Football: LA gets shut out in season opener

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By Mike Cote

Following the Labor Day weekend, there will be plenty of labor going on around the Los Alamos Hilltopper football program.


In their 2009 season opener Friday night, the Hilltoppers were thumped by the Class AAA St. Michael’s Horsemen. The Horsemen scored three times in the second half including on their first possession of the half following a Hilltopper fumble to pick up a 27-0 win at Sullivan Field.

Friday’s win for the Horsemen was one of their most decisive in the long history between the two squads.

Los Alamos felt good heading into Friday night’s opener after a solid showing in a preseason meeting with the top-ranked Class AAAA Aztec Tigers, but struggled on offense except for its final two possessions and couldn’t do much to stop the Horsemen offense after halftime.

“Honestly, we didn’t’ really come to play,” Hilltopper captain Joey Martinez said. “But with hard work we’ll get it. I wouldn’t choose to be with any other team.”

Los Alamos head coach Bob Scott said he was hoping for quite a bit better offensive production than he saw Friday night. Los Alamos managed eight first downs in the contest, but five of those came in its last two possessions. It had just three first downs in the first half and none in the third quarter.

Friday’s game was the first of Scott’s 20th season leading the program.

“It was pretty ugly,” Scott said. “We’ll look different next week.”

The success the Hilltoppers did manage on offense in the second half came after they made a formation adjustment which may be featured more this week when they host Santa Fe.

Los Alamos started the contest in a drum-tight wing, but went to a shotgun wing look in the second half which seemed to open the outside running lanes.

The offensive success was limited, however. The first drive of the fourth quarter sputtered out at the Hilltopper 40-yard line and the other resulted in a turnover on downs at the St. Mike’s 21. That drive was the deepest the Hilltoppers would penetrate in the contest.

Neither offense got on track in the first half, with the Hilltoppers managing just 35 yards and the Horsemen collecting only 54 yards.

In the second half, however, the Horsemen got on track.

Following a Los Alamos fumble on the first play of the third quarter, the Horsemen went 27 yards in eight plays to score. St. Mike’s quarterback Michael Wiegel dove in from a yard out to put his team up 14-0 with less than four minutes expired in the half.

The touchdown was set up by a fourth-and-16 conversion from the Hilltopper 33. The Hillltoppers, who had kept Wiegel under pressure in the first half, couldn’t get their pass rush to Wiegel on the play and the senior connected with slotback Justin Smith for 27 yards to the Hilltopper 6.

Wiegel was sacked once in the game, a 12-yard loss by defensive end Austin Wolstein, and took four other big shots in the first half in which he completed just two passes on seven drop-backs.

Wiegel, who threw the game-winning touchdown for St. Mike’s (2-0) a week earlier at Bloomfield, completed his first four attempts in the second half, however, hitting Smith twice for 27 yards and tossing a 14-yard touchdown pass to wide out Giovanni Coppola late in the third quarter.

After a slow first half, the Horsemen rolled up 273 yards total offense.

“I’m not discouraged in any way,” Martinez said afterward. “I’m not mad in any way. I’m just excited for Monday so we can come back here and get better.”

For the Hilltoppers, senior Ryan Schleft started the game at quarterback. He gave way in the final two-plus possessions to junior Kory Balog.

Balog hit receiver Justin Trujillo in the fourth quarter for the only Hilltopper completion of the game, which went for 8 yards.

Los Alamos’ quest to get its offensive footing was made considerably more complicated by being hit with 10 penalties on the contest.

In one second quarter series, the Hilltoppers were flagged with false starts on three straight plays, going from a makeable second-and-six to a second-and-21 from their own 20.

“They played a little better (in the second half), but the mistakes were the big part,” Scott said. “Those penalties killed us. Offsides, dumb things. We’ve got a lot of work to do. We’ve got to find people to step up and take command.”

On a quiet statistical night, fullback Wade Archuleta and wingback Marshall Naranjo ran for 18 yards each.

NOTES: This Friday’s game, at home against Santa Fe, could serve as a preview of the 2010 season. Los Alamos and Santa Fe are pegged to be in District 2AAAA together next season.