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SANTA FE – In the first half of Friday’s game, it was the Santa Fe Demons who couldn’t do anything right.
But those miscues were corrected at halftime and after the break it was all Santa Fe.
The Los Alamos Hilltopper football team had a chance to take a big step toward regaining the District 2-4A title it lost in 2012, but had no answer for the power rushing game of the Demons in the second half.
Los Alamos took a 9-0 lead into the locker room at the break, but the Demons scored on four straight possessions in the second half to win going away, 28-9, at Ivan Head Stadium.
Santa Fe, which features a huge offensive line, wore the Hilltopper defensive front seven down throughout the contest and in the second half its rushing game was a model of efficiency.
That was in stark contrast to the first half, when Santa Fe put the ball on the ground five times and Los Alamos’ defense stopped the Demon offense on two big possessions deep in Hilltopper territory.
Now, with the loss, the Hilltoppers’ chances to advance to the postseason are tenuous at best. The Hilltoppers (2-6 overall, 1-1 in 2-4A) now must beat both Española Valley and Capital and hope the Demons trip up in one of their last two district games.
One of the keys going into Friday’s contest was whether Los Alamos could push back at the line of scrimmage against Santa Fe, which boasts size, power and experience, such as senior center Johnny Loera, who is listed at 280 pounds.
Running behind Loera, Santa Fe’s deep backfield corps rushed for 201 yards in the second half. Fullback Mario Holladay scored twice in the second half, including Santa Fe’s final touchdown, a 35-yard run around left end with the Hilltopper defense crashing the middle on a fourth-and-2.
Holladay finished with 146 yards on the ground behind the Demons’ impressive offensive line.
Los Alamos met Santa Fe (3-5 overall, 2-0 in 2-4A) under identical circumstances in 2012 and in that game Santa Fe also dominated on the ground.
The biggest blow of the game for Los Alamos came early in the fourth quarter right after the Demons took their first lead.
On the next Hilltopper possession, which started at their 21-yard line, Los Alamos lost two yards on its first two plays, then a bad snap to quarterback Brice Van Etten, running the offense out of the pistol formation, put Los Alamos back at its own 6.
On fourth down, the Hilltoppers’ punt was shanked, hit the ground at the 12-yard line and rolled backward to the Hilltopper 2. Demon quarterback Taylor Cherwinski dove in from a yard out three plays later to give the Demons a 21-9 edge.
Even in the first half with all of Santa Fe’s miscues, the Demons moved the ball effectively on the ground, picking up 182 yards.
It had been a huge game for Hilltopper defensive tackle Jonathan Schueler, who had three tackles for loss in the first half to go along with a half a sack. he shared with Peter Brewer.
Los Alamos linebacker Elliot Hersman also had a sack in the first half. In the second half, Santa Fe didn’t even attempt to drop back for a pass.