Estancia High School running back Marino Rivera-Noblitt had two huge touchdowns in the Bears’ matchup against the Class 3A Raton Tigers on March 20 at home. But those two TDs were the only points Estancia could muster as Raton handed the Bears a 36-12 defeat.

It was Estancia’s first home game since the first round of the Class 2A state playoffs on Nov. 2, 2019.

It was also the Bears’ second loss in a row in this Covid-delayed spring football season.

But Estancia head coach Stewart Burnett said the Bears’ win-loss record at this point is less important than the fact that they are playing a season—especially for the team’s two starting seniors, Isidro Astorga and Jacob Zamora.

“It’s just about playing,” Burnett said. “Letting guys play, working on stuff, developing kids as we get ready for our fall season, and letting guys like Isidro and Jacob play.”

Raton struck first, scoring a touchdown on its opening drive and adding a field goal late in the first quarter for a 10-0 lead.

Estancia’s offense took a while to find its footing, punting on three of its first four possessions and turning the ball over on downs on the other.

On defense, Kody Larson grabbed an interception midway through the first quarter and Zamora picked off a pass in the second quarter.

Zamora’s interception gave the Bears the ball just inside their own 20-yard line.

Three plays later, Rivera-Noblitt found a seam on the right side, sprinted 75 yards down the sideline and into the end zone to cut Raton’s lead to 10-6.

“I just ran my hardest through a big hole, did my job,” Rivera-Noblitt said.

Raton responded with an 11-play, 68-yard scoring drive to go up 16-6 at halftime.

The Bears were on the cusp of stopping Raton on its opening drive of the third quarter, but the Tigers converted on fourth-and-6 from their own 40-yard line. Raton got into the end zone four plays later.

After Raton scored two more TDs, the Bears trailed 36-6 when Rivera-Noblitt scored his second TD on a 52-yard run with 1:49 left in the game. Rivera-Noblitt finished with 178 yards on 16 carries.

Estancia junior Roman Moran made his first appearance in a varsity game and got the start at quarterback.

“It’s his first game he’s ever played with us,” Burnett said of Moran. “He’s a tremendous athlete, great kid, he does some good things.”

Estancia’s defenders trying to stop Raton’s running back. Photo by Ger Demarest.

Burnett added that with only two seniors, most of his players are underclassmen who are still “learning lessons in spades.”

“I thought the defense played pretty dang good, but the offense just didn’t give the defense a lot of help,” Burnett said. “We’re young, and where we’re not young we’re inexperienced.”

The Bears host the Class 3A Hope Christian Huskies on March 26 at 7 p.m.