Thoreau captures district title, earns No. 5 seed
A year after finishing as the reserve champion in District 5-3A, the Thoreau football team finished the league unbeaten.
The Hawks shutout the Wingate Bears 36-0 in what was billed as the district title game on Friday night as both clubs entered the regular season finale with a 2-0 record in district play.
“I’m just so happy for the kids,” said Thoreau coach Erik Loera, whose team improved to 8-2 overall and 3-0 in the district. “It was a solid win, and, you know, I feel bad doing what we did to Wingate.
“I mean, I like their coaches, and I like what they’re doing with their program,” he added, “but there’s gotta be a winner and loser, and the loser damn sure wasn’t going to be us.”
At press time, stats for both teams were not posted online.
“It was a group effort,” Loera said of the win. “Wingate kind of shut us down with the outside run, so we ran it up the gut, and we were powered by Tyes Tahe.
“He’s our fullback, and Wingate couldn’t stop him,” he said. “He was carrying three, four people for every play, and he was good for six, seven yards every time.”
Tahe is one of 17 seniors on this year’s squad, and Loera said that group would be sorely missed.
“It’s gonna break my heart because I coached them, those kids in junior high,” he said. “They’re the last group of kids that I coached in junior high. They’re seniors now, and they’re graduating.”
One of those seniors includes his son, Mateo Loera.
“I’m just really proud of them,” he said. “It’s gonna be tough to let them go, but I think next year we’re going to be even better.
“I’m not exaggerating because we got kids that are returning who hit hard,” he added. “Football is about hitting, and our kids love to hit. They’re not afraid to make contact, and as a coach, that means we’re gonna run the ball better, and on defense, we’re gonna attack.”
As the district champion, Thoreau was awarded the fifth seed in the 3A playoffs. With one of the higher seeds, the Hawks will host No. 12 Hope Christian (4-5-1) on Saturday at 1 p.m.
“I’m so excited we get to play a home playoff game,” Loera said. “You know, we don’t have to travel 300 miles to go play a game. We get to play in front of our fans.”
The Hope Christian Huskies finished third in District 4-3A in the five-team league behind Ruidoso and Dexter.
“Don’t let their record fool you,” Loera said of Hope Christian. “They’re a tough team, so we’re gonna have our hands full.”
The first-year coach said his team would need to pass the ball more as the Huskies are going to key in on Thoreau’s running game.
“They know we run the ball a lot, so they’re gonna load up the box,” he said. “So we’re gonna have to pass too.”
Loera said his junior quarterback, Isaac Bear Eagle, is aware of that, and in last week’s game, he had a couple of long passes, but they were dropped.
“Our receivers gotta help our quarterback out,” he said. “You know, (Bear Eagle) did really good, and he had a couple of dead-on passes that our receivers dropped.
“That can be frustrating for any quarterback, but Isaac is pretty even-keeled,” he added. “He didn’t get upset, and he wasn’t yelling. He’s got a very good temperament for being a quarterback.”