Everything was going Moriarty’s way at the start of its March 27 road matchup against the Albuquerque Academy Chargers. The Pintos got into the end zone twice in the first quarter and were sitting on a 14-0 lead with the home team on its heels.

But then the pendulum of momentum swung the other way, and when time expired in the fourth quarter the game ended similarly to how the season started: with the Pintos playing hard but coming up on the short end of a 20-14 loss.

On their first two possessions, the Pintos used their running attack to blow past the Chargers, capping their opening drive with a 31-yard sortie into the end zone by Matthew Romero.

“It all happened so quickly,” Romero said. “I started heading for the hole and I saw a player from Academy coming and luckily I had Gray [Wolf], he’s my lead blocker on that, he goes and picks him up and from there it was wide open.”

Romero tallied 82 yards rushing on 13 carries.

The Pintos capped their next drive with a touchdown run by Cayden Dunn, followed by a 2-point conversion by Wolf.

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Dunn had a game-high 108 yards rushing on 18 carries. Wolf added 39 yards on 10 carries.

“We started off good, started off strong, jumped on them 14-0,” Moriarty head coach Gabe Romero said. “We just marched our way downfield with nice drives, the way we want to.”

The Pintos’ ground game racked up 229 yards, more than double Academy’s rushing yards.

But it was the Chargers’ passing attack that ultimately swung the momentum, and the victory, their way.

In the second quarter, Academy’s sophomore quarterback, Andres Rivera, connected on a 29-yard touchdown pass to cut Moriarty’s lead in half.

On the ensuing kickoff, the Chargers scooped up an onside kick and mounted another scoring drive—kept alive by a fourth-and-21 completion by Rivera.

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Academy scored on a 1-yard TD run to tie the game 14-14 at halftime.

“Things were looking good and then, you know, they hit a couple of pass plays and ended up scoring on us,” coach Romero said. “You could just see it, they got the momentum and we kinda lost it.”

The Chargers took the lead for good in the third quarter when they put together a 68-yard drive that was boosted by a pair of Rivera pass completions and culminated with a 5-yard touchdown run.

The Pintos had two chances for a comeback in the fourth quarter but were unable to capitalize on either possession.

One drive ended on fourth-and-2 at the Academy 11 when Wolf was stopped for no gain.

Cayden Dunn, No. 23, trying to get past oncoming defenders during the Pintos’ loss at Academy, March 27. Photo by Ger Demarest.

Then, after recovering a Chargers fumble at midfield with 1:11 remaining, the Pintos moved the ball inside the Chargers 30-yard line.

But on fourth-and-6 at the 29-yard line with :29 left, freshman quarterback Amare Gonzales rolled to his right and was sacked by a swarm of Academy defenders.

Moriarty, who lost several key seniors from the roster over the last few weeks, started the game with multiple underclassmen, and coach Romero said that played a role in the loss.

“I think our youth definitely caught up with us today—we’re extremely young,” Romero said. “The team we started the year with, they played well, then we ended up with a couple injuries and we got young very, very quick.”

Matthew Romero also used “quick” to sum up the four games the Pintos played in this Covid-postponed spring season.

“It came so quick,” Matthew Romero said. “I’m at a loss of words on how quickly it came and how quickly it went already.”

Following Moriarty’s loss at Academy, the New Mexico Activities Association—having decided to replace the traditional high school football postseason with a final “bowl game”—paired the Pintos up with the Taos Tigers.

The Pintos played at Taos April 1.