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For the second straight week, the Los Alamos Hilltopper football team was involved in a game that, on paper, appeared to be a pretty even match.
For the second straight week, that seemingly well-matched game turned into a blowout. There was one big difference this week, though: it was the Hilltoppers on the wrong end of that blowout.
The Santa Fe Demons scored two touchdowns in 1:06 span at the end of the first half and two more touchdowns in 1:30 at the start of the second half. The Hilltoppers mounted something of a comeback in the third quarter, but it wouldn’t be nearly enough as the Demons crushed the Hilltoppers 62-30 at Sullivan Field.
Los Alamos simply had no answer for the Santa Fe running duo of quarterback Jordan Booth-Homer and tailback Anthony Abeyta.
Abeyta, one of the top rushers in Class 4A, ran for 215 yards — a number that would’ve been significantly higher if not for him taking a 30-yard loss on a botched punt snap — and three touchdowns, while Booth-Homer went for 90 yards on 11 carries, including three touchdowns on four attempts running the ball in the second half.
The win by the Demons (3-4 overall, 2-0 in 2-4A) gives them a clear path to a district title and their first playoff berth since 1986. They still must beat Bernalillo Nov. 2 to win the district title outright, but the Spartans were dispatched by the Hilltoppers 34-0 last week in Bernalillo.
“It ain’t over,” Santa Fe head coach Ray Holladay said. “We have a huge nondistrict game against Moriarty (this week), then a huge game against Bernalillo. I’ve known (Bernalillo coach) Ken Noel since the mid-’80s and he’ll have his team ready. They’ll try to disrupt us and keep us from that district title.”
While Santa Fe can clinch with wins against the Spartans and the hapless Capital Jaguars in the season finale, the Hilltoppers are now in a position where they must beat Española Valley and Capital and, the far greater of their two problems, hope the Spartans beat the Demons by at least two touchdowns so they will have a chance to eek out a district title by way of tiebreaker.
But if the Demons’ performance at Sullivan Field Friday is any indication, that upset by Bernalillo will be hard to come by.
Should the Demons prevail against the Spartans and clinch the district title, Los Alamos (4-4 overall, 1-1 in 2-4A) would very probably be frozen out of the 4A playoffs. The Demons, even with a strong finish to the season, will most likely fall to the 12th and final spot in the 4A seeding and the Hilltoppers cannot go into the playoffs seeded ahead of the Demons, even if they were to finish with a better won-loss record.
Los Alamos trailed 28-8 at halftime, gaining only 100 total yards in the first two quarters. Los Alamos had two drives in the first half that went nowhere, fumbled on its first possession and threw a costly interception with under a minute to go in the second quarter.
The best Hilltopper drive of the first half resulted in a touchdown that gave them some life. Quarterback Brice Van Etten snuck into the end zone from a yard out following a 10-play drive that chewed up nearly 5-1/2 minutes.
It only took the Demons 2:07 to answer back, however. Abeyta ran the ensuing kickoff back 66 yards to the Hilltopper 23-yard line. Four plays later, Abeyta went in around the right side virtually untouched for an 11-yard score, giving the Demons a 22-6 edge.
With under a minute remaining in the half, Van Etten was picked by Andres Encinias at the Hilltopper 30.
Booth-Homer then found Daniel Jacquez at the goal line for his second touchdown toss of the half — Booth-Homer connected with Jacquez for a score on a nearly identical pass in the first quarter.
Booth-Homer went untouched, putting two beautiful juke moves on would-be Los Alamos tacklers as he took the second half kickoff 85 yards for a score.
Following a Los Alamos fumble at its own 46, Abeyta went up the middle one play later for a score that put the Demons up 42-8 just 90 seconds into the half.
With Los Alamos trailing 49-8 midway through the third, the Hilltoppers mounted a bit of a comeback and actually got themselves back in the game to some extent.
Van Etten hit Seth Drop for a 27-yard score with 4:33 left in the third quarter, then, after Drop scraped up an onside kick attempt, Arnoldo Ortiz scored from 3-yards out following a 38-yard Van Etten completion to Drop.
Ortiz, who had 104 yards on 15 carries Friday, scored again early in the fourth quarter to get Los Alamos back to within 49-30, but that would be the Hilltoppers last hurrah.
Van Etten was 8-for-19 passing for 133 yards — he was actually 7-for-10 at one point before the Hilltoppers were forced to throw low-percentage passes late. Drop finished with three catches for 77 yards.