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Hilltopper offense stalls in road loss

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By Phil Scherer

Down by 7 points late in the fourth quarter, the Los Alamos High School football team had a great opportunity to even the score against Capital High School and keep its playoff hopes alive. Instead, just like on every other second half drive, the Hilltoppers came up just a little bit short and the team lost in heartbreaking fashion. 

Heading into Friday night’s game, LAHS needed a win to control its own fate in District 2-5A heading into the final week of the regular season. On paper, it appeared the Hilltoppers had the edge, as Capital had gone winless in seven games since an opening night victory against Pojoaque Valley High School Aug. 22. 

A week earlier, the Jaguars lost to fellow district rival Del Norte 54-2, while the Hilltoppers defeated Santa Fe High 22-13. Capital relies heavily on the run game, and specifically sophomore Luke Padilla. This season, the Hilltoppers have been good at defending the run and felt that containing Padilla was possible. 

He proved them wrong immediately. After forcing the Hilltoppers to punt on the first possession of the game, Padilla drove the Jaguars right down the field with long runs set up by broken tackles. With just over six minutes left in the first quarter, Padilla scored a 24-yard touchdown to put the Jaguars up 6-0. It was clear he was going to have an impressive game. 

On Capital’s next possession, Padilla again got his team inside the 5-yard line with a long run play, but the Hilltopper defense stepped up and prevented Capital from scoring any points. The defense was helped out by holding and intentional grounding penalty calls against Capital. 

After the defensive stop, LAHS responded immediately on offense. Cade Yost and Dylan Irish got the ball down to the goal line for the Hilltoppers, and junior running back Matthew Archuleta scored the touchdown on a run right up the middle. After the extra point by Ethan Hunt, the Hilltoppers led 7-6. 

Following another defensive stop, the Hilltoppers added to the lead, as Yost had a long run into the red zone and Walker Eaton finished the drive with a 3-yard touchdown run with less than a minute remaining in the first half. 

At halftime, LAHS led 14-6. The second half, though, was an entirely different story.

Midway through the third quarter, Capital evened the score with LAHS, as quarterback Manuel Vargas kept the ball from eight yards out and scored. Then, on the two-point conversion, Padilla ran into the end zone untouched, making the score 14-14. 

On the first possession of the fourth quarter, the Hilltoppers were stopped at Capital’s 15-yard line. Needing a defensive stop once again, instead Padilla took the first play 75 yards on the ground and then immediately scored. His second touchdown of the game made the score 21-14 Capital. Padilla finished the game with more than 300 rushing yards. 

With nine minutes remaining on the clock, the Hilltoppers needed a touchdown to keep the game going. Irish did his part, as he returned the kickoff to midfield, and then completed a pass to Jacob Dunwoody to get LAHS inside the 20-yard line. After Eaton ran the ball to set up first-and-goal, though, the drive stalled and the Hilltoppers did not put up any points. 

At that point, it appeared the game would end as Capital was content to run the clock out, but instead LAHS got one more chance as Padilla fumbled the ball on third down, handing the ball back to the Hilltoppers with more than two minutes left on the clock. 

After getting the ball down to the 5-yard line with passes to Yost and Peter Janke, LAHS failed to gain any more yardage. A run play on first-and-goal took nearly 30 seconds off the clock, and after stopping the clock with a spike on second down, there was only 13 seconds left for two plays. 

Both passes fell incomplete, and LAHS lost 21-14. The defeat drops LAHS to 5-4 overall, and 1-1 in District 2-5A. 

This week, the Hilltoppers will complete the regular season with a home game at 7 p.m. Friday against Del Norte, which has dominated both games in district play so far.