ALBUQUERQUE — The Escalante High School Lobos had seven players on the 19-man North 6-Man-2A football roster — and two players made the difference in the North’s 14-0 victory.
Quarterback Cody Russom and running back Anthony Paul Martinez each scored rushing touchdowns to help the North prevail over the South June 8, at Nusenda Community Stadium,
“This was a blast and a great way to go out taking a (win),” Martinez said. “It was high on our list to get a victory today. That’s what we come out here to do and we never want to lose.”
Nothing less would be expected from an Escalante senior class that went 42-5 over their careers and won back-to-back state championships in 2014-2015.
The North was coached by the 2A’s state champion Brad Holland from Fort Sumner/House, who enjoyed the opportunity to work with the seven Lobos.
“It was nice to play with them instead of against them,” he said with a laugh. “They’re so tough, well-coached and tough to prepare for. I was proud to be their coach for a few days.”
Holland and Fort Sumner defeated Escalante twice this past season, including the 55-7 win in the state championship.
Russom scored his touchdown late in the first quarter after Escalante’s T.J. Cooper had a fumble recovery on defense to start the North on the South’s seven-yard line.
Russom pushed past the goal line on a 4th-down quarterback sneak from the two-yard line to put the North ahead by seven after a successful extra point.
The remainder of the first half was a scoreless, defensive battle, which wasn’t surprising based on the limited practice time together, which didn’t give the offenses the mandatory time to gel.
That didn’t mean there was any lack of exciting plays and hard hits.
Escalante’s Johnny Samora provided plenty and was hyped up from kickoff for one more chance to put the pads on.
“I’m calm in the street, but when it comes to football that’s my time (to get excited),” he said. “It’s my sport and my bread-and-butter. This experience was one for the books. We all came together as new brothers and played the best game we could.”
Lobo linebacker Ryan Allison was also all over the field making plays, following up on his tacking records he set in the regular season.
He tied the record for most tackles in a game with 25, Nov. 4, against Jal High School and also ranks seventh in New Mexico state history for most tackles in a season (133).
The North had an opportunity before the half to extend their lead, but Fort Sumner’s Kreston Butterfield’s 41-yard field goal attempt banged off the right upright.
The North defense continued their dominant play from the first half, forcing the South to punt the ball away on the first three possessions.
Then, on their fourth possession, another turnover set up the North in prime position.
Justin Downey from Fort Sumner intercepted the South’s Sterling Sena to give the North the ball at the eight-yard line.
From there, Martinez bullied his way through the line to score a three-yard touchdown off of left tackle with 4:22 left in the game — extending the North’s lead to 14, which they wouldn’t surrender.
In their last-ditch effort to come from behind, the South turned the ball over for a third time. After Samora had a huge tackle for loss to set the South back to 2nd-and-28, Questa’s High School’s Antonio Chavez scooped up the fumble to essentially put the game away.
In a game that is not all about winning or losing historically, it wasn’t the case for the North players or from coach Holland, who wore his emotions on his sleeve all game, continuously hollering at the officials and keeping his players focused.
“It was important for these kids to win,” Holland said. “For 90 percent of them it’s their last game ever. Probably more than that.”
Other Escalante players who participated were Bryan Maestas and Jesus Martinez.