Estancia head coach Stewart Burnett had the Bears’ Oct. 21 homecoming matchup with Tularosa circled on his calendar since last December.
“I knew our season was gonna come down to tonight,” Burnett said after the Bears come-from-behind victory over the visiting Wildcats. “This was going to define our season one way or the other.”
Estancia scored first, but when Tularosa stormed ahead, the Bears needed to come up with their biggest rally of the season.
The Bears shut down their district rival with a solid defensive effort and a peddle-to-the-metal offensive performance that turned a double-digit deficit into an explosive 48-28 win—and they did it on a night when their quarterback was crowned homecoming king.
“This is probably one of the biggest games, I’m gonna say, I’ve ever been a part of, just cuz the simple fact that it’s homecoming,” Estancia quarterback Ja’Brae Boyer said. Boyer threw for 134 yards with two touchdowns and rushed for 132 yards on 26 carries with two touchdowns.
Aiden Boyle’s 80-yard touchdown run with 1:09 left in the game—Estancia’s fifth-consecutive unanswered TD since the second quarter—closed the gate on the Wildcats.
“It’s homecoming, you know, everybody’s here, and it’s a district game too, so it’s super-important,” Boyle said. Boyle led the Bears’ rushing attack with 168 yards on 9 carries.
The Bears started the game with a five-play opening drive that Josh Calhoon capped with a 20-yard touchdown run to give the home team an early 7-0 lead.
“I just punched it in going to the left,” Calhoon said. “At that time the energy was really, really good.” He finished with 135 yards on 20 carries.
But Tularosa put the Bears on their heels with three-straight touchdowns—one on a 73-yard pass—to go up 20-7 by the end of the first quarter.
“They were just rippin’ it down the field,” Burnett said of the Wildcats.
Boyer’s 2-yard TD run early in the second quarter cut the margin to 20-14.
“Big shout-out to the linemen, they put in all the work, all we had to do was find the hole and hit it,” Boyer said.
On Tularosa’s next drive. the Wildcats needed just one play—a 52-yard touchdown pass—to go up 28-14.
Then the Bears answered with three-consecutive touchdowns.
First, Boyer scored on an 8-yard run with 5:23 left in the first half. After the Bears recovered a Tularosa fumble, Boyer connected on a 29-yard TD pass to a wide-open Boyle to tie the score 28-28 with just over two minutes left.
On Tularosa’s next possession, Estancia defensive back Colin Pope made a nifty interception when he jumped up and wrestled the pass away from a Wildcats’ receiver to give the Bears the ball near midfield. That set up Estancia’s nine-play TD drive that ended with a hocus-pocus counter play at the Tularosa 6-yard line: Boyer handed-off to Calhoon who went to his left and then snuck the ball to Boyle who sprinted back around the right and into the end zone for a 34-28 lead at halftime.
It was all the points the Bears would need.
Estancia held Tularosa scoreless in the second half while tacking on two more TDs.
In the third quarter, Boyer capped an 11-play, 90-yard drive with a 6-yard TD toss to Seth Dunlap to make it 41-28.
It was Dunlap’s first-ever touchdown catch.
“It felt amazing, to get it in front of the home crowd, my first one, especially on homecoming, it was great,” Dunlap said.
“That 90-yard drive in the third quarter was huge, huge,” Burnett added.
After Estancia recovered another Tularosa fumble, Boyle burst through a hole wider than Highway 41 and streaked 80-yards for the Bears’ final touchdown.
“I saw a hole and then I saw Colin downfield blocking and I was like, ‘Yep, I’m gonna cut up-field and I got the 80-yard touchdown to secure the deal,” Boyle said.
“These guys, they never lost focus,” Burnett said of his team. “These guys played their tails off.”