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Football: LA meets Taos to open district

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By Mike Cote

After a rough outing minus several key players, the Los Alamos Hilltopper football will try to bounce back in its District 2AAAA opener.

Los Alamos was without star running back Raul Rodriguez due to an ankle injury, as well as other three other offensive starters. It scored no offensive points in an 18-2 loss to the Albuquerque Academy Chargers last week.

Rodriguez isn’t expected back this week.

Friday, Los Alamos takes on the Taos Tigers. It’s the 2AAAA opener for both schools.

Ironically, both teams will probably view the other as a welcome sight this week.

The Tigers (1-5) have taken it on the chin for the bulk of 2008. Their only victory came in their homecoming game, topping the hapless Pojoaque Elks 48-28 Sept. 20.

In its five losses, Taos has been outscored 200-62. Its most recent outing, last Friday, Taos was thumped by Raton, 48-12.

The active Taos roster consists of just 23 players, but Taos will be taking on a light Los Alamos roster.

Hilltopper head coach Bob Scott praised quarterback Ryan Schleft’s management of the offense in his first start of the season last week. However, Scott said the team has to find a way to punch the ball into the end zone and do so without its top season scorers.

Los Alamos finished with 245 yards on the ground last week, but its best scoring chance, which came late in the game, was stuffed on the Academy 3-yard line.

Without Rodriguez, one of the leading rushers in the state whose specialties are cutting back and bouncing runs to the outside, the Hilltoppers stayed mostly between the tackles on offense. Zak Wilde and David Brock split the rushing duties in Rodriguez’s absence.

Scott said he isn’t planning on changing much.

“I think we’re going to keep doing what we’re doing,” he said. “With a whole new backfield, we’re starting fresh. We’ve got to get these guys work in practice, make the right reads and do the right stuff.”

Los Alamos’ defense has looked good at times this season and not so good at others.

The Hilltoppers allowed just one offensive score against the Chargers. The Chargers got their other scores on a punt return and a late-game defensive touchdown.

Heading into the season, Los Alamos (2-3) was projected to win the district. Even without its key players, it may yet still be able to do so.

Also in 2AAAA action this weekend, the Capital Jaguars, the reigning district champions, will take on the Española Valley Sundevils.

Capital (2-4) limps into that contest after a 50-35 loss to the Santa Fe Demons last week.

Española Valley (2-3), meanwhile, goes into Friday’s game after being crushed by Farmington 68-0. Its two wins this season came against Class AA Cuba and Class AAA Santa Fe Indian School.

Bernalillo, which at 3-2 currently has the only winning record among the teams in 2AAAA, plays Shiprock Friday. Los Alamos and Bernalillo play Oct. 24, a game the Spartans probably circled on their calendars a year ago after a 95-0 loss at Sullivan Field in 2007.