After being outscored by 50 or more points in their last three games and taking double-overtime to beat Ajo 52-50 last season, it’s safe to say there was a collective cringe in Patagonia on Friday night when Ajo’s Billy Glass returned the opening kickoff for a touchdown.
Then, when Glass hauled in an interception on the Lobos’ ensuing possession, one couldn’t help but think that Patagonia’s 2012 Homecoming football game was in the tank already.
Thanks to some inspired running by Caleb Foster and Jose Carrillo, though, nothing could have been further from the truth. Foster would go on to run for five touchdowns in the first half and tally 223 yards on 20 carries to push his team to a 54-26 victory.
“It was a good game,” Foster said. “We didn’t give up, which is something we struggle with every now and again, but Homecoming night for me and my last game here, it was just really great.
“We had a good push off the line; a good first step,” he added, “which is the main thing, because all I need is one block and I can make something happen, which is what everybody did, so I was just so happy for them. It was really special.”
Special is also a word that can describe the long, bruising, defender-dragging rumbles by Carrillo, who set up many of Foster’s touchdowns. The sophomore ended the night with 154 yards on 8 carries.
“I give the line a lot of credit, and the backs for finding the holes and running hard,” Patagonia head coach Howard Wykes said. “We have to build on this and the things that we did well, plus improve on the things that we struggled with to keep building on what we’re doing.”
Ajo, on the other hand, needs to get all its players back on the field, because according to Red Raider head coach Brian English, he left 11 of his players home Friday because of ineligibilities and discipline issues.
“You can’t leave 11 players home,” he said, explaining that his first three tailbacks didn’t make the trip, “but we did the best we could. They were the better team tonight. It happens in high school football. You deal with what you got.
“We ran out of gas in the start of the second quarter,” he added, “because we had no substitutes to put in. We’re a very run-dependent team, and when you can’t give anybody a break it hurts. We’re normally four or five deep at running back, but in that spot tonight we were one, so we were kind of stuck.”
And despite that one—Glass—having a decent night, including two interceptions on defense, it just wasn’t enough. His Red Raiders did end the first quarter with a 12-6 lead, but Foster was just getting warmed up and scored on Patagonia’s next two possessions before Glass took one in from 35 yards out to bring Ajo’s deficit to 22-18.
Foster, however, came right back with 11- and 4-yarders of his own to make it 38-18. Patagonia, though, wasn’t done there, because after a Johnny Montanez interception in the last minute of the half, Foster punched another one in from 3 yards out before a string of turnovers for both teams started the second half.
“Especially in eight-man ball, turnovers can be so glaring,” English said, “because it only takes one to upset the whole apple cart. Plus, we had the ball inside the 20 three different times and we kept shooting ourselves in the foot with a penalty or a dropped ball.”
Ajo did score once more late in the game on a 65-yard run by quarterback Manny George, but other than that Patagonia’s defense held solid the entire second half.
“The middle of their line just dominated our offensive line, which has been one our strong points this year,” English explained. “We haven’t been dominated like that by anyone this year, so give Patagonia all the credit in the world. They did a great job.”
Again, it was Foster who led the defense with 17 tackles. Jon King added 14, Montanez 13 and freshman Danny Miranda had 8 tackles and a fumble recovery.
“It’s nice to get a win finally, coming off those few losses,” King said. “Especially for Homecoming, it’s always nice.
“We’ve got some really great coaches that just tell us to worry about the next game,” he added. “It’s all about moving forward. We got to shake off the losses and pretend it didn’t happen by coming back and working hard. That’s all we can do and it pays off on games like tonight.”
Patagonia is now 3-3 heading into this coming Friday’s game at Fort Thomas, which is also 3-3 after beating host Salt River 72-32. Both teams are still holding onto postseason hopes.
“These next two games are going to be tough, but I believe in our team,” Foster said. “I believe we can do it. We just got to make sure we don’t get down no matter what happens.”
“Now we’re trying to make our run, but we got to buckle down these last two games,” King added. “We got Fort Thomas coming up and they always play us hard. Then, we got Duncan, a big school with big players, so we’re looking forward to the chance to play them again.”