After getting shut out for the second consecutive week, Estancia High School’s head football coach Stewart Burnett said, “It’s not how you start, it’s how you finish.”
The Bears suffered a 38-0 home-opening defeat Aug. 30 at the hands of the Eunice Cardinals but Burnett brushed aside any notions that it’s the beginning of the end.
“I really could not care less about winning games in August,” he said.
The Bears surrendered 88 unanswered points in their first two games—they lost their Aug. 23 season opener 50-0 at Hatch Valley—and are starting out with an 0-2 record for the third consecutive year.
“I can’t think of anything that has less relevance,” Burnett said, adding that the games really start mattering next week.
Estancia’s defense played well against the Cardinals, the two-time Class 2A defending state champions.
The Bears held the Cardinals and their explosive left-handed quarterback Mason Caperton scoreless in the first quarter and allowed Eunice just 16 points in the first half.
The Bears picked off one of Caperton’s passes and recovered three Eunice fumbles in the game.
But Estancia’s offense never got on track. In 14 offensive possessions, the Bears punted nine times, lost three fumbles, and turned the ball over on downs twice.
The Bears had just two first downs the entire game, both coming on a nine-play drive early in the second quarter that stalled near midfield.
“If our offense can give the defense a little bit of help, we’ll be a pretty salty group,” Burnett said.
The Bears had a golden opportunity in the third quarter when a high snap flew over Caperton’s head and rolled inside the Eunice 5-yard line where it was recovered by Estancia’s Kody Larson—his second fumble recovery of the game—giving the Bears first-and-goal.
But Estancia fumbled the ball and Eunice recovered.
The Cardinals scored three plays later to go up 24-0.
The loss marks the third consecutive year the Bears have dropped their second game of the season to the Cardinals.
After the game, Burnett huddled his team in the north end zone and gave his players an encouraging sermon.
“Pick your heads up,” Burnett told his players. “If you will show up and come to work every day, I promise you it will get better.”
One of the last things Burnett said to his players was that they’d be practicing, lifting weights and analyzing film on Labor Day.
“Guys, the doors will open at 5:45, I want bars loaded and ready to move at 6,” Burnett said to his team.
Burnett confirmed that every one of his players showed up.
Senior running back Andrew Lujan, who sat out the first two games with a shoulder injury, should be ready to go for Estancia’s next game Sept. 6 at Escalante (1-1).
“We will be OK, I believe that,” Burnett said. “We have the solution in place, we’ve just got to get through it.”
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.