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It wasn’t a secret heading into Friday night’s game that the Los Alamos Hilltopper football team was a work in progress.
But, judging from its performance Friday, there is no shortage of things for Los Alamos to work on or progress to be made.
The Hilltoppers struggled to get their running game established, particularly the option, struggled with snapping the ball from their bread-and-butter pistol formation, and struggled for a good chunk of the night on defense against the Pojoaque Valley Elks.
The Hilltoppers fell to the Elks in their 2014 opener, 18-6 at Sullivan Field.
They were outgained by more than 2-to-1 on the offensive side and gave up too many big plays.
Perhaps the backbreaker came in the third quarter, however. Pojoaque Valley quarterback Chris Quintana, who had been the piston driving the offense up to that point, was ejected from the ballgame on a late hit against Los Alamos defensive tackle Andres Dow with 4:05 left.
Cold second-string quarterback Royce Nez came in from the bench. But on his first snap, a third-and-42 situation, Los Alamos retreated into deep coverage while Nez handed the ball off to tailback Darren Montoya. Montoya went untouched to near the first-down marker, bounced off three potential tacklers and scampered into the end zone.
That touchdown put the Elks up 12-0 at the time. The Hilltoppers would score early in the fourth quarter, but the Elks would tack on another touchdown with time winding down.
Friday’s game was a bizarre one, to say the least.
The two teams combined for 10 fumbles or interceptions and 20 accepted penalties and the ejection. Also, in the third quarter, Pojoaque Valley defensive lineman Elias Baca was hurt on a rushing play, was carried off the field on a backboard and stretcher, but went back into the game in the fourth quarter.
Los Alamos turned the ball over four times and lost it twice on downs.
The offense did, however, move the ball deep into Pojoaque Valley territory three times. Newcomer Jarrett Genero scored an apparent touchdown late in the third quarter, but that was called back because of holding penalty far away from the play, one of two touchdowns the Hilltoppers had called back.
Fullback Sam Ortiz was the offensive workhorse Friday, rushing 18 times for 112 yards, the vast of Los Alamos 142 yards total offense.
Los Alamos played freshman quarterback Jack Stewart most of the contest. Clay Singer played in the fourth quarter but he did engineer the touchdown drive with 8:29 remaining in the contest — that drive was capped by Genero’s 7-yard run around the left end.
For the Elks, they finished with 302 yards offense. Quintana rushed for 97 yards before being tossed, and Montoya rolled up 144 yards rushing on just five carries, including the long touchdown in the third quarter along with another 44-yard run to set up another Elk score.