dedication is showing up in a way not many likely expected.

"I'm just really, really proud of the effort these kids put in. I don't think a lot of people really believed in them at first," Page said. "They've overcome adversity. They have to believe in each other. That's the brotherhood of football."

Magdalena finished the season at 5-5 overall, and even though it will lose some key players such as Dylan Julian, Jacob Lawless and Isaac Pino to graduation, it will return some young talent in 2012. Barak Stephens, Dre Montoya and Darnell Guerro, not to mention six or seven linemen, make the future look solid for Magdalena.

"I'm really pleased with the way the program is going and the way the kids are working," Page said. "I was pretty happy with our season and with the kids not quitting. I couldn't ask to be in a better place at this point in my coaching career."