Clovis Christian came up a game short of playing for its first NMAA football championship Saturday.
The Tatum Coyotes, meantime, jumped on the Eagles early and never let up, rolling to a 42-26 victory at Yucca Complex Saturday to earn a rematch against top-seeded and defending champion Melrose next weekend in the state 8-man finals.
Senior quarterback Logan Medlin rushed for 104 yards and a touchdown and threw for three scores for the Coyotes (10-1), who host Melrose (11-0) next weekend. Melrose won 52-8 in last year’s final, and also handed Tatum its only loss this season, a 44-0 verdict on Sept. 11.
“We got off to a good start,” Tatum coach Gary Durham said. “I think a good running game allows you to run down the clock when you have a lead, and we ran a lot of time off the clock today.”
Tatum finished with 436 total yards, including 284 on the ground. Senior Hunter Ray gained 150 yards on 21 carries while Medlin, who went 7-for-11 through the air for 113 yards, added 104 rushing yards on 24 attempts.
After CCS (8-3) recovered an onside kick to start the game, the Coyotes held on downs and promptly went 74 yards in seven plays, with Ray scoring on a 3-yard run.
Tatum also scored on its next two possessions and led 22-0 at the quarter.
“We had chances right off the bat, but we couldn’t capitalize,” CCS coach Jason Swann said. “We just never could fight inside that two-touchdown barrier.”
Medlin threw a 19-yard TD pass to Lionel Nunez on Tatum’s second possession, then capped a short drive with a 27-yard TD run four plays after Colter Smith blocked an Eagles punt and recovered it himself at the CCS 37.
Clovis Christian could only manage quarterback Kevin Naceanceno’s 7-yard run early in the second quarter and trailed 22-6 at the half. Then, after Tatum forced a three-and-out to start the second half, the Coyotes padded their lead with the first of two Medlin-to-Ryan Glenn scoring tosses in the third period, this one covering 38 yards.
Glenn finished with five catches for 85 yards.
“Ryan Glenn caught a couple of big touchdown passes,” Durham said. “I’m proud of this team. We’ve got eight seniors, and they’ve done a good job for us.”
Junior running back Mike Urioste scored all three second-half TDs for the Eagles, including a 93-yard kickoff return late in the third quarter after Ray’s bounding kick slipped behind him.
Urioste recovered the ball and was nearly down around the CCS 30, but broke away after escaping several tackles.
Urioste finished with 108 yards rushing on 24 carries, also scoring on runs of 4 and 7 yards in the second half. His longest run, though, was a 23-yarder on the first play from scrimmage, and the Coyotes held him in relative check after that.
Meantime, Naceanceno struggled, going 11-of-26 through the air for 80 yards. He had several passes dropped and missed receivers at other times.
“He lost his confidence,” Swann said. “He started feeling like he had to throw a perfect ball.”
Swann said Tatum’s size hurt the Eagles.
“They just said, ‘We’re bigger than you are, try and block us,’ ” Swann said. “And we couldn’t.”
Durham thinks the Coyotes can make a better game of it this time than they have in the last couple against Melrose.
“Hopefully, we can give them a little better game,” he said. “We stayed pretty plain against them the first time. I told the guys then, ‘We might be seeing them again in about nine weeks.’
“Melrose is a good team, and coach (Dickie) Roybal does a great job. They’re still the champions until somebody can beat them.”