By Nicky Romero
The Socorro Warriors football team was surprised and beaten by their last non-district opponent of the season, the Class 2A Estancia Bears 20-13. The Bears (3-3) are ranked seventh in Class 2A. The Warriors (4-2) were ranked fourth in Class 3A and will limp into district play this week, ranked 5th.
“Estancia is a good football team and I give them all the credit in the world”, said Coach Damian Ocampo. “They came ready to play and played really well.”
“Obviously, we came into the game a little hobbled and it got worse on us pretty quick and we lost a couple of guys with some nagging injuries. Honestly, though our effort was great throughout the game. Pretty much, everything that could have gone wrong went wrong.”
The Warriors took an early 7-0 lead with 9:28 in the first quarter. Running back James Thorton ran off-tackle right up the middle for a 66-yard score. Kicker Zach Binger added the extra point that would give the Warriors their only lead for the night.
With 5:27 in the first, Estancia's quarterback Destry Oberg threw a 10-yard pass to his receiver Troy Mitchell to tie the score at 7-7.
Both teams played good defense the rest of the first half and went in tied. The Warriors went into the locker room knowing they had their hands full and a good Bears' team to contend with in the second half.
Socorro received the opening kickoff in the second half, but gave it back to the Bears on a Thorton fumble at the Warriors 24-yd line.
With good field position, the Bears took full advantage. With 10:38 in the third, Oberg faked a handoff and ran off-tackle to the right for a touchdown. The extra point was good for a Bears' 14-7 lead.
With 4:38 left in the third, Thorton fumbled on a punt return and the Bears recovered on the Socorro 28-yard line.
Two minutes later, the Bears Juan Dominguez ran a 30-yard post pattern for a touchdown pass from quarterback Oberg. This time the extra point kick was no good. The Bears led 20-7 .
But the Warriors were not about to give up. With just six seconds gone in the fourth quarter. the Warriors surprised the Bears on a fourth down play. Quarterback Zack Esquivel threw a 24-yard touchdown pass to one of his favorite receivers Ibrahim Maiga. Maiga broke away from a tackle and spun around for the score. Binger's extra point kick was no good. The Warriors were now only down by seven points.
With seven minutes left in the game, defensive back Aaron McDaniel intercepted a Bears' pass at the 40-yard line. The Warriors' offense could not do much with this possession and had to punt after four plays.
Socorro's last chance to score came with 3:36 on the clock. The Warriors tried to keep their last drive alive. At midfield and facing fourth and two yards, Esquivel kept the ball and came up one yard short of the first down.
The Bears took over on downs and simply ran out the clock for their third victory of the season.
“We made mistakes holding onto the football”, said Ocampo. “We had a total of six turnovers. We were probably in the 150 to 200 yard range in penalties. That's how bad it was. We definitely shot ourselves in the foot, more than any team can afford to do. The good thing is that the kids played their hearts out. They battled back and kept battling no matter what. That's important to see.”
The Warriors are hoping to get back on the winning track. They open up with a crucial game against their district rival the Hatch Valley Bears (3-3). The game is at Hatch on Friday, October 8th at 7 pm.
“The big thing now is to see if we can rebound, because on paper we are very equal. On paper, they might be a point or two better than us. They are a big and physical ball club. They are huge. The biggest we are going to see all year.”
“We have to come ready to play and be physical and make sure we do what we need to do this week to give us a chance to succeed. If we cut down on our mistakes, I feel that we will be right there with them in the fourth quarter and see what happens. The last couple of years that we played them, it's come down to the last minute and I don't expect this year to be any different.”
“We're going to be ready to go one way or another. The kids are fired up. I know they want a chance to get back on the field. All I ask them to do is to play as hard as they can mentally and physically. I know if we do that, we're going to have a shot against anybody.”