After an extended offseason full of postponements, disappointments, and Zoom and weight room workouts, the long-awaited Covid-delayed high school football season kicked off last weekend.
In this unprecedented spring football experience, Moriarty came up short on the road in its March 5 season opener, and both Estancia and Mountainair won big on March 6—the Bears on a neutral field, and the Mustangs at home.
The typical fanfare of season-opening football games was missing—there were no bands or cheerleaders—but there were a few fans thanks to the recent easing of restrictions by the state.
“It was nice to actually get a kickoff, get a game played and actually see something real,” Estancia head football coach and athletic director Stewart Burnett said.
The Bears demolished their new district foe Questa at Capital High School’s stadium in Santa Fe in a 58-0 blowout that ended at halftime on the mercy-rule.
Estancia got into the end zone on its second play from scrimmage on a 15-yard scamper by senior Jake Zamora. On the first play of the Bears’ second possession, Marino Rivera-Noblitt burst through the line for a 53-yard touchdown—and the rout was on.
Zamora added a 48-yard TD on the next drive and Kody Larson returned a kick for a TD following a safety.
Rivera-Noblitt tallied 72 yards rushing on three carries and two TDs; Zamora finished with 67 yards on three carries and two TDs.
Burnett said his goal was to spread the ball around and get his underclassmen some playing time—and despite the game ending at halftime, it was a good warm up to get ready for the Bears’ next opponent, Santa Rosa on March 13.
“All things considered, the fact that we played was pretty monumental,” Burnett said.
Moriarty was originally scheduled to open its season against Portales on a neutral field in Santa Rosa. But a last-minute schedule change moved the game to Eastern New Mexico University’s Greyhound Stadium in Portales, where the Pintos played their first Friday night football game under the lights since 2019.
The Pintos put up a good battle, especially on defense, but could not get the ball into the end zone, and lost 21-0.
Portales scored on its opening drive, but Moriarty’s defense held the Rams scoreless the rest of the first half and the Pintos only trailed 6-0 at halftime.
Portales returned the opening kickoff of the third quarter 75 yards for a touchdown to go up 13-0. The Rams added another TD on their final drive with 4:08 left in the game.
“You know, our kids played hard and for the short amount of preparation we had, I thought that our defense played very well,” Moriarty head coach Gabe Romero said. “Offensively, we did a decent job of moving the ball, there was just some missed execution that we’ve gotta clean up.”
Moriarty got inside the Portales 20-yard line three times but came up empty-handed on each drive.
“If we do a better job in the red zone, it’s a totally different game,” Romero said.
The Pintos had 209 total yards and outgained the Rams on the ground with 167 yards rushing to 143. Moriarty’s Malcolm Denomme tallied 100 yards on 19 carries, Romero said.
Moriarty suffered a setback when senior Justin Carmona—who plays offense, defense, and returns kicks on special teams—left the game with an elbow injury in the third quarter. Carmona’s father said Justin’s elbow was very swollen and bruised but X-rays were inconclusive.
“That’ll be a big blow for us if he can’t continue,” Romero said of Carmona, adding, “He just brings so much.”
The Pintos are scheduled to host Española Valley on March 13 at 1 p.m.
“We’re hoping we’ll be green or yellow and we’ll have some fans for our first home game,” Romero said. Torrance County’s current designation is green, but depends on the numbers of cases of coronavirus, negative tests and vaccinations.
Mountainair opened its season with a 64-18 romp over the Springer-Maxwell Devils.
It was the Mustangs’ first game on its home field since Nov. 1, 2019. Mountainair has returned to playing six-man football, where the Mustangs were state champs in the early 1990s.
The Mustangs play Roswell’s Gateway Christian on March 13.