By Thomas Garcia
QCS Senior Writer
The top-seed Grady/San Jon Coyotes, (7-0, 4-0) will play the No. 5 seed Floyd Broncos Saturday at 1 p.m., in the semifinals of the 6-man state football tournament at San Jon.
The Coyotes drew the top seed in the 6-man tournament and first-round bye while the Broncos (4-3, 2-2) defeated the fourth-seeded Reserve 40-20 Saturday at Reserve.
This will be the second time the Coyotes face the Broncos in three weeks. On Oct. 23, the Coyotes beat the Broncos 60-32 at San Jon.
”The Broncos are a good team and we are expecting them to run the ball just like the last time we played,” said Bobby Gomez, Coyotes head coach.
Gomez said one of the keys to winning will be for the team to do a better job of tackling the Broncos running backs at the line of scrimmage. He said Broncos head coach Steve Foust likes to control the clock and limit the other team’s possession of the ball. “The Broncos will work to get a first down, chew up the time on the clock with the following plays, with the intent of keeping the ball out of our offense’s hands,” Gomez added.
The Coyotes will have some added help in stopping the Broncos’ ground game with the return of senior defensive lineman Adrian Lunsford. Lunsford is the Coyotes’ top pass rusher and leads the team in tackles. He was hurt on Oct. 16 while playing against Lake Arthur and has been recovering the past three weeks.
Gomez said Lunsford had made progress and could have played against Floyd on Oct. 23, but he elected to hold Lunsford out in order for him to heal. He said there was no sense in rushing Lunsford back onto the field and risking further injury.
Gomez said the Coyotes will have to be ready for a physical game against an opponent that has proven it won’t just roll over and quit. He said with the team coming off the bye, it will have to be fired up from the very start against a physical Broncos team.
“The main thing we have to do is not come out sluggish,” said Joseph Benavidez, Coyotes running back.
Benavidez said the team has had two previous bye weeks and the team had a slow start on the field. He said in the state tournament, it is crucial the Coyotes come out with intensity.
Game time: 1 p.m., Saturday at San Jon.
The No. 4 seed Logan Longhorns (6-2, 3-0) will play host to the fifth-seeded Dora/Elida Coyotes Friday in the first round of the 8-man state football tournament at Logan.
The Longhorns won the District 2 championship for the second year in a row on Friday with a 50-0 routing of Springer/Maxwell at Logan.
The Longhorns have won three of the past four games by a margin of 50 points, with great offensive plays including passes from quarterback Michael Estrada to wide receiver Grady Loveland and rushes from running backs Jared Lubera and Brinton Roach. On defense, defensive end Jerome Earl has recovered three fumbles in the past two games and has pressured opposing quarterbacks and running backs. Lubera, Loveland, Roach and Estrada have all had interceptions this season for the Longhorns.
The No. 5 seed Coyotes (5-4, 1-2) come into the tournament having lost their past two games by 50 points each. The Longhorns beat the Coyotes on Sept. 11, 56-6 at Logan.
Both teams are different than when they first met in September, said Longhorns head coach Kene Terry, who explained that the Longhorns are healthy and have found their rhythm on the field. He said a slow start to the season was caused by a lack field time after their first game against Tatum was canceled because of weather.
Terry said the Coyotes were missing some players the first time around; those missing players will be on the field Friday. He said his players are not looking past the Coyotes because of the win earlier in the season. “The Coyotes are coming to play and the Longhorns are just as focused and will be ready to take care of business,” Terry said.
Game time: 7 p.m., Friday at Logan.
The Tucumcari Rattlers will be playing for a post-season bid Friday in their final district game against Raton at Rattler Stadium.
“The guys need to be focused and ready to play on Friday, if not it could be their last game of the season,” said Wayne Ferguson, Rattlers head coach.
Ferguson said the team is not going into Friday’s game overconfident; instead, he said, they are going in with the mindset that a win keeps them playing.
With a win, the Rattlers (2-6, 0-2), could punch their ticket for a spot in the 3A state football tournament. Although, they face a (2-7, 0-2) Tigers squad that also is searching for its first district win and a chance at post-season play.
On Friday the Rattlers, lost 29-14 to their district rival, the Santa Rosa Lions, at Rattler Stadium.
Both teams were held scoreless in the first quarter. The Rattlers’ defense was able to stop several of the Lions’ offensive drives on downs. In those stops, defensive tackle Antonio Norton Jr., was able to wrap up Lions’ running back Joaquin Lopez in the back field for no gain or a loss of yards.
“We have to play with intensity throughout the entire game,” Norton said. “We have to stop putting our heads down when we get behind.”
On offense, the Rattlers had two drives end inside the seven-yard line — one on downs and another on a missed field goal attempt.
“We have to score points after driving the ball all the way down the field,” Ferguson said. “We cannot allow scoring opportunities like that to slip away from us again.”
The Lions scored late in the second quarter with two rushing touchdowns by Lopez. The two-score lead by the Lions was not the only thing weighing on the Rattlers’ minds at half time. Rattlers running back Billy Sandoval broke his right hand blocking an extra point attempt by the Lions and did not return in the second half.
Sandoval was one of three running backs in the Rattlers backfield, a backfield that Ferguson said was the fastest they have had in several years.
Daniel Lopez and Zach Martinez split the workload for the Rattlers’ running game. Martinez put the first points on the board for the Rattlers in the final period with a 14-yard rushing touchdown, with Lopez running in the two-point conversion. The last score for the Rattlers and the game was a 74-yard pass from quarterback Tyler Ferguson to Zedric Henderson-Green.
Game time: 7 p.m., Friday at Rattler Stadium.