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Head coach Garett Williams knew the Los Alamos Hilltoppers football team was young and lacked varsity experience.
But after a 59-22 drubbing at the hands of the Pojoaque Elks Saturday afternoon, Williams has to hope his team matures in a hurry.
The Hilltoppers faced plenty of adversity from the onset. Dressing only 25 players, Los Alamos tried to deal with the heat, injuries and expulsions to its top players, but it had no way of stopping Pojoaque’s offense, which rolled up a whopping 428 yards.
“These young kids are going to have to grow up fast,” Williams said. “The older guys we have have to get healthy and we also have older guys getting their first chance at varsity football. They have to step up.”
Meanwhile, the victory was sweet for the Elks.
“This was huge,” Pojoaque head coach Patrick Rodriguez said. “It was a great way to start the year. We lost to them big last year, so this was great.”
Los Alamos pounded Pojoaque 40-0 in the season opener in 2010. But Saturday, things just went from bad to worse for Los Alamos (0-1).
The Hilltoppers lost fullback David Knapp, who scored two touchdowns in the first half, early in the third quarter because of a groin strain. Williams said Knapp will be OK.
Los Alamos also lost junior lineman Grant Washburn in the first quarter after he was thrown out for unsportsmanlike conduct.
“That was just being undisciplined and selfish,” Williams said.
The Hilltoppers started out OK on defense, forcing the Elks to a three and out on their first drive.
Los Alamos took over on offense with freshman Danny Finn at the controls and immediately showed its youth as it committed three straight penalties — two illegal motion calls and a false start,
On offense, Pojoaque varied its formations and quarterback Louie Martinez got the Elks on the scoreboard with a 37-yard run. Michael Young added the two-point conversion for an 8-0 margin with 6:53 left in the stanza.
Los Alamos fumbled the ensuing kickoff and Pojoaque took advantage, going 40 yards in six plays with Robert Ortiz scoring from a yard out. The Elks added another two-pointer for a 16-0 lead with 5:29 left.
Knapp gave the Hilltoppers some life on the next possession, busting through the Elks’ defense on a 68-yard score.
Knapp also added the two-pointer to climb within 16-8.
But Los Alamos could not stop Pojoaque.
In the second quarter, the Elks scored on a 47-yard run by Martinez and a 4-yard plunge by Mario Ugidi.
Martinez finished with 163 yards rushing and Ugidi added 133 on the ground.
“That was my idea,” Rodriguez said. “We like to mix up the formations and spread them across the field.”
Knapp later scored from the Pojoaque 2 to cut the Pojoaque lead to 30-14, but Ugidi scored again 38 seconds before halftime for a 36-14 margin.
By the break, the Hilltoppers were gassed as many of them held their hands by their sides trying to catch their breath.
“I was not pleased with the effort,” Williams said. “The young kids have to adjust to the speed. We are just especially young.”
In the second half, the Hilltoppers lost Knapp in their first possession. The Elks took advantage of two muffed punts and 80-yard interception return by Ryan Wolf by the Hilltoppers for easy scores. Los Alamos’ lone bright spot of the second half came on a 79-yard touchdown pass from Finn to Jake Downs.
The heat also was a factor for both teams especially in the second half as numerous players cramped up.
Finn completed 4 of 16 passes for 153 yards, but threw three interceptions. In all, Los Alamos had six turnovers, but generated 253 yards of offense.
Things won’t get any easier for Los Alamos this week, as it travels to face perennial Class 4A power Aztec Friday. Aztec closed out Los Alamos 52-0 last season.
“We will see how they respond,” Williams said. “We will show up on Monday and get ready for next week.”