In a wet and wild game that pitted the Taos Tigers against the Robertson (Las Vegas, New Mexico) Cardinals – the last two unbeaten teams in Class 4A – it was the legs of Cardinal quarterback Arjay Ortiz that would ultimately be the cause of the first loss for the Tigers in 2017. Ortiz rushed for five touchdowns on the night to help his team beat Taos 33-20.
Played on the natural semiarid, semidesert surface of Cardinal Stadium, the saturated ground and soupy air also became a big story, with players struggling to find firm footing on the “traditional” football field. Remnants of a weeklong rainstorm saturated the grass and dirt field – neutralizing the usually formidable offensive and defensive lines of the Taos Tigers. With every step, rainwater seemed to percolate up and into the players’ shoes. And with every tackle, a layer of Las Vegas topsoil was collected on uniforms to bring back to Taos.
Robertson struck first with a 7-yard touchdown run by Ortiz with 8:40 left in the first quarter. Both teams spent the remainder of the quarter trying to get used to the field conditions and were unable to advance the ball effectively on offense. The Tigers took the lead at the beginning of the second quarter, however, with a 48-yard pass from Jude Suazo to Anthony Maestas at the 11:50 mark. The point-after attempt by kicker Angel Limas was good and Taos was up 7-6.
Less than one minute later, Ortiz answered with a 75-yard rushing touchdown and a two-point conversion to retake the lead at 14-7. An additional score by the Tigers with 7:25 left in the second stanza knotted the score at 14-14 before halftime.
The inability to knock down the wiry Ortiz and an inordinate number of penalties going against the Tigers in the third quarter led to a solitary touchdown by Robertson to give the Cardinals a lead they would not yield. The disheartening go-ahead score came as a result of a 47-yard touchdown by Ortiz, who evaded the clutches of several Taos defenders before breaking free into the open field.
Two more rushing touchdowns by Ortiz of 13 and 36 yards in the fourth quarter would seal the deal for the Cardinal win.
Taos now sits at 5-1 overall and 1-1 in District 2-4A play. The Tigers will host the St. Michael’s Horsemen at Anaya Stadium Oct. 6. Kickoff is scheduled to take place at 7 p.m.