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The Los Alamos Hilltopper football team gave away a critical contest Friday night and now must win this week over a tough opponent to keep any realistic hope of a playoff bid alive.
The Hilltoppers turned the ball over six times Friday night at Bernalillo, four times in the second half as they tried to battle back from a deficit against the Spartans. Additionally, the Hilltoppers lost approximately 70 yards of field position in a tight ballgame due to bad or mishandled snaps out of their “pistol” offensive formation.
All that spelled defeat for Los Alamos, which fell 24-21 to Bernalillo.
The loss immediately puts Los Alamos (1-6 overall, 0-1 in District 2AAAA) behind the 8-ball. Los Alamos had high hopes of pulling off a victory in its district opener Friday night, which, coupled with a win this week over Santa Fe, would’ve put it immediately in the driver’s seat for the district crown.
Now, Los Alamos must hope that every part of a convoluted scenario works out in its favor in order to have a crack at a district title: it must defeat Santa Fe, have Santa Fe defeat Bernalillo, and win the district’s complicated tiebreaking system. There are other scenarios in which Los Alamos could bounce back as well, but those include highly unlikely upsets by Capital over Santa Fe or Española Valley or Capital topping Bernalillo.
The Hilltoppers actually took the early lead over the Spartans (2-5, 1-0) with quarterback Kory Balog nailing tight end Topher Owens on a crossing route from 34 yards out. Owens outraced the Spartan secondary to the end zone to up the Hilltoppers up 7-0.
The score remained there until Bernalillo put together its best drive of the night, an impressive, clock-grinding 16-play scoring march which featured only rushes and short, safe passes. Bernalillo quarterback DeVante Thomas found fullback Joe Bonham on a short out route from the 6-yard line to tie the score.
Bonham would score all three of Bernalillo’s touchdowns Friday.
But the turnovers, miscues and penalties that have plagued the Hilltoppers all season were present and accounted for Friday night.
In successive drives in the third quarter, Los Alamos coughed up the ball in Bernalillo territory, the second leading to the Jose Platas field goal that would ultimately decide the game.
With time winding down in regulation, David Brock scored on a pitch-out from the Bernalillo 6 to cut the lead down to just three points. That score was set up by a fumble recovery by Hilltopper Casey Rael.
Immediately following the ensuing onside kickoff attempt, which failed, the Spartans inexplicably tried a complicated counter-trey handoff which went awry – three Bernalillo kneel-downs probably would’ve killed the game clock off. Los Alamos’ Ian Snyder crashed through the heart of the Bernalillo offensive line, nailed Thomas and forced a fumble, which Snyder then recovered.
With new life and 1:23 remaining, Los Alamos moved the ball down to the Bernalillo 25-yard line, but the last-ditch effort stalled there. Thomas intercepted a desperation pass on fourth down to end the contest.
In the other District 2AAAA contest Friday night, Santa Fe buried Española Valley, 50-0. A win by Santa Fe over Los Alamos this Friday at Sullivan Field would all but eliminate Los Alamos from playoff contention.