Laguna breaks Tohatchi's perfect record

By Alastair Lee Bitsoi
Navajo Times

TOHATCHI, N.M., October 18, 2012

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(Times – Paul Natonabah)

TOP:Tohatchi's Daniel Lee (30) tries to rushes around the right end against Laguna-Acoma's Isaac Gallegos (9) during the District 1-2A contest at Tohatchi High on Oct. 12. The Hawks handed the Cougars their first loss of the season, 41-6.

SECOND FROM TOP: Tohatchi quarterback Justin Smith (7) is stop at the line of scrimmage by Laguna-Acoma's Elijah Ruben (30) during the District 1-2A contest on Oct. 12.

I f a 2-4 record on paper looks like an automatic lost against an undefeated team, the Laguna Acoma Hawks football team sure didn't play like it.

In fact, the Hawks played like an unbeatable team. They destroyed and handed the Tohatchi Cougars their first loss of the season with a 48-6 victory in District 1-2A football action last Friday night here at Cougar Den.

"It doesn't speak to us," Laguna Acoma head coach Roger Cordova said about his team's record.

During their pre-district schedule, the Hawks played top-notch 3A teams like Hope Christian, Socorro and Taos, which Cordova says prepared his team.

"We took a beating from them," Cordova said. "We are pretty competitive, but we didn't win those games. We just hoped that it will help us come around district time."

Senior wide receiver Austin Jones, who scored five touchdowns in the win, added, "The pre-district season was pretty tough. That is what helped us out tonight."

Against the Cougars last Friday night, the Hawks showed they were battled-tested, indicating to the rest of the district they probably are the team to beat, not the Cougars.

After all, the Hawks do have a slew of skill players they rely on such as Jones, sophomore quarterback Ryan Arkie and back-up quarterback and lineman Isaac Gallegos.

When the Hawks needed a big play, it was Gallegos that read the defense, allowing Arkie to connect with Jones on a variety of rushing and passing plays.

"Our offense had a lot of momentum," said Arkie, who had two touchdowns and an interception. "Our defense was really good. We were where we were supposed to be."

In the opening seconds of the game, Jones scored on an 80-yard kick-off return, proving to the Cougars that he and the Hawks were to be a nightmare the rest of the night.

On Laguna Acoma's third drive of the game, it took only one play before the Hawks scored another touchdown for a 14-0 lead. In this sequence, the Hawks retrieved the ball at Tohatchi's 38-yard line, while the linemen led held a barricade to allow Jones to crisscross the field and catch the ball for a 62-yard passing touchdown.

Tohatchi was successful in the early part of the second quarter, scoring their only touchdown of the night on a six-play drive. The Cougars recovered a fumble at Laguna's 45-yard line and drove the ball from there to the 8-yard line, before quarterback Justin Smith hand-delivered the ball to Myron Long for the 14-6 score.

From that point on, though, it was Laguna's defense that stepped up, shutting down the high-octane Cougars, who averaged 274 rushing yards and 44 points per game through five games.

During the rest of the quarter, the Hawks' defense led by Gallegos forced the Cougars into four turnovers. One of those turnovers was an interception by Arkie, who later scored on this drive for a 34-6 half time lead.

"He (Gallegos) read the defense really well," observed Arkie. "He blew up some plays they would have gotten if he wasn't there."

Just as Tohatchi got some momentum from a fumble they collected with 7:45 in the third, quarterback Justin Smith threw the ball right back into the hands of LA's Jones, who dashed to the end zone on a 69-yard carry for a 41-6 lead.

The Hawks scored one more time to win the game, 48-6.

In a postgame interview with the Navajo Times, Jones said the key to winning their district opener came down to the line, echoing Archie's earlier words.

"It starts at the line," Jones said. "So when they work everything else works. We came out, worked hard and got a win.

Though frustrated, Tohatchi head coach Marc Chandler, gave credit where it was due, adding that he was concerned and worried about the Hawks from the get-go.

"They proved to be all they needed to be to take care of business tonight," Chandler said. "We made some good stops on defense and stopped them pretty good. Really, they had some big plays and deep passes, which hurt us."

Chandler also said playing without Burbank, who averages about 12 points and 69 yards per game, due to an ankle injury and the injuries wide receiver Colin Ben and running back Vince Natonabah sustained during the game affected his team.

Asked if they would still be contenders and possibly earn a state berth, Chandler responded, saying, "We'll I don't know, you know. We still have three games to be played and it comes down to who has the best record at that point. The record up to tonight makes no difference at all. So, basically tonight we're 0-1."

With their record now 0-1 in district, the Cougars now turn their focus to Zuni on Friday. Following Zuni, they play Ramah on Oct. 26 and then conclude the regular season with Crownpoint Nov 2.

Meanwhile, the Hawks, who improve to 3-4 on the year, play Crownpoint this Friday. After Crownpoint, they turn their focus to Zuni on Oct. 26 and conclude with Ramah on Nov. 2.

"Each of us has three district games left and I think they'll take two teams out of our district," Cordova said of the New Mexico Activities Association. "That is a really good team over there (Tohatchi). They played really good defense.

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