By Mike Tooley
No one knew what to expect in the 2012 Tigers of Hot Springs High with a new head coach and a change in philosophy, following the long-term presence of coach Travis Lee.
But new head coach Daniel Terrazas had his Tigers ready. They came out on the field “ready to play” and in fact took a 12-0 first quarter lead, a lead that the No. 2-ranked Class AA Wildcats weren’t able to overcome until 9:22 left in the ballgame.
The two teams were so equal that only 50 yards separated them in total yardage and only 13 seconds in time of possession.
With 1 minute and 5 seconds remaining in the game, the Tigers gained the lead with a nine-yard scoring run by Natividad Villa and an extra point conversion by Omar Covarrubias, putting the Tigers on top by 4 points, 31-27.
What seemed to be an opening victory for the Tigers suddenly turned tragic when Wildcat quarterback Robert Silva hit speedster Jim Coleman on a 65-yard scoring pass with just 31 seconds remaining in the game.
Coleman, only a junior with the Wildcats, seemed to have afterburners, as he would see an opening and blast through on substantial gains throughout the evening. Coleman scored touchdowns on a 47-yard punt return, a 55-yard run, and the winning 65-yard pass play to lead the Wildcats offensively.
Two Tigers went over the century mark on offense against the Wildcats. Villa had a total of 164 yards while Covarrubias had 113 yards.
Tyler Whitehead got the Tigers on the scoreboard first when he picked up a Wildcat fumble on the Tiger 32 yard line and raced 68 yards into the end zone. Michale Montoya attempted a run for the 2-point conversion that failed.
On their second possession of the game, the Tigers moved to their own 47 yard line on three running plays and then surprised the Wildcats with a pass play with Omar Covarrubias catching a 53-yard strike from Villa, giving the Tigers a 12-0 first quarter lead.
Neither team was able to push a score across in the second period, and at the beginning of the third period, exchanged touchdowns with the Wildcats, putting their first points on the scoreboard on a 47-yard punt return by Coleman.
The Wildcat excitement didn’t last long because on the following kickoff, Villa received the ball on his own 10 yard line and raced 90 yards down the sideline for a retaliatory strike, keeping the Tigers 12 points up with a score of 18-6.
The Wildcats made the score 18-12 midway through the third quarter when Wildcat quarterback Silva connected with receiver Brett Saenz on a two-yard pass and, with a 2-point conversion on a pass play from Silva to Coleman, the Wildcats cut the lead to four points.
On a quirky play by the Wildcats in the opening moments of the fourth quarter, the Tigers grabbed another six points when Tiger defender Owen Schwab recovered a Tularosa fumble in the end zone. What made it quirky was when Wildcat quarterback Silva saw the ball sail over his head and then followed it into the end zone without attempting to recover the ball. Schwab blasted into the backfield and knocked Silva away from the ball and recovered for the Tigers.
With a speedster like Coleman, lightning could strike at any time, and on their next possession, Coleman carried the ball around his own left end and raced 55 yards to the score, closing the gap back to four points.
The Tigers stalled on their next offensive series, having to give up the ball after three attempts, and that set up the next Wildcat score that put them ahead for the first time in the game.
It was a 14-yard run and an extra point kick by Silva that put the Wildcats on top with 9:22 remaining in the game.
With neither team being able to move the ball through most of the fourth quarter, the Tigers struck gold with 1:10 remaining in the game when the Wildcats fumbled on their own nine-yard line with the Tigers recovering. In one play, Villa scampered across the Wildcat goal and Covarrubias booted the extra point, giving the Tigers a 31-27 lead.
What seemed like a locked-up victory for the Tigers then turned into a heartbreaker, as the Wildcats went to the air, completing a pass from Silva to Coleman that covered 65 yards, and with the extra point, gave the Tularosa Wildcats the victory, 34-31.
HOST DEMING FRIDAY
On Friday night, Sept. 7, the Tigers will host the Deming Wildcats from District 3-4A. Game-time is slated for 7 p.m., in Tiger Stadium. The Wildcats lost their opening contest to the Belen Eagles, 14-7.
Tularosa, the No. 2-ranked team in class AA, will play the Dexter Demons.