Academy ousts Socorro

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Socorro head coach Damien Ocampo wasn’t too keen on the idea of having to play Academy on consecutive weeks, especially with the rematch coming during the first round of the 2012 playoffs.

After one half of football last Friday at Warrior Stadium, it became apparent why.

Jonathan Miller/El Defensor Chieftain: Seve Naranjo stretches across the goal line for a Warriors touchdown on Friday night during Socorro’s playoff contest with Academy. The Chargers won 34-24.

The Chargers went out and shell-shocked host Socorro for the first two quarters of the game, storming to a 34-10 lead and eventually staving off a Warriors comeback to hold on for the 34-24 victory.

Socorro held Academy to just eight points during their first meeting on Nov. 9, but the Chargers were playing at close-to-full strength for the first time since September.

“We’ve seen two or three different teams, and last week we saw something different than what we had seen before,” Ocampo said. “We just weren’t sure exactly which players they were going to have back. They went back to what they were doing at the beginning of the season, which we had to make some adjustments for and it took us just a little too long.”

Whatever offensive strategy it employed, Academy wasted no time putting it to good use. Quarterback John White scored on a keeper just 1 minute and 20 seconds into the game to give his team the early 7-0 lead. Just five minutes later he found pay dirt again, that time from 36 yards out, to put the Chargers up 14-0.

One play after the ensuing Academy kickoff, Socorro fumbled the ball away at its own 33-yard line and Gabe Remer took advantage by rushing 13 yards into the end zone a few plays later.

In what seemed like the blink of an eye, the Chargers were up by three first-quarter touchdowns and the Warriors faithful were stunned and quiet.

“I think they came out, and they were perfect. We weren’t,” Socorro senior center Sam Boykin said. “I think that fumble in the first half was big. I think that all of us fought hard. But you know, just little mistakes here and there.”

With 6:35 remaining in the second quarter, Academy extended its lead to 28-0 before Socorro finally found its way onto the scoreboard with a 39-yard Zach Binger field goal.

He then executed a flawless onside kick the Warriors recovered, and when Seve Naranjo caught a huge 45-yard pass from Tyler Crespin down to the Chargers 19, the Warriors were showing some signs of life.

Then Adam Paz scored on a nine-yard run with 3:49 left in the half to pull his team within 18 points, and Socorro seemed like it was back in business.

All it needed was to get one defensive stop before the half to keep momentum heading into the locker room. The Chargers, though, had other plans.

Academy used the remaining 180 seconds to power the ball deep into Warriors territory, and with just four tics on the second-quarter clock, Ramiro Carvajal-Marquez raked in a 15-yard touchdown catch. The play deflated the home crowd and, although it was the Chargers’ final score of the evening, it ended up being all they needed.

The early deficit took Socorro out of its game and forced it to run a style of offense it’s not necessarily accustomed to. Crespin threw a season-high 21 passes and he did it against a long, tall and athletic team that played the pass well all season long.

“Offensively we just got put in some bad positions,” Ocampo said. “When we were able to call our stuff, we were fine. This is just not a team you want to throw the ball against. Their line is big. Their linebackers are fast. It’s just hard to block them. They’re solid up front.”

But these Warriors have shown on several occasions this year they’ve got some serious fight in them, and if Academy felt safe with a 24-point halftime lead, it probably shouldn’t have.

Paz returned a Chargers fumble 35 yards for a score to cut the lead to 34-17, and just 45 seconds into the fourth quarter Naranjo rumbled into the end zone from the 13-yard line to pull Socorro within 10. The furious comeback seemed like it couldn’t be stopped, and Academy was on the ropes with eight minutes left in the game and facing a streaking Socorro offense.

But despite their most courageous effort, the night simply didn’t belong to the Warriors.

Academy forced Crespin to cough up the ball on a big blindside hit, when he was sacked on fourth and 12 with two minutes left in the contest. Academy ran out the clock, and ultimately Socorro’s hard-fought season.

Even though the 2012 campaign ended in a disappointing fashion, these Warriors went out fighting, biting and clawing until the very end. They could have easily given up after the middle of the second quarter, but that’s not really their style.

“We started playing with our heart and I think that’s what really made the difference,” Binger said. “When the guys wanted it that bad, we went out and took it. If we could have played the whole game like that, it would have been better. But if we had to, that’s the way we wanted to go down: the Warrior way.”

The second half of Friday’s game basically represents this year’s Warriors team. They were down and facing adversity, but they always came back and played like none of that mattered. It sounds cliché, but there really is no quit in this team.

“The kids battled, and I’m real proud of them for doing that,” said Ocampo, who may have called his final game as head ball coach for Socorro.

“I think what a lot of people don’t realize is we’ve been battling adversity. Honestly, as a coach, I can say I’m going to sleep good tonight. Our kids battled, and that’s all you can ask for.

“At the end of last season, with the exodus of players we had leaving, I was worried. These kids are used to success. They’re winners, and I was thinking ‘How are they going to battle through it?’ And they did. They exceeded my expectations because they battled with a great attitude. And that’s all you can ask for as a coach.”

Socorro finishes the season at 6-5 overall and kept alive a long standing tradition of finding its way into the postseason. Now it will have to say goodbye to a class of seniors that has done all it can to help keep that tradition alive. The 2013 class has been to the playoffs every year they’ve been in high school, and they’re saying goodbye with no regrets.

“There will always be things when you think back,” Binger said. “As long as you gave it your heart and soul, you know deep down if there’s any regret. Me, personally? No. Going out this way and being able to play with my boys — if you have to lose, this is the way to do it. We left our heart on the field.”

When asked to sum up his high school football experience, Binger may have unintentionally spoken for more players than just himself.

“Just a Warrior ’till the end.”