Magdalena football

Quarterback Josh Baca struggle to find room against the Mountainair defense.

It was bad news from the start for the Magdalena Steers with a fumble off of a handoff on its first play of the game. The Mountainair Mustangs made the road trip and took care of business by beating Magdalena 54-34.

Steers Head Coach Rodney Leal was absent due to being placed on administrative leave and formally put in a letter of resignation to Athletic Director Jory Mirabal this week, citing personal reasons for doing so. Defensive coordinator Kelby Stephens was tasked with leading the troops during the Thursday night matchup.

“We lost our heads out there tonight,” Stephens said. “We lost focus on what football is all about which is playing hard. We got caught up in emotions from some other things going on off the field. We were there defensively as far as effort is concerned but struggled rapping up the other players. Mountainair didn’t run anything we weren’t expecting, the problem was in our execution as a team.”

Early in the game the Steers looked to be poised for a win after a fourth down defensive stop on the goal line followed up by a huge quarterback keeper by Josh Baca to take it all the way to the opponents five yard line. Magdalena punched it in off a dime pass to freshman Danny Pino to go up 6-0, which was the score after one.

Then the Mustangs got going, starting with a quarterback keeper of its own by junior Brandon Burkeen. Magdalena’s Baca responded with another touchdown to maintain the lead early at 14-6. The momentum shift was when Burkeen had a huge run for a touchdown on fourth and one that appeared to take the air out of the stadium for the home fans. The Magdalena defense kept things close with a big defensive stop just before half to make it 28-20.

Mountainair had multiple penalties, including an unsportsmanlike conduct for taunting, out of the gate. The Steers could not capitalize as they struggled to move the chains with plays that went for minimal gains. Tied at 28-28 after the third quarter, Mustangs Junior Cade Brazil took over the game both on the ground and through the air. Coach Stephens continued to try and rally his team but it was too little too late.

“We’ve got to score guys,” he yelled from the sidelines. “But be smart about it. Use your head out there and focus on the game, not everything else.”

Other than Leal’s absence another distraction for Magdalena happened late in the second half when players got into a physical altercation on the visiting sidelines with multiple parents getting involved with Steers and Mustangs players during the skermish. Athletic Director Jory Mirabal had four parents removed from the stadium.

“That brawl that took place took out our best lineman,” Josh Baca said. “And in the second half we didn’t want it enough because we thought that we had it in the first half. All we can do now is work hard and don’t let up at all.”

With the loss the Steers currently hold a .500 record at 3-3 and second place in District 2 standings behind Mountainair. They are middle of the pack in the Class 8 Man standings with an afternoon road game against the Reserve Mountaineers coming up today at 3 p.m. Magdalena will be on the road until its final home game of the season when they host the Dulce Hawks on October 18.