MELROSE — The battle of No. 1 vs. No. 2 more than lived up to its billing.
Unfortunately for the second-ranked Melrose Buffaloes, the game was just a few seconds too long.
Top-ranked Mountainair forced overtime on a touchdown and 2-point conversion at the end of regulation, then survived a final 2-point conversion try by the two-time defending state champion Buffs in the second OT to post a 38-36 victory Friday night.
Sophomore running back Cimarron Zamora went over on a 4-yard run in the second OT and his brother, junior Santana Zamora, lunged the ball over the goal as he was being tackled to add the 2-point conversion.
On the first play of the Buffs’ possession, junior quarterback Seaver Tate threw a TD pass to junior Lance Widner, playing for the first time since a significant leg injury sustained early in the season opener. But a bad shotgun snap on the conversion sealed Melrose’s fate.
“I was very impressed with the way we played them,” Melrose coach Dickie Roybal said. “The kids did a great job.”
The teams could meet again in the postseason.
“I think so, if we don’t lose any more kids (to injury),” said Roybal, whose team lost starting guard Josh Broome to a broken arm in the first quarter. “The kids that stepped in for him did a fine job, but we can’t afford to lose anyone else.”
Melrose (5-2) lost for just the second time in 32 games dating to an 8-man playoff semifinal loss to Mountainair in 2007. While the Buffs seemed in control much of the way, they were unable to overcome a sizable statistical advantage for the Mustangs (7-0), who outgained them 259-85 on the ground and had a 15-7 edge in first downs.
Melrose built a 22-8 lead late in the third quarter after Tate scrambled 29 yards for his second of three TD runs, but the Mustangs put together two scoring drives in the final eight minutes ending in Santana Zamora touchdown runs.
On the first, Mountainair faced third-and-5 at its own 20 when senior quarterback Martin Chavez found Cimarron Zamora for 35 yards. On the next play, Santana Zamora went around right end and cut back to the left on a 45-yard TD run.
The conversion failed, but the Mustangs got another chance when they recovered a fumble at the Melrose 40 with just under five minutes left. They needed 10 plays and most of the clock to do it, but Santana Zamora swept right end for the score on fourth-and-goal from the 2 with 25 seconds left, then went over the left side for the tying 2-point conversion.
“It was just a good, hard-fought game by two great teams,” said Mountainair coach Robert Zamora, the uncle of the Zamora brothers. “I’m proud of our kids, I’m proud of their kids. When you have No. 1 and No. 2, you want games like that.”