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In 2010, the Bloomfield Bobcats came back from a late deficit with the Los Alamos Hilltopper football team needing just to run out the clock in the fourth quarter.
Friday night, the Hilltoppers found themselves in much the same position, backed up on their 4-yard line and clinging to a 1-point lead.
But on a long sideline route on third down, Bloomfield was flagged for pass interference. Then, three plays later, quarterback Danny Finn scrambled down the right side for a big 7-yard pickup to earn another first down which all but sealed the game for the Hilltoppers.
Los Alamos earned its first win of the season Friday, topping Bloomfield 21-20 at Sullivan Field.
Running back Arnoldo Ortiz said flashes of the 2010 game came back to him as the Hilltoppers were backed up deep in their own territory late.
“We really screwed it up in the end,” Oritz said of last season’s contest, in which Los Alamos led 15-12 with less than two minutes remaining and lost 19-15. “That really got to us in the heart. We showed (Friday) we had a lot of heart.”
Friday’s game was the first full game back for Ortiz, the team’s leading rusher for most of the 2010 season. Ortiz, who was sidelined through the most of the first three games – he entered briefly at the end of the previous week’s loss to Farmington – with a broken finger, had a huge showing Friday night, toting the ball 23 times for 136 yards and a 45-yard touchdown.
Ortiz’s touchdown, coming with 3:52 left in the third quarter, as well as his ensuing 2-point conversion, proved to be the difference in the game. For the score, Ortiz bounced an off-tackle play outside and rumbled down the right sideline to the end zone.
Los Alamos, for the first time this season, was able to control the line of scrimmage on offense, particularly the left side. On that side, Grant Washburn and John Gibson – who was injured late in the game – along with center Nate Robbins, got excellent push throughout, a big part of the reason Los Alamos was able to roll up 181 total rushing yards.
“That’s what we didn’t do last week,” said head coach Garett Williams. “This week, the offense moved the ball, got first downs and scored. Last week, the defense was on the field the whole time because we didn’t get anything going.”
Los Alamos got on the board late in the first quarter when Jared Mang dove in from 2 yards out, breaking a streak of six scoreless quarters.
Mang, a promising freshman wingback, scored twice Friday. Mang caught a swing pass from Finn, shook two tacklers about 10 yards from the line of scrimmage, and outran the remaining Bloomfield defense for a 53-yard score late in the first half, giving the Hilltoppers a 13-12 lead going into the break.
Bloomfield went almost exclusively with its ground game in the first half, despite having a strong-armed quarterback in Brandon Alcon.
The Bobcats (0-4) actually outgained the Hilltoppers by a considerable amount Friday, 303 total yards to 230.
But the Hilltopper defense came through big when it needed to, forcing three turnovers in the second half.
Bloomfield enjoyed good starting field position throughout the game, but in the third quarter Los Alamos popped the ball loose from Bloomfield’s leading rusher, fullback Luis Muñoz, twice in Hilltopper territory, once at the 35-yard line and another at the 27-yard line.
Muñoz ran for 167 yards on 25 carries and a touchdown, as well as a 66-yard dash to the 2 that set up Bloomfield’s first score.
But, along with the turnovers, the Bobcats’ offense also bogged down on several occasions when the Hilltopper defense started to sniff out their unimaginative offense.
Alcon finally started to throw the ball in the second half, mostly in desperation time. Alcon completed a 37-yard pass to Josh Archibeque, who climbed the ladder in between two Hilltopper defensive backs and made a juggling catch, setting up Bloomfield’s score with 6:37 left to put the Bobcats within one point.
Los Alamos took over possession with 3:48 remaining and clinging to the one-point lead, but found itself backed up to its own 4 before the big pass interference call on third down. Then Finn’s keeper around the right side on third-and-5 with 2:19 remaining all but salted the contest away.
“It feels good,” Oritz said of the Hilltoppers’ first victory after losing their first three contests by a combined 160-22. “We’ve been working hard. We’ve had a few good weeks of practice. This was well deserved.”
Los Alamos 21, Bloomfield 20
Bloomfield 6-6-0-8 — 20
Los Alamos 7-6-8-0 — 21
Bloom - Josh Archibeque 2 run (run failed), 7:20.
LA - Jared Mang 2 run (Mang kick), 3:15.
Bloom - Brandon Alcon 2 run (run failed), 4:37.
LA - Danny Finn 53 pass to Mang (kick failed), 1:16.
LA - Arnoldo Ortiz 45 run (Ortiz run), 3:52.
Bloom - Luis Muñoz 1 run (Alcon to Jacob Seitzinger), 4:58.