By Dave Wagner
TEXICO — Their record may not show it, but the Texico Wolverines appear to be competitive with anyone in Class 2A.
Trailing by a point and with Texico appearing set to run out the clock, Santa Rosa senior Ryan Lopez returned a Wolverines’ fumble 29 yards to the Texico 26 with just under a minute left. The Lions — out of their element trying to pass the ball — got a 14-yard TD toss from senior Zeke Sena to senior Lawrence Aguirre with 12 seconds left to pull out a 19-14 win in the District 2-2A opener for both teams.
It was a heartbreaking loss for a Wolverines team which, coming in, had won three in a row after losing to second-ranked Dexter 7-0, Class 3A No. 6 Portales 14-6 and 2A No. 4 Hatch Valley in overtime to start the season.
“I thought the kids played a full game tonight,” Texico coach Ryan Autrey said. “They (Lions) just got some breaks, and they took advantage of it.”
Lopez ran 47 yards for a touchdown on the Lions’ second possession, but Texico (3-4) held them scoreless after that until Lopez went inside for a 7-yard TD run with 4:50 left, capping a 65-yard drive.
That pulled Santa Rosa (7-0) to 14-13, but Lopez was wide left on the PAT to keep the Wolverines in front by a point.
Texico then worked the clock down, picking up two first downs and running the Lions out of timeouts with just under two minutes left. But two plays later, a Lions defender stripped the ball from a Texico back and Lopez scooped it up to set up the winning score — Texico’s only turnover of the game.
The Wolverines, though, had four major penalties on Santa Rosa’s two fourth-quarter scoring drives.
Autrey said he thought there was too much time left to simply take a knee after the last first down.
“You have to get (the clock) down a little farther before you do that,” he said. “They had to beat us doing things they’re not accustomed to doing.”
Santa Rosa, operating out of a single-wing offense — with lacks a traditional quarterback, threw three of its four passes on the last possession, including a spike to stop the clock. Its only completion came when Sena rolled right and found Aguirre in the flat, and he lunged inside the right pylon for the go-ahead score.
“That’s a real good team,” Santa Rosa coach Mario Trujillo said of the Wolverines. “Especially playing in Texico, it’s always hard. We know their defense is always stout. Ryan does a danged good job with that group every year.”
Sena was nursing a bit of an injury, Trujillo said, and saw no action on offense until after halftime. He finished with 51 yards rushing on 10 carries, while Lopez r an 16 times for 116.
For Texico, senior running back Kendall Naceanceno ran 21 times for 80 yards, but sat out after the Wolverines’ opening possession of the second half with an injury. Naceanceno capped a 68-yard drive with a 5-yard TD run early in the second quarter, and junior quarterback Justin Rucker found Mitchell Pinnell on a 35-yard pass play to send Texico in front early in the fourth period.
“We did everything we wanted to do,” Autrey said. “We executed our plan both on offense and defense. I’m real proud of the kids.”