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SANTA FE - Less than a minute and a half into Friday's game, Martin Romero took a handoff and ran 74 yards for the Los Alamos Hilltopper football team.
It appeared to be the making of another long night.
It was. For Los Alamos.
The Capital Jaguars, regarded as a potential threat to the Hilltoppers for District 2AAAA dominance going into the season, but who had fallen short of expectations, more than lived up to them Friday night at Jaguar Field.
Following Romero's touchdown, Capital would march down the field on five straight possessions, doing virtually anything and everything it wanted to.
Only a late flurry of long touchdown passes from Hilltopper quarterback Jeremy Kasik and a merciful kneel-down by Jaguar quarterback Marc Moulton at the end of the game kept the final score respectable.
When the dust had settled, it was the Jaguars 50, the Hilltoppers 30.
Los Alamos head coach Bob Scott offered no excuses following Friday's game.
"They got beat by a better team," he said flatly. "If we'd come out in the first half like we did in the second half, it might have been different. We just didn't get off the bus."
Scott made no bones about whether the Hilltoppers might have taken the Jaguars lightly.
"That's crap," Scott said. "You can print that."
Capital's coaching staff, headed by 1994 Los Alamos High School graduate Stephen Castille, put together the perfect game-plan, hitting the Hilltoppers in their big weak spot, the defensive secondary.
The Jaguars ran numerous early short- and middle-length flood routes, and moved Moulton around to keep him away from Los Alamos' pass pressure that is most effective right up the middle.
With the Hilltoppers up 8-0, Moulton hit Niko Pacheco on a deep fade route from 28 yards to tie the score.
Los Alamos did little with its remaining possessions of the half. Capital, which is very small but quick in the defensive front, was able to string out wings Romero and Raul Rodriguez for most of Friday's contest, limiting the production of two of the leading rushers in the state.
Because of Capital's small stature, Los Alamos did have some success running with fullback Ruben Martinez up the middle, but not enough.
Martinez, who suffered a ligament tear in his thumb the previous week against Espaola Valley, was limited in his touches.
After Los Alamos' first possession, the offense produced just 50 total yards for the remainder of the half.
Capital (6-3 overall, 3-0 in 2AAAA) reeled off four more touchdowns in its next four possessions, and held a 36-8 advantage at the halftime break.
"The first half, it was as well as we could've played," Castille said.
Castille and his squad now have the fast track to the District 2AAAA title, needing just a win this week on the road at Espaola Valley to clinch the district championship.
Los Alamos had to suffer the disgrace of being on the wrong end of a running clock in the second half, after the Jaguars scored with 3:55 remaining in the third quarter. In the district season, Los Alamos forced a running clock against both Taos and Espaola Valley, whom it beat by a combined 117-20.
In the second half, Kasik hooked up with Romero for a 43-yard touchdown strike - the first play following a successful onside kick recovery by Romero - and for a 73-yard score with Rodriguez. Kasik also dove in from one yard out at the 7:28 mark of the fourth quarter for just the second Los Alamos score of the game.
The Hilltoppers (8-1 overall, 2-1 in 2AAAA) will still need to secure a victory Nov. 9 at home against Bernalillo to ensure themselves of a playoff spot, this coming after a 22-game win streak in the regular season and outscoring their opponents 338-135.
Castille said it was the first time Capital had beaten Los Alamos in his four-year tenure.
"Our goal coming into the season was to win a district championship," Castille said. "We're 3-0 in district, we got another win (Friday). If you don't knock off the champs, you've got no shot at it."
The Hilltoppers missed Matt Zocco Friday. Zocco, who is not only the team's best secondary player but also one of its most important emotional leaders, suffered a mild concussion against Espaola Valley, his second of the season. Scott said he didn't want to take any chances with Zocco's health, and had him sit out the entire contest.
Without Zocco, the Hilltoppers allowed Moulton 167 yards on 11 of 18 passing and two touchdowns.