TEXICO — In a state semifinal matchup that lived up to its dogfight billing, the Tularosa Wildcats dethroned defending Class 2A champion Texico 7-6 Friday night.
Despite 147 yards rushing from Texico senior Edgardo Meza, the Wolverines’ offense only penetrated inside the red zone once during the night.
“Sometimes you just don’t get the breaks you need,” Texico coach Ryan Autrey said. “We knew they had great skill people. We knew they had one of the best passing games in the state. We prepared well but that wasn’t enough.”
Tularosa scored on its second series in the first quarter on a 30-yard screen pass from senior quarterback Nicolas Saenz to junior Levi Silva with 1:45 left. Senior William McKinsey’s extra point gave Tularosa a 7-0 lead.
The Wildcats spread the offense and threw often, but Texico’s secondary managed to avoid letting Tularosa’s deep threat, junior Emery Coleman, get behind them. Coleman caught passes for 42 and 18 yards to set up McKinsey’s touchdown before the Wolverines bottled him up for most remaining time.
Texico’s controlled the ball effectively through the last three quarters, although it wasn’t until late in the third period that the Wolverines threatened.
Meza rushed for 45 yards on Texico’s 60-yard scoring drive. Senior quarterback Seth Bailey completed two passes on the drive, including a 14-yarder to senior Quin Winkles to the Tularosa 6 early in the fourth period.
Two plays later, Bailey called his own number for the 2-yard score.
That’s when fate stepped in as 6-foot-3 senior James Vigil got his hand up on Texico junior Jose Posada’s extra point kick.
After Texico’s Brandon King sacked Saenz with 7:03 left, the Wolverines’ defense came up with a stop and Texico had one final shot.
A pass interference call brought the ball to the Tularosa 41, but the Wildcats broke up three Bailey passes to stop the bid. The Wildcats then converted three times on fourth-and-short situations to effectively run out the clock.
“I’m proud of every one of these guys,” Autrey said. “I couldn’t ask for a harder working group of men.”
Tularosa will play the winner of Friday’s Lordsburg-Santa Rosa semifinal for the championship next weekend. Tularosa coach Bryan Jones said it will be the Wildcats’ first trip to the finals since winning the title in 2001.
“This is unreal, it’s just fantastic,” said Tularosa coach Bryan Jones. “Regardless of the situation, these guys keep fighting.”