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Football falls to Capital in season finale

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By Phil Scherer

The Los Alamos High School varsity football team entered Friday’s regular season finale against Capital High School with a chance to earn a playoff spot for the first time since 2011.

The Hilltoppers came into the game with a 6-3 record, with a chance of winning District 2-5A, and a better chance of earning an at-large bid to the playoffs with a victory.

As the game went along, however, the Hilltoppers watched those dreams slowly slip away, as Capital won the game, and the district, ending any chance of LAHS slipping into the 12-team Class 5A playoff field.

Things may not have ended the way the Hilltoppers envisioned, but the team could not have asked for a better start.

After trading punts on the first two possessions of the game, the Hilltoppers took over past midfield and cashed in almost immediately, as quarterback Dylan Irish ran the ball in from 37 yards out to put LAHS up 7-0 early.

LAHS forced another punt by Capital on the ensuing drive, and got right back to work on offense. The three-headed rushing attack of Irish, Ryan McNeil and Jack Stewart moved the Hilltoppers down the field without much resistance. It took eight plays to get LAHS to the 2-yard line, and on the ninth play of the drive, Irish ran the ball in from two yards away.

His second rushing touchdown of the first quarter put the Hilltoppers on top 13-0, after the extra point attempt sailed wide to the left.

Following the second LAHS touchdown, Capital head coach Bill Moon made an adjustment on offense, going with a faster tempo in an attempt to wear down the Hilltopper defense, which was unable to make many substitutions.

The strategy paid off almost immediately, as the Jaguars were able to run right down the field in 10 plays and score on a 7-yard touchdown run by Luke Padilla to cut the LAHS lead to 13-7.

There was confusion on the second play of the Hilltoppers’ following drive, as the ball was snapped before Irish was ready to receive it, and it sailed over the heads of the offense. Before LAHS had a chance to react, the Jaguars’ defense was on top of the ball, putting Capital in business deep in Hilltopper territory.

Five plays later, Padilla was standing in the end zone once again, and Capital had a 14-13 lead.

After Capital added another touchdown on its next drive to take a 21-13 lead, the Hilltoppers made an attempt to get back into the game right before halftime.

LAHS took over at its own 30-yard line, and got moving in a hurry as Irish threw a pass to Stewart that went for 44 yards and got the Hilltoppers into scoring position. Four plays later, Stewart took a pitch out of the backfield and made a move to the left, sprinting into the end zone untouched.

At halftime, the Hilltoppers trailed 21-19.

Coming out of the locker room, LAHS was unable to match the intensity of Capital and began falling further and further behind.

Outside of being worn down, the Hilltoppers had other factors working against them as the team attempted to make a comeback. LAHS played the entire second half without Irish and Stewart, both of whom sustained leg injuries at the end of the first half.

In their absence, quarterback Kayden Rivera and running back Preston Brwon played big roles, but were unable to get the LAHS offense moving down the field.

Capital took full advantage, scoring four unanswered touchdowns in the second half, and winning 47-19.

The Hilltoppers end the season with a record of 6-4, and 2-2 in district play. It is the first winning season for LAHS since 2012.

Capital will be the lone representative from District 2-5A in the Class 5A playoff field, earning the No. 12 seed in the tournament with its district championship.