NMMI’s Christian Padilla elevates to pull down an interception during [auth] the Colt’s 35-21 loss to Capitan Friday night at Colt Field. (Arnold Roe Photo)
It was a back-and-forth game on Colt Field Friday night, with NMMI and Capitan trading scores for three quarters, before the Tigers finally got back-to-back TDs between the third and fourth then added a final score late to take a 35-21 victory.
Head coach Randy Montoya was frustrated with the late-game letdowns.
“That’s been our tale for the past few weeks,” he said. “It’s the way the cookie crumbles. But again, it’s very frustrating because we had opportunities, more so this week than last week, and we just didn’t capitalize on it. We’ve got a lot of growing up to do and a lot of learning.”
Early on, things looked good.
The first score of the day belonged to the Colts, when, with 7:40 on the clock in the first quarter, Colt Connor Roe intercepted a Price Bowen pass meant for Alejandro Trujillo. Two plays and a penalty later, Gavin Maloney passed to Christian Padilla for an 83-yard TD to make it 6-0 NMMI. A good kick by Victor Salame and the Colts led 7-0.
But the Tigers came right back, scoring on a five-play, 65-yard drive to tie the game at 7-7, and that’s where it stood at the end of the first.
It was wash, rinse and repeat in the second as NMMI took a 14-7 lead after a controversial call by the refs.
Another Capitan mistake — this time a fumble recovered by Padilla — put the ball in Colt hands and that started a long drive down field.
After three first downs, NMMI had moved from their own 45 to the Capitan 18. Maloney threw an incomplete pass, throwing the ball away as he was sacked way behind the line of scrimmage by Price Bowen.
The officials called an intentional grounding penalty — which did not sit well with the Colt fans in the stands — but Maloney didn’t let the loss of yards bother him, as the very next play, he threw a perfect 33-yard pass to Jake Guerreo for the score.
But another Capitan possession and another score — this on a quarterback keeper by Bowen — and the score was knotted at 14-all heading into the locker room.
NMMI took the ball on the kickoff to open the third, and went 59 yards on 13 plays to make it 21-14. The drive almost stalled in the end zone. A 3-yard carry by Fausto Baranzini on second down made it through the Tiger defense down to the five, but an incomplete pass brought up a fourth and goal.
Coach Montoya opted for the gamble, going for it on fourth down, and Maloney rolled out to his left and connected with Padilla on the slant for the TD. Ivan Brewer wrapped up the possession with a good kick and NMMI was up 21-14 with 5:49 left in the third.
Seven plays and two Colt Penalties later, Capitan again tied it.
But that’s when things changed.
NMMI was forced to punt on their next possession, and although the quarter ran out tied at 21-21, the Tigers took their first lead on a Bowen carry just eight seconds into the fourth, going up 28-21.
On their next drive, NMMI was working down the field when an injury to Colt Jake Guerreo stopped the game for more than 20 minutes, as emergency officials were called out and the player taken off the field.
Montoya was thinking positive after the game.
“Just talking to the trainer, they said it sounded positive,” he said of the injury. “It was just a precaution. Better safe than sorry is always our rules.”
The Colts couldn’t get a first down on the drive, and Capitan moved all the way down to the Colt 10, but fumbled on the 6-yard-line. Still, NMMI couldn’t get anywhere and under pressure from the Capitan D-line, Maloney tried to get rid of the ball and was once again called for intentional grounding. On the next play, Bowen carried it in for the final score of the game.
The Colts had a somewhat rounded offense, with 175 yards rushing — led by Baranzini with 102 — and Maloney with 168 in the air. Padilla was NMMI’s top receiver with 113 yards.
Asked about the positives — NMMI had two interceptions and two fumble recoveries — Montoya said yes, but …
“We had some opportunities, we’ve just got to capitalize on those. We get tired late in the games and we have a bunch of brain farts that are not acceptable at this stage. It’s frustrating, because I know we’re better than this but when the lights come on and it’s late in the game we’ve got to do a better job of focusing and trying to get the job done.”
And, with a trip to Taos on the docket for next week, he knows it won’t get any easier.
“They’re a 4A team,” Montoya said. “So this is big. This is playoff implications, possibly. We’re trying to save our season but we’ve just got to get better. We’ve got to focus on ourselves. We can’t really worry about the trip or anything. We’re just making way too many mistakes not to be able to finish like we have the past two weeks.”