By Marty Mayfield
The Raton Tigers had a fight on their hands, literally, as the Las Vegas Robertson Cardinals came to the Jungle on Friday night to play for first place in 2AAA. The game was hard-hitting and the Tigers stood toe-to-toe with the Cardinals, but committed four turnovers to hand the game to Las Vegas with a final score of 40-13.
As Coach Brock Walton said after the game, “I thought we looked good, we played with passion.” During the first quarter as the Tigers held the Cardinals in check and allowed Raton to score first. After the first half though the game turned more in favor of Robertson.
Raton won the coin toss, deferred, and held Robertson on their first series with a sack and two plays later a fumble that set them back and would help force them to punt it away. Raton started from their 15-yard line and went the 85 yards in 13 plays ending the series with a 2-yard run play by Cam Baird for six. Toby Henson nailed the PAT and made it a 7-0 ball game with 4:03 on the clock.
Robertson was held again and forced to punt to end the first quarter. That punt however was allowed to roll and put Raton at their 1-yardline to begin the second quarter. Digging out of the hole Raton worked the ball down to the Robertson 25 where they were forced to turn it over on downs.
With 5:47 on the clock in the second quarter the malay began when a Robertson player pushed a Raton player. Most of both benches cleared, the flags flew, coaches and referees were pulling players off each other and when the dust finally settled and the referees discussed the event Raton’s Jordan Darras and Robertson’s Fransico Arguello were ejected from the game. From that point on the momentum really turned in Robertson’s favor.
Robertson Coach Leroy Gonzales told KRTN’s Abe Elliot that he had left about half of his team at home including the starting quarterback because he felt they hadn’t put enough into the practices leading up to the game, they didn’t play with passion. He added he wanted to make a point, and only had 23 players on the sidelines instead of his usually 46. Coach Walton noted football is a game of emotion and that the brawl, while it seemed to affect Raton negatively it sparked Robertson.
From that point referees controlled the ball game more closely calling more personal foul penalties and face mask calls and late in the fourth quarter officials ejected another Robertson player, Javier Trujillo.
As play continued after the tussle Robertson went on to score on a 35 yard run by Dominic Lucero, their leading rusher and temporary quarterback. The 2-point try failed and it was a 7-6 ballgame.
Robertson forced a fumble on the next Raton play and turned that into a touchdown when Lucero found J.R. Gonzalez in the end zone for six. A penalty negated the 2-point try and the second attempt also failed. Robertson led 12-7 with just 30 seconds left in the half.
Raton’s Luis Ruiz took the rekick (the first one went out of bounds) to the 43. From there with time running out in the half Cam Baird finds Dylan Query in the end zone on a 35 yard pass play. The play was initially ruled a touchdown, but after a conference, the officials reversed the ruling and the catch was ruled incomplete. Referees said he was bobbling the ball when he went out of the back of the end zone.
Third quarter action saw Raton fumble on their first series out and turn it over on the Robertson 45. With the help of a personal foul and an offside penalty, good for 20 yards, Robertson wasted no time getting the ball to pay dirt. Dominic Lucero ran it in from the seven. The Raton defense foiled the 2-point try again. With 6:53 on the clock Robertson was up 18-7.
Raton unable to get things moving turned the ball over on downs at the Raton 48 where Robertson promptly moved down field and on the fifth play James Gonzales took it in from the six. Lucero ran it in for the 2-point conversion and it was a 26-7 ball game.
Raton ended the third and moved into the fourth quarter with the ball. The 12 play 78-yard series concluded with a 7-yard TD pass to Toby Henson. Henson’s PAT went wide, 13-26 was the score with 9:47 left on the clock.
Robertson’s next drive ended when James Gonzales scampered 38 yards for six more and Lucero capped it with the 2-point conversion.
Cardinal James Gonzales picked off a Cam Baird pass at the Raton 38 to set up another Robertson score when Gonzales scampered 38 yards on the next play for six more Robertson points. The 2-point try failed leaving the score 40-13 with 5:38 left in the game.
Another pass interception ended the Raton drive. The Raton defense held and forced Robertson to punt and with the help of a penalty put Raton on their 12-yard line. Another penalty moved the ball out to the 30 where Cam Baird ended the game with a knee.
Raton will host Pojoaque Friday night in the jungle at 7:00 p.m.