The Bobcats' Aug. 25 post-game rendition of the Ignacio Fight Song certainly needed some fine-tuning, but the unsung crew's unified "All hail!" shout at the end hinted at their motivation for 2018 following a thorough 41-0 trouncing of Lake County.
"It feels amazing," said junior wide receiver/defensive back Colten Jackson. "We've been called quote, unquote 'suck,' 'never good,' blah, blah, blah. This year? We've got a squad, and I'm glad we do; the people that come out here have the heart to play."
"If you walk into the locker room, what excitement!" head coach Alfonso 'Ponch' Garcia said after the game. "I tell you what, that's how they should feel every time they play; they've worked so hard for three weeks, and they played their hearts out."
Jackson caught two touchdown passes from junior Ian Weinreich of 32 and 8 yards during the first half, helping IHS (1-0, 0-0 1A Southern Peaks) build a 20-0 halftime lead. Jackson also got the season-opener's scoring underway with a 26-yard fumble return and 2:26 left in the first quarter.
And helped by a 26-yard pass to Jackson, Ignacio began the second half going 55 yards in eight plays in two minutes, with senior Dustin Sanchez blasting through the guests' middle for a 15-yard touchdown. Classmate Mike Archuleta's third point-after kick (in four tries) was good, and the 'Cats appeared back in sync after coming out of the locker room somewhat confused.
LCHS sophomore James Garrison was injured late in the first half and hadn't sufficiently recovered by the time the third quarter was to start. This left the visitors from Leadville in a serious predicament: With only 10 serviceable players available, a forfeit suddenly became a real possibility.
"They had six other kids on the sideline waiting to come in and play," Garcia noted, "but they didn't have enough practices."
Having already heard - and squashed - rumors of his own squad being drastically undermanned, Garcia and Panther counterpart Robert Everard conferred with each other and the officials. They decided the game would continue 10-versus-10, with IHS agreeing to take off one receiver when on offense, or a defensive back.
"The plays were definitely different; we had to have the quarterback ask the coaches where the wide receivers were going to line up since we only had 10, couldn't do the plays exactly how we wanted," said Jackson (3 rec., 66 yards). "We had to do a few adjustments, but we got into it."
Weinreich (5-of-10, 112 yards, 3 TD, 0 INT) hit sophomore Lawrence Toledo for a 32-yard TD, capping a 6-play, 44-yard surge with 4:55 remaining in the third. Freshman Jeremy Roderick ended the scoring, and enacted the mercy-rule running clock, with a recovery in the end zone of a botched punt snap with three minutes left.
Players from both teams had quickly gathered around it, but not one bothered to fall on the ball until Roderick did so uncontested. And with parties involved still wondering what the heck had happened, the nearest official faced the press box and signaled 'touchdown' rather than 'touchback.' Archuleta then knocked his fifth PAT try through the uprights and LCHS was doomed dropped to 0-1 overall. But not before the non-conference clash, except the final play, concluded as an 11-on-11 affair.
Garrison managed to return for the fourth quarter, but LCHS' first drive was halted with eight minutes left and Bobcat junior Clay Campbell covering the Panthers' fourth lost fumble of the sunny afternoon. Unable to capitalize from the LCHS 22, the Bobcats surrendered the ball on downs with 4:45 to go.
Given the chance to carry the ball on third-and-18, Garrison unfortunately was reinjured after no gain. But with only seconds left, the Panthers didn't mind giving the 'Cats an 11-on-10 advantage and junior quarterback Luke Allen actually wrapped up the game breaking multiple tackles for a gutsy eight-yard pickup. "Even though the other team had problems with numbers - like we do - they were big kids," Garcia said. "That team had some pretty big boys, and I wish them the best."
Toledo finished with two catches for 46 yards, and also rushed nine times for 15 while Sanchez finished with a team-high 19 yards on just two carries. Sophomore Joe Garcia carried 12 times for 11 yards. Frequently hounded by IHS' defense and sacked multiple times, Allen (2-of-9 passing, 10 yards) battled to gain 33 yards rushing on 15 tries while junior Jace Holbrook registered 39 on 15.
Ignacio travels to 3A Crownpoint, N.M., on Thursday. The Eagles are 0-1 after a 54-0 blowout loss at home to 4A Ruidoso, N.M., on Aug. 24.
EARLY IMPACT: Ignacio took Lake County to task on the game's very first possession - the only time the 1A Foothills Conference reps (previously of the 1A Tri-Peaks) would reach midfield. Able to gain the 50 via a six-yard carry, Allen was stripped of the ball by Archuleta and Sanchez smothered it beneath the ensuing pileup.
"We're going to work as hard as we can," Jackson said. "We're not going to stop, we're going to come at you full-force, and we'll never give up until the end. Our mindset's that right now: Never give up until the last."