Season opens with close loss

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Friday night lights on the field of Capitol High School illuminated the season opener for the Jaguars and the Socorro Warriors. Both teams were riddled with a litany of costly penalties, which some attributed to opening night jitters.

Polo C’ de Baca/For El Defensor Chieftain: Socorro Warrior Michael Armijo II crosses the goal line untouched for one of his two touchdowns in Friday’s game with Capitol High of Santa Fe. Socorro lost the season opener 35-28 after a gallant comeback attempt. The Jaguars won 35-28 in the last 15 seconds of the game.

Capitol High’s team hadn’t won a season opener since 2009 and had won only three games in the last three years. New Jaguar football coach Bill Moon was certainly looking to be changing those stats.

Moon seemed to have conveyed the urgency to his team that demonstrated their resolve by scoring two touchdowns in the first quarter. The Warriors showed their own resolve when Michael Armijo II returned the ball 85 yards across the goal line. A holding penalty negated the six points and the refs put the ball back on the Warriors 32. Socorro trailed 14-0 at the end of the first quarter.

Midway through the second quarter an interception gave the Jaguars an undue possession, another touchdown, a two-point conversion and a 20-0 lead. On a second and one from their own 48 a pass by Socorro quarterback Tyler Crespin connected to Armijo for the Warriors’ first score. The conversion failed but the Socorro boys had begun to whittle away at the Jaguars’ 20-6 lead.

A good kickoff return by Santa Fe gave the Jaguars good field possession at their 36-yard line. A fourth down gamble paid off with a Jaguars touchdown and a two-point conversion that bumped the lead up to 28-6. Socorro began anew on their 36. Four quick first downs took the ball down to within inches of the goal line. Zeb Esquibel ran it in for the score. The conversion failed. But the Warriors had shown their determination, still whittling and now trailing 28-12 at halftime.

The third quarter kickoff to Santa Fe eventually resulted in a third down fumble that was recovered by Socorro’s Alfredo Alvarado.

A series of first downs mostly consisting of Crespin to Armijo handoffs resulted in a first and goal. Armijo finished and the two-point conversion had cut the Santa Fe lead to 28-20 midway into the third quarter.

Santa Fe gambled on a fourth 23 on their own 20 and paid the penalty when a bad snap gave Socorro possession and good field position. But then Socorro’s fourth down gamble gave the ball back to Santa Fe. Following that, a bad punt by Santa Fe gave the Warriors good field possession once again. Crespin crossed the goal line but another holding penalty put the ball back on the Jaguars 24 and the third quarter ended 28-20.

Early in the fourth quarter Crespin’s pass to Joe Silva from four yards out cut Santa Fe’s lead to 28-26. Zeb Esquibel ran the conversion in to tie the score at 28 with 10:51 showing on the clock. The teams traded the ball back and forth for the rest of the quarter. Unfortunate penalties found the Warriors with their backs to the wall on their own seven with 15 seconds remaining in the game. Santa Fe scored, resuming the lead 35-28.

Socorro received the kick off, had time for one play, an incomplete pass, and was defeated in the 35-28 nail biter.

“I feel that we didn’t come out strong in the first half,” Crespin said. “We could have done a lot better. But after the half we acted as if it (the score) was 0-0. We did really well in the second half. It brought us back.

“I think we should have won the game. A few plays at the 10-yard line we didn’t finish. The team was really fired up at the second half. Everybody came together in the second half. Everybody wanted to play as a team.”

Crespin said that the team had been inspired at the half when coach Cody Lee drove home the point that “‘no matter what the score is always play the game like if the score is 0-0, play the game like it was brand new and thing awill happen.”

“It actually did happen for us, it was real good. The coach told us that he was very proud of the way we played in the second half,” Crespin said. “I think our defense came out real strong in the second half. We were getting some good stops. Our offensive line stepped it up big time in the second half. It’s as if they flipped a switch in the second half.”

The Warriors play Ruidoso here in Socorro Friday at 7 p.m.