In a game that went back and forth, the Estancia Bears had a lead four separate times in their Sept. 3 matchup against the visiting Capitan Tigers.

Bears quarterback Ja’Brae Boyer threw three touchdown passes, a career high, and he ran for a TD. Levi Burelsmith captured a personal best by hauling in two of Boyer’s TD throws, and Kody Larson caught one.

But a couple of bad breaks for Estancia allowed the Tigers to go home with the 34-26 victory.

Estancia head coach Stewart Burnett said the Bears did “some great things and some terrible things” in the game, adding, “But that’s who we’ve been so far. Every night when we come out, we’re playing two teams, we’re playing ourselves and then we’re playing whoever our opponent is that night—and we’ve gotta eliminate that second opponent.”

After Capitan took a 14-12 lead midway through the second quarter, Estancia drove down to the Tigers 31-yard line with less than a minute left in the half. But the Bears coughed up the football and Capitan recovered.

“Ya know, the dang fumble right there at the end of the first half, that just killed us,” Burnett said. “And that very well coulda been the difference in the game.”

The Tigers handed Estancia a gift at the start of the game when they fumbled the opening kickoff, and the Bears capitalized by driving downfield and scoring on Boyer’s first TD toss to Burelsmith.

Despite a Capitan defender all over him, Burelsmith grabbed the throw just inside the end zone to give the Bears an early 6-0 lead.

“I remember looking at it and just stretching out my long arms and trying to catch it,” Burelsmith said. “It was a really hard pass but I got it done.”

Capitan answered on its opening possession with a 62-yard touchdown run to go up 7-6.

The Bears responded with a three-play, 80-yard drive that was fueled by Daniel Chavez’ 40-yard run. He led the Bears’ ground game with 87 yards on seven carries. Boyer capped the drive with an 18-yard scamper that put the Bears ahead 12-7 at the end of the first quarter.

Estancia’s first possession of the second quarter went the wrong direction as the Bears started at the Tigers 45, but they got flagged twice for holding and once for a false start. The Bears then committed two consecutive bad snaps and ended with an incomplete pass that left them facing fourth-and-49 inside their own 20-yard line.

After the Bears punted, Capitan scored to go up 14-12. The Bears’ turnover on their ensuing possession at the Capitan 31 allowed the Tigers to maintain the lead at halftime.

The Bears started the third quarter with a drive that ended with Boyer’s 13-yard TD toss to Larson to put Estancia ahead 20-14. Capitan scored on its next drive to tie the game at 20-20.

The Bears took a 26-20 lead on Boyer’s second TD pass to Burelsmith—a 7-yard strike that capped a 10-play, 76-yard drive near the end of the third quarter.

“I’ve never done it before so it’s a milestone,” Boyer said about throwing three touchdown passes in the game. He completed six of nine passes for 92 yards.

Capitan scored on its next drive to make it 26-26 with 10:47 remaining in the game.

Estancia went nowhere on its next possession and was forced to punt. But the Capitan punt returner muffed the catch and the Bears recovered at midfield with just over 8 minutes left to play.

But after a conference among the officials, possession was awarded to Capitan.

“Kody struck him, and the ball came out,” Burnett said. “But the ref said, ‘Coach, the kid fielded the ball, your kid hit him, and the ball came out after the whistle.’ That was definitely a bad break.”

Eight plays later, Capitan scored the game-winning touchdown.

“Normally, I’m pretty pissed after a loss,” Burnett said. “But Capitan’s a dang good football team—that’s a very good football team, and that’s the best we’ve played by far.”