Late in the fourth quarter of Moriarty’s Oct. 29 matchup with the visiting Taos Tigers, the Pintos held a 35-14 lead.

With a district title awaiting the winner, Pintos defensive coordinator Peter Romero yelled to the team from the sideline: “Let’s go finish this!”

Taos had the potential to score quickly, burning the Pintos earlier in the game with two touchdown passes of 50 yards or more, and Romero knew it was time for Moriarty’s defense to slam the door.

The Pintos came up with two monstrous defensive stops in the final minutes—including a safety—to knock off Taos 37-14.

“It was just a great, great team effort on all facets of the game, and I can’t say enough about the hard work that these kids have put in,” Moriarty head coach Gabe Romero said.

With the win, Moriarty finished the regular season with a 6-2 record, 3-0 in District 2-4A. It’s the Pintos’ best record since 2017 and their first district title in six years.

“Oh, it’s huge,” Moriarty quarterback Amare Gonzales said about the victory and the district crown. “It’s been a while, like, last year we didn’t have a winning season and we got smacked by them, so it feels good to smack them.”

The Pintos scored touchdowns on their first three possessions and built a 21-7 lead at halftime.

Taos cut the deficit to 21-14 early in the third quarter on a 50-yard touchdown pass.

Kenneth Poyner’s 19-yard touchdown run midway through the third quarter pushed the Pintos’ lead to 28-14.

In the fourth quarter, Michael Magoffe kept a drive alive with a 39-yard run on third-down, followed by a 22-yard burst on fourth-and-13 to help the Pintos march downfield to the Taos 11-yard line. Two plays later, Gonzales capped the drive with a 10-yard jaunt to make it 35-14 with 4:56 left in the game.

“I just saw a great hole and I took it,” Gonzales said.

After that, Moriarty’s defense doused whatever spark Taos had left.

Taos got close to midfield with four minutes remaining, but Poyner came up with a quarterback sack on third down, and then Isaiah Quintana broke up a deep pass attempt when the Tigers went for it on fourth down.

On the Tigers’ final possession, facing third-and-10 from their own 10-yard line, Moriarty sealed the victory when Royal Page plowed through the line of scrimmage, chased Taos’ quarterback into his own end zone, grabbed him by his jersey and forced him to chuck the ball out of bounds. The officials ruled it intentional grounding in the end zone resulting in a safety.

“So, on the previous play, I had the perfect opportunity to sack him in the end zone and I missed him, and I told coach, ‘I’m gonna get him this time,’” Page said. “So, I tried as hard as I could and I went in and got him, and I was just holding on to him cuz I really wanted that one.”

The Pintos scored on their opening drive of the game on Cayden Dunn’s 42-yard touchdown run.

“I cut through a hole and their safety came up trying to get me, and I just put a move on him and got in the end zone,” Dunn said.

Taos answered with a 55-yard TD pass to knot the score at 7-7 at the end of the first quarter.

Dunn capped Moriarty’s next drive with a 2-yard plunge to take a 14-7 lead midway through the second quarter.

Matthew Romero scored on a 2-yard run with 2:22 left in the first half to put the Pintos up 21-7.

Moriarty’s Andres Lopez eluding a streak of Tigers during the first quarter of the Pintos’ win over Taos, Oct. 29, 2021. Photo by Ger Demarest.

Matthew Romero exited the game in the third quarter with an injury after a hard hit. He said he didn’t remember much about the play.

“I remember getting the ball and bubbling out, and that’s it until I was on the Pintos’ side of the field,” Matthew Romero said. He was taken to the hospital and said he suffered a concussion and a broken collarbone.

The Pintos’ rushing attack piled up 344 yards against the Tigers, with Dunn leading the way with 89 yards on six carries. Magoffe added 68 yards on 4 carries; Andres Lopez added 62 yards on 11 carries, and Poyner chipped in 61 yards on 17 carries.

After dropping their first two games of the season to Class 6A Santa Fe and 5A Capital, the Class 4A Pintos won their next six games. Moriarty subsequently got the No. 4 seed and a first-round bye in the upcoming 4A state playoffs. It’s the first time the Pintos have earned a high enough seed to get a first-round bye since 2016.

“It’s all the hard work by these kids,” head coach Gabe Romero said. “The kids have been really doing a great job.”

The Pintos will host the 4A state quarterfinals on Nov. 12 against the No. 5 Albuquerque Academy Chargers (8-2, 3-1) who knocked off No. 12 Bernalillo (5-5, 1-3) in the Nov. 5 opening round.