The final regular season game of 2019 literally started and ended with a bang. The Warriors came out of the locker room with the song “Here Comes the Boom” blasting and ended with a fireworks show to celebrate the 35-0 shutout win against Cobre.
“It was huge for our defense to put a zero on the scoreboard,” Head Coach Damien Ocampo said. “The quarterback they have is tough from the film we looked at. To hold a good quality scoring team to zero points is a big deal. We’re really proud of our kids stepping up tonight.
With both teams sitting at 2-0 in District 3, a regular season championship was on the line between the rivals. Fate was on Socorro’s side from the opening kickoff when they recovered a Cobre fumble by junior Pascual Jimenez. The ensuing Warriors drive was plagued with penalties and a near turnover off a trick play. After making a stand defensively, the first big play of the game came off of a huge run by senior Andrew Garcia, the first of multiple big plays by Garcia on the night.
“The key was preparing throughout the week,” he said. “I watched at least an hour of film every night. I took what the defense gave me and I have to thank our linemen for everything they did out there tonight. Winning is great, but it should be expected from us now because we put in the work.”
An illegal shift penalty and failed 4th down attempt kept things 0-0 after one. A monster sack by senior Ian Jordison resulted in Socorro getting the ball back with Garcia finally punching it in on the ground. Cobre responded with a huge kick return inside the Warriors red zone, but back to back sacks pushed them out of scoring range. Garcia scored once again to make it 14-0.
After a big run by junior Michael Mcdaniel a Cobre player, junior Isaiah Marquez, was ejected for unsportsmanlike contact as frustration began to set in for the Indians. Sophomore Jordan Armijo scored for the Warriors again. A failed 25 yard field goal attempt by Cobre followed up by a muffed attempt by the home team left things at 21-0 heading into the locker room at half.
The second half was more of the same. Garcia connected once again with defensive play by junior linebacker Erik Armijo wreaking havoc behind the opponents line of scrimmage. A big pick by sophomore Adadrian Jackson lead to the final score of the game.
One of the major factors of the recent turnaround for back to back district titles has been several additions to the coaching staff made two seasons ago, including Offensive Coordinator Luis Calzada.
“I’m just a cog in the machine,” he said. “It’s these seniors’ team, but we have a great group of coaches. The guys have really bought into our message of always happy but never satisfied. Celebrate tonight, but be ready on Monday.”
While his second year as a coach with the Warriors, this was Alex Johnson’s first district title as the schools athletic director. He was celebrating on the field with friends and family.
“Last year it felt like the celebration was more chaotic because we hadn’t experienced that,” he said. “This year it is more business like because our team expects to be here. In no way are we satisfied. I still haven’t gotten the bad taste out of my mouth after losing to West Las Vegas last year and neither have any of the coaches or players."
A consistent boost and key to Socorro’s success in 2019 has bee junior Michael McDaniel, who had a quiet game by his standards but guaranteed a state championship trophy after the game.
“I feel great,” he said. “This is my first time being on a team that won a championship. I love all of my brothers out here. They’re my family and we’re gonna take it. We’re going all the way.”
After the game quarterback Payson Hicks was celebrating, particularly with girlfriend Elysia Gutierrez who had a “#5 Tackled My Heart” sign displayed in the student section. Hicks is focused on preventing another first round exit heading into the playoffs.
“While this is a good feeling I feel like we’re not done yet,” he said. “Defensively we really put in the work studying and were able to shut Cobre down. That gave us confidence on offense to go make plays. Last year we were getting a little tired around this time but this season it feels like we can keep on rolling. There’s a chip on our shoulder after how last year ended.”
With just one loss on the season to Tularosa back on August 30 the Warriors have been awarded the top seed in the 2019 NMAA State Championships and a first round bye. They will host the winner of the November 8 showdown between eighth seeded Raton and ninth seeded St. Michael’s on November 15.