Thursday, September 23, 2010

Warriors Hold On To Stay Perfect (3-0)

By Nicky Romero

SOCORRO -- The fifth-ranked Socorro Warrior football team earned their first “Big Win” of the season by defeating the No. 2 ranked team in Class 3A, the Raton Tigers. The game was played at Warrior Stadium on Friday before a large crowd that was treated to an exciting game and an exciting finish.
Socorro handed Raton (2-1) its first loss of the season. The Warriors improved their record to 3-0.
“We were extremely fortunate to come up on top,” said Coach Damian Ocampo. “There was a lot of physical effort out there tonight. I like that a lot. But really, we didn't play a very smart game or a very good game.
“Penalties and our attitude are things we need to work on. I really feel tonight that there were a couple of players that went out there and weren't playing team football. We always preach team football. We're a family. There's some guys that went out there tonight that made a lot of silly mistakes that hurt the team. But I have confidence in these guys and I think we're going to fix that.”
The win wasn't nearly as easy as the first two wins, which were decided by large winning margins. This one came down to a last-minute Socorro defensive stand.
The Warriors also had to contend with an inspired Raton team, which saw its head coach, Brock Walton, thrown out of the game with 6:18 left in the fourth quarter for unsportsmanlike conduct on the sidelines.
With Socorro leading 22-20 and 2:10 left, Raton started its last offensive drive at the their own 35 yard line. Socorro was called for roughing the passer on highly touted quarterback Dustin Walton. It was enough for a first down at the 50 yard line. After gaining only five yards on one of three pass attempts, it came down to a fourth and five situation with the game on the line and only 67 seconds left. Walton threw a short pass to his left hoping for at least a first down, but the pass fell incomplete. Socorro took over the ball on loss of downs and ran the clock out.
The Warriors continued to run their shotgun offense with success, thanks in part to James Thornton setting up the touchdowns with his long gainers and quarterback Zach Esquivel finishing the drives with three quarterback keepers for touchdowns.
In the first quarter, Socorro began its second drive thanks to a Thornton fumble recovery at the Raton 45 yard line. With the offensive line opening up holes, Esquivel and Thornton combined to run the ball six times to the three yard line. Esquivel kept the ball one more time for a 6-0 early lead at the 3:22 mark. The extra point kick by Esquivel was blocked. Regular kicker Zack Binger did not play due to an injury, but is expected to play next week.
The Warriors fell behind 7-6 for the first time this season with 52 seconds left in the first quarter. At the 50 yard line, Raton's Walton threw a touchdown pass to Devon Casias.
Both defenses did not budge very much in the second quarter. Not until Socorro regained the lead with only 12 ticks left in the half. Defensive back Ibrahim Maiga made it possible by intercepting the ball at the Warriors' 35 yard line.
Esquivel was throwing this time, 20 yards to Maiga and 12 yards to Thornton. Esquivel kept the ball threw more times and on the last one scoring a 4-yard touchdown to the right side. This time Esquivel ran the ball in for the extra two points, giving his team a 14-7 halftime lead.
The Warriors added to their lead with 7:39 left in the third quarter. Facing fourth and inches, Esquivel ran to the right side for his third touchdown of the game. He then ran up the middle for the two extra points giving the Warriors a comfortable 22-7 lead.
Raton did not give up. With only 30 seconds left in the third, the Tigers' Walton threw a 35 yard pass to Morphew to the one yard line. Walton narrowed the scoring gap to 22-13 by running for the one yard touchdown. The extra point kick hit the left goal post and was not good.
Playing inspired defense, Raton got the ball back late in the fourth quarter. With 2:13 left in the game, Morphew finished a 77 yard drive with a 3 yard run for a touchdown. The extra point was no good, but Raton was only behind by two points.
Raton's last gasp for a victory started with a successful onside kick that was recovered at the 50 yard line with 2:10 left. An unsportsmanlike conduct call against Raton brought it back to the 35 yard line. Socorro returned the favor moments later with a roughing the passer call, taking the ball back to the 50.
The Warriors last stand defense held steady on this last Tiger drive, putting a stop of any thoughts of a Tiger comeback win.
Ocampo said, “We made some big plays and the effort was there. I don't know how many times we got inside the ten, but everything seemed to fall apart. We were making some very, very dumb mistakes. If we don't improve a lot right now, it's going to be a long week.”
The Warriors, who moved to fourth in this week’s poll, will play their homecoming game Friday against the Class 4A Santa Teresa Desert Warriors at 7 p.m.
“We've got to clean up our mistakes. There are two teams coming up that are so good talent-wise. If we can't fix-up every aspect of our game, we will not be able to keep it competitive. And the big one is next week against Santa Teresa. They are an extremely talented team. I know they are going to be deep in the playoffs this year. They should have beaten Silver City in Silver City this year.”

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