It wasn’t the opening night the Tigers planned for when they welcomed the Tularosa Wildcats to Tiger Stadium, Friday, August 23. The final score, 46-6 was more lopsided than the game often seemed through the night and served as a wake-up call and to bring into sharp relief the work the Tigers need to do as they head off to Thoreau for game two on their dance card.
The Tigers forced Tularosa to stay on the ground throughout the game, attempting only nine passes total and connecting on just one of them. The bad news for our Tigers was that their visitors ground game was strong, rushing for over 300 yards and gaining them all seven of their TD’s.
With the visitors scoring twice in each of the first three quarters, fans can be forgiven for thinking things looked pretty grim defensively. Still, there were some glimmers of the Blue Swarm of old emerging. Tiger quarterback Benito Villa led the way on solo tackles with six to his credit. Next up came Staten Castillo, Jesus Gomez and Hopper Madrid, each with three solos. With a total 42 for the team, they were right be- hind the Wildcats.
Errors plagued our Tigers a little, with three fumbles, two of which resulted in turnovers against none for the other side. But in the penalties the Tigers took care of business having only four flags thrown against them at the cost of just 45 yards. Tularosa on the other hand, lost 98 yards on nine penalty calls.
One other positive that the Tigers can take away from Friday was the passing game. Though pass coverage on defense holding Tularosa to one reception was great, the real plus was on offense. Quarterback Villa launched 19 and connected on 11 of them. There were six Tiger receivers in the game who grabbed at least one each and hung on. Top receiver, Cameron Zamora caught five of the eight thrown his way, Jesus Gomez was good on both passes Villa threw
to him. Top passing yards came when Devin Gonzalez snagged one for a gain of 44 yards. James Childress, Nick McIlrath and Josmar Avalos each had one, with Avalos taking his into the end zone.
It would be hard to give too much praise to the usually much vaunted Tigers’ defense in a game where they gave up 46 points but it wasn’t all bad news. There were a few absolutely stellar defensive plays where the Tigers showed that their legendary Blue Swarm would be back in action once again.
Now for one of the most dramatic and exciting finishes to a game that fans are likely to see. When all was looking grim, in the final minute of a game that threatened to be a shutout, the Tigers stepped up with an intensity that if maintained, will serve well through the season.
It was the final possession. After the visitors scored their final touchdown, their kickoff was picked up at about the 15 and returned 14 yards to the 29. The clock showed well under a minute. First and ten, a running play picked up a yard. The clock ticked down to 30 seconds left in the game. At second and nine and almost no time left Villa handed off the ball to Zamora who found a hole in the Wildcat line, busted through another de- fender at speed, and never looked back. When the visiting defenders caught up with him and dragged him to the ground at the ten yard line. In an incredible head’s up move, Zamora Immediately signaled for a time out. The clock was at 0:00.0 but he signaled before that an after conferring, the refs three seconds back on the clock. Those three seconds were all the Tigers needed. With a short bullet pass Villa fired over to the far side where Josmar Avalos plucked it out of the air and punched through three defenders to cross into the end zone as the clock expired putting the Tigers on the scoreboard, avoiding shutout and showing everyone, athletes, coaches and fans, just how exciting this team can be and what they are capable of.
Next up will be a road game at Thoreau, kicking off at 5 p.m. on Friday as this issue hits the streets. After that, in Tiger Stadium, Friday, September 6 is the Homecoming game with the Tigers defending their Den against visiting Crownpoint.