A week after picking up its first victory of the season, the Estancia High School football team suffered a 20-14 setback against the visiting Santa Rosa Lions.
The Bears turned the ball over three times and were called for several penalties in their Sept. 14 matchup with the Lions but still had a chance to win until an onside kick ran out of steam.
“This game hurt us a little bit,” Estancia head coach Stewart Burnett said.
Trailing 20-6 late in the fourth quarter and facing fourth-and-2 at the Lions 24-yard line, Estancia’s Cruz Moreno ran to his right before floating a pass to Garrett Noblitt in the end zone.
“That was a great play by Cruz and Garrett,” Burnett said.
Josh Thomas punched his way through the middle of the line to complete the 2-point conversion and the Bears were within 6 points with 2:40 remaining in the game.
But when Estancia (1-3) attempted an onside kick, the ball rolled to a stop a few inches shy of the required 10 yards.
The Lions (3-1) took possession and ran out the clock.
“We just needed a good gust of wind right there and we would’ve been in business,” Burnett said. “We had two and a half minutes left and all three timeouts.”
One stumbling block for the Bears—penalties—began at the outset of the game.
A holding penalty on the opening kickoff rescinded a good return by Andrew Lujan.
Estancia was called for five holding penalties in the first quarter, including one that wiped out a touchdown catch by Drayton Oberg.
Despite the flags, the Bears took an early 6-0 lead when Thomas’ 2-yard plunge capped their 10-play opening drive. Thomas led the Bears in rushing with 99 yards on 18 carries.
Two plays into Santa Rosa’s first possession, Estancia recovered a Lions’ fumble, but a pair of holding penalties stalled the drive and the Bears punted.
The Lions scored on their ensuing drive to take a 7-6 lead.
Estancia’s next possession ended with an interception, and late in the second quarter, the Bears got to the Lions 12-yard line before fumbling the ball away.
Santa Rosa then mounted a scoring drive to go up 13-6 at halftime.
“We shot ourselves in the foot over and over again,” Burnett said.
After the Lions scored their third TD early in the fourth quarter, the Bears got to midfield before throwing another interception.
“You can’t play good teams and make these kinds of mistakes,” Burnett said. “You can’t make the mistakes we made tonight against a mediocre team, you dang sure can’t make them against a good team.”
An interesting footnote for Estancia is the two girls on the team: sophomore Louise Wirsch and freshman Katelyn Garcia.
Garcia is a multi-sport athlete; Wirsch is a foreign-exchange student from Germany who said she’s never played football but played rugby back home.
The New Mexico Activities Association said there are about 50-60 girls statewide who play high school football, but Estancia is one of just a few schools with more than one female player.
Looking ahead, Burnett said his team has a lot of work to do, starting with a Sept. 21 trip to southeast New Mexico to face the Jal Panthers (1-3).
“I think if we can clean some of these things up we’ll be OK,” Burnett said. “We could be pretty stinking good.”
Ger has been writing and shooting photos of high school sports for The Independent for 15 years. His dedication to youth athletics goes beyond sports reporting. He is past president of East Mountain Little League and works as a baseball umpire. He lives in Edgewood with his family.