Before the start of Estancia High School’s Sept. 27 homecoming football game, Luke Pope and Priscilla Padilla were crowned homecoming king and queen.

Then the game took an unusual turn.

The visiting Cloudcroft Bears (0-3) had showed up with only 10 players—high school football is played with 11—and when one of their players got hurt during the pregame warmups, that left them with nine.

“They were adamant that they wanted to play,” Estancia head coach Stewart Burnett said about Cloudcroft.

So, the officials suggested the two teams play with nine players against nine, the coaches agreed, and Estancia breezed through a mercy-rule shortened 52-0 walkaway rout.

“We were just trying to wrap our heads around this and figure out how to still get a game out of it,” Burnett said, adding that he had never coached a 9-on-9 game.

Referees explaining the 9-on-9 format to head coach Stewart Burnett and his assistant coaches. Photo by Ger Demarest.

Despite the downsized lineup, Estancia wasted no time dominating Cloudcroft.

Jake Zamora scored consecutive touchdowns on a 59-yard run and a 40-yard run. He tallied 103 yards rushing on just three carries.

Garrett Noblitt returned consecutive Cloudcroft punts for touchdowns and the Bears were up 30-0 in the first quarter.

“It’s really weird,” Estancia running back Andrew Lujan said on the sidelines between plays, adding, “It’s my last homecoming though, so it’s awesome.”

Lujan had only one official carry for 8 yards, though he did have a 55-yard run on the second play of the game nullified by a penalty.

In the second quarter, Burnett put in some of his younger players with similar results: freshman Christian Salas scored on a 5-yard run; sophomore Nathaniel Montoya scored on a 50-yard run; and sophomore Abelino Ortiz scored on a 10-yard run.

“Our last three touchdowns came from kids who had their first varsity action,” Burnett said. “That’s stuff they’ll remember forever.”

Burnett said that despite the nine-on-nine format and lopsided score, it was a good opportunity for the Bears.

“It was a little different, but we were able to turn it into a real positive,” Burnett said.

Estancia (4-2) hosts the Capitan Tigers (1-4) on Oct. 4.