On a night packed with big offensive plays, Moriarty’s defense produced its biggest stop of the season as the Pintos got past the visiting No. 12 Farmington Scorpions 27-26 last Friday in the Class 5A state quarterfinal.

“It’s honestly the coolest thing ever, it’s awesome,” Moriarty running back Allen Michel said after the victory. Michel had 20 carries for 100 yards.

The Pintos held a 27-20 fourth-quarter lead when Scorpions quarterback Kody Becenti threw a 52-yard touchdown pass—his fourth of the game and 33rd of the season—to trim the deficit to 1 point with 1:12 remaining.

Farmington gambled on a go-ahead 2-point conversion attempt rather than tie the score with a point-after-touchdown kick.

Becenti took the snap, rolled to his right looking for a receiver in the end zone and then tucked the ball and tried to run it in.

But before Becenti reached the goal line he was buried under a blanket of kelly green. Moriarty linebacker Santiago Mora hit Becenti first—followed by Daniel “Keno” Anaya and Elijah Tapia—to preserve the victory.

sp mor fb DSC09166“When [Becenti] had no open receivers he tried to cut in so I flew in on him,” Mora said.

“We all swarmed him,” added Tapia. “Santi got to him first, and me and Keno made sure he wasn’t getting in.”

“I knew we were going to hold them, I just had a feeling,” said Moriarty skipper Joe Anaya, who picked up his first-ever playoff victory as a head coach and Moriarty’s first playoff win since 2013. “I knew we were going to come up with something big.”

The Pintos went up 27-20 on Michel’s only touchdown of the game—his team-leading 20th of the season—with 4:17 remaining.

Moriarty seemed to have the game in hand when its defense stopped the Scorpions on their ensuing possession and the Pintos took over on downs with 2 minutes to go.

But two plays later Michel fumbled the ball and the Scorpions recovered at midfield with 1:28 left. “It was just two hard-hitting teams going at it till the end,” Michel said.

The Pintos fell behind Farmington early in the third quarter after Becenti capped a 71-yard drive with his third touchdown pass to put the Scorpions up 20-13.

The Pintos knotted the score at 20 on the first play of the fourth quarter when sophomore fullback Matt Smith broke free for a 32-yard touchdown. “I followed the pulling guard and hit the hole and did what I had to do,” Smith said.

The Pintos took an early 7-0 advantage on the second play of their opening drive when Tapia ran around the right side and raced down the sidelines for a 53-yard TD.

“We came out fired up,” Tapia said. “It kinda set the tempo for us.”

Early in the second quarter Tapia swept around the right side again, darted back toward the middle of the field and galloped 67 yards to the end zone to give the Pintos a 13-0 cushion. Tapia had 10 carries for a game-high 161 yards.

Becenti connected on a pair of TD passes to tie the score 13-13 at halftime.

“Even when they went up 20-13 I knew we were still OK,” Coach Anaya said. “We had the wind at our back, and things were starting to pop for us, but we all knew it was going to be a nail-biter.”

The Pintos travel to Las Cruces on Friday to face the top-ranked Centennial Hawks in the 5A semifinals.

Moriarty’s athletic department is providing a spirit bus with free rides to Las Cruces for MESD staff and students on a first-come, first-served basis. For more information call 832-5951.

Leota Harriman
Leota Harriman

Leota started working for The Independent in 2006, working her way up through the ranks. An employee buyout in 2010 led to her ownership of the newspaper. Leota has served on the board of the N.M. Press Association, and is currently its First Vice President. She is passionate about health and wellness, especially mental health, and loves making art. She can be reached at [email protected]