Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Warriors Didn’t Back Down A Bit

By Gary Jaramillo

Although the Warriors were absolutely, positively not supposed to win on Saturday, I had a feeling from first sunlight that something special was going to happen at Eddie Castaneda Warrior football field. Some years ago another team (Academy), complained that Socorro had no business being on the same field with them. Robertson fans and players have been saying the same thing for the past two weeks.
Well back in 1977, Socorro won that game against Academy, and the state championship trophy along with it.
I had the pleasure of walking the sidelines, taking photos and sharing in the raw emotion of the battle this time around.
It was truly an adventure. I was in choir and band in high school and never had the chance to feel the electricity on the sidelines of a truly epic defensive battle and challenge of athletic skill, wit and heart. Both teams gave their very last of what they had in each and every play from scrimmage.
On this day, the battle bruised and injured Warriors were the No. 3 seed and Robertson was the No. 6 seed. One couldn’t possibly believe that Socorro was the higher seed from all of the press and talk coming from Las Vegas. Evidently, the Warriors weren’t supposed to deserve their third seed position and the majority from up north even said the Warriors didn’t even deserve to be on the same playing field as Robertson. Sounded way to familiar to me. Well, as an old fella once told me, “that’s exactly why they play the games.’’ And boy, did the Warriors play.
On this game day, every Socorroan was united and stood behind the battle-tested and many times thought of “not a chance Warriors” and believed together that it could happen. I could see the difference in the boys’ eyes that I talk to every day in town. The boys who had the uniforms on this day were not the same. Saturday was theirs.
Socorro couldn’t get anything going in the first quarter, and any time the Warriors began to build steam, a miscue penalty or missed third-down opportunity would kill their drives on the ground or in the air, but they managed to keep Robertson at bay with an unforgiving defense.
In the waning minutes of the second quarter, the Warriors sent a clear message as QB Zach Esquivel and company pushed one down their throats and into the end zone for the first and only touchdown of the game.
The cool breezes played no large part in the game in the first half as Robertson mounted a long drive of its own and with little time left before half, had to settle for a field goal from about 40 yards out. Esquivel threw an interception on the next possession, but the Warriors held Robertson at bay and it was 7-3 at halftime.
In the second half, both teams had their chances and some really great plays from scrimmage, but it seemed every time one of them was ready to break free and open up the scoring, the others defense came up with a play to stymie any progress made. The third quarter went by fast, but the penalties, miscues and solid tackling continued on both sides of the ball. Socorro’s efforts in each and every play included each and every player.
I thought to myself several times during the fourth quarter that surely after a turnover or punt brought about by a mistake or the failure to gain another first down, the Warriors couldn’t possibly keep Robertson from finally breaking a big play and changing the momentum for good.
But each and every time I had the thought, the Warriors found yet another level of play and rose to the occasion in each situation and completely stopped Robertson again and again.
I watched as Ocampo and his assistants yelled out plays and words of encouragement and kept the team in a sort of controlled chaotic deliberate mode.
Ocampo’s kids never lost sight of him on the sidelines. Never. After every play, they all looked to the coach on the sidelines and listened and then turned back to one another and made sure everything was right for the very next play.
Then all at once, the breakneck speed tackling and sprinting came to a sudden halt. Robertson had run out of timeouts and suddenly their fans’ taunts and loud insults went completely silent.
I watched Ocampo, his kids and the other coaches look into each others eyes in a sort of slow motion snapshot like way that really only took seconds, and not a word had to be said between any of them. Winning is sweeter when it’s done as gentlemen.
I saw a slight smile in the corner of Ocampo’s mouth and tears well up in his eyes as he looked away from the field and to the ground for a moment while his quarterback grabbed the final snap from his center and dropped onto his knee to end the game.
The most impressive thing about the afternoon is that I saw what it takes to be a team of men who are called boys most of the time. I watched what it takes to be the coaches during an unbelievably stressful and hard struggle on the field. I thought of the many hours of hard stressful practice all season long. And I witnessed the friendship, trust, will and heart of 63 players, coaches, managers and trainers all became one (1) on a warm Saturday afternoon in our/my hometown in November. As far as I’m concerned, that’s the only number that counts.
This holiday season will surely be an extra special time for all of us to give thanks for the wonderful opportunities and those special moments and people we all take for granted much too often. The Warriors are playing this Saturday. Bundle up and come and share in the Socorro Families history.
I’ll be there to see our Warriors play Raton on Saturday. I hope everyone will stop what they are doing on Saturday and be part of the ONE when the game kicks off at 1 p.m. at Eddie Castaneda Warrior Football Stadium.

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