By John Severance
SOCORRO – Socorro football coach Damien Ocampo said he and his Warriors learned a valuable lesson last year.
“Last year, we were good,” Ocampo said after practice Nov. 23 in preparation for the Nov. 28 Class AAA semifinal clash with Raton at home. “We were a good solid team and we ran into St. Michael’s.
“You know what the difference in the game was? St. Michael’s had a whole new offense that we were not prepared for. It taught us a lesson. Be prepared for everything.”
And that’s the mindset that Ocampo and the third-seeded Warriors (8-3), who are coming off a 7-3 victory against Las Vegas-Robertson, have for Raton on Saturday.
The second-seeded Tigers (10-1) run a spread offense, operated by quarterback Dustin Walton, who is being recruited by Division I schools.
Raton also features a pair of speedy running backs in Malachi Morphew and Matthew Mendez.
Morphew scored three times in the 35-28 victory against St. Michael’s on Nov. 21, including a 79-yard touchdown pass from Dustin Walton on a flea-flicker. Mendez, meanwhile, ran for 108 yards.
“Malachi Morphew, I think he has about 19 or 20 touchdowns for us now this year,” Raton coach Brock Walton told the Santa Fe New Mexican. “He is the best player in the state that nobody knows about and we like it that way.”
Once again, it will be up to the Socorro defense to try and stop Raton.
But Ocampo knows the offense has to do its part as well.
“We have to score with them to stay in the game,” Ocampo said. “They have everything. Their offense is more complex than most colleges that run the spread. They are well-rounded on offense and defense. They might be darn near impossible to stop. Fans that come to the game are going to see an exciting brand of football.”
People, though, have been underestimating Socorro all year and that’s the way Ocampo likes it.
He is proud of what his team has accomplished so far and he is especially proud of the way the community has backed the Warriors, who stymied Robertson time and time again in the state quarterfinal game.
“These kids are really working hard and we’ve got some great football players,” Ocampo said. “We hang our hat on hard work. We have good numbers on the team and it takes a special person to play football at Socorro. We ask a lot out of them.
“To be in this situation is pretty special for the team and the community.”
Ocampo said the Warriors last made it to the final four in 2006. And Socorro last won a state title in 1977.
The Warriors have been battling injuries all season but they have kept battling.
“What was our record,” Ocampo asked the reporter.
The reporter replied: “8-3.”
Ocampo said: “You know we only had two guys on offense who have started in every game and only three guys on defense that have started in every game. We have been the walking wounded since the first week but we keep battling and I am so proud of them for overcoming all thse obstacles. We were picked to finish third in our district and now we are in the final four in the state.”
Socorro finished 3-0 in district play and it marked just the second time in school history that the Warriors had been undefeated in district play for two years in a row. The last time came in 1996 and 1997.
And guess who the quarterback was?
But now Ocampo is the coach and what does he think of his Warriors’ chances?
“I like to think if we play well, we have a shot.”
And that’s all you can ask.
Photo by Gary Jaramillo.The Socorro defense comes up big against Las Vegas-Robertson.