After getting shut out for the first time this season, followed by a fire-and-brimstone postgame message to his players, Estancia’s head football coach Stewart Burnett did not mince words about the situation facing his team.

“It’s now or never, we’re at the end of the rope,” Burnett said. “We’re either gonna do something with this season or we’re not.”

Burnett’s frustration was clear after Estancia (1-4) lost 20-0 to the visiting Socorro Warriors Sept. 17, leaving the Bears with their fourth-consecutive defeat after opening the season with a victory.

“We just haven’t played a complete game yet and we didn’t tonight,” Burnett said.

It was Estancia’s first meeting with Socorro since 2014.

Burnett described the Class 3A Warriors—who came in undefeated and have not lost a game since the 2019 3A state championship—as “some big dudes.”

“I had some concerns going into the game about our ability to move the ball,” Burnett said. “Their size and physicality, the way those guys come off the ball—the bottom line is, we went in knowing it was a pretty bad mismatch.”

Yet the Bears’ defense managed to keep Socorro at bay in the first half.

Estancia held the Warriors to a punt on their opening drive and forced them to turn the ball over on downs three times—including once inside the Bears 5-yard line.

In the second quarter, Bears defensive back Abelino Ortiz shut the door on a Socorro scoring opportunity by intercepting a pass in the end zone.

“I thought our defense was phenomenal in the first half,” Burnett said.

But Estancia’s offense never got on track. Two-consecutive first-half possessions ended with lost fumbles and three ended in punts—including two three-and-outs.

Socorro broke a 0-0 tie with a four-play drive to open the third quarter, fueled by a 52-yard run. The Warriors capped the drive with a 19-yard touchdown run.

Estancia’s Kody Larson returned the ensuing kickoff 59 yards to put the Bears at the Socorro 31-yard line. A personal foul by the visitors on the next play gave the Bears a first down at the Warriors 13. On the next play, Daniel Chavez burst around the left side and into the end zone, but the Bears were flagged for a holding penalty, negating the would-be touchdown.

Estancia got to the Socorro 4-yard line before turning the ball over on downs.

“We should’ve punched it in and scored and we didn’t,” Burnett said about the stalled drive.

On their following possession, the Warriors, starting at their own 4, mounted a 96-yard touchdown drive to extend their lead to 14-0.

Estancia’s Kody Larson, No. 11, darting downfield during his 59-yard third-quarter kickoff return in the Bears’ 20-0 loss to Socorro, Sept. 17, 2021. Photo by Ger Demarest.

Near the end of the third quarter, a skirmish broke out and both teams were flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct, a Socorro player was ejected, and Burnett benched one of his players—his tight end—who was in on the fray.

“We don’t have a backup tight end so that limited us,” Burnett said.

Socorro added one more touchdown in the fourth quarter.

Chavez led Estancia’s offense with 90 yards rushing on 20 carries.

“We did some good things, we just didn’t do enough to put anything together,” Burnett said, adding that the Bears must win the remainder of their games if they want to make the playoffs—which they’ve done every year since 2014.

“The good news is, this is not the first time we’ve been here,” he said. “The question is, can we dig out?”

The digging starts Sept. 24 when the Bears host the McCurdy School Bobcats.