Taos Tigers win big in Pojoaque, look to extend streak against Spartans

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The Taos Tigers sent a bolded message over the gridiron airwaves in all caps, and ended their statement with an exclamation point Oct. 28. Taos has a football team.

The Tigers are a team on a roll — taking down the Pojoaque Valley Elks 51-0 at their field Oct. 28. This was a District 2-4A game that on paper seemed like two evenly matched teams, with identical overall and league records. On turf, however, Taos was clearly the more talented team and stronger team. The win gives Taos a second straight district win, and more importantly, a momentous climb as the season winds down.

All aspects of this team are clicking – the offense is synchronized, the defense is stingy and special teams are...special.

Against the Elks, Taos quarterback Jude Suazo and his offensive line was especially effective – moving the football with precise passing and a running game that used all parts of the field to score at least two touchdowns per quarter for the first three periods. Due to the mercy rule, the game ended when Taos’ Ryan McCarty scored a running touchdown with 9:40 left in the fourth quarter. The rule takes effect when a more dominant team goes up by 50 or more points on an opponent.

“Everybody’s healthy right now, so it helps me with my game,” said Suazo, alluding to the fact that he has multiple weapons to work with and a full cadre of receivers.

Suazo was referring to the return of star receiver Ronnie Salazar, who missed part of the season to injury and who joins Santiago “Saint” Cortez and Anthony Maestas as his primary targets.

The confidence he has in his front line is evident in his ability to stand in the pocket and find his targets. “I know that my [offensive] line will protect me,” said Suazo, who himself provides the Tigers with multiple threats with his ability to roll out and use his legs to acquire yards.

The Tigers are now 5-4 overall and 3-2 in district play. The next game for Taos will be against the Bernalillo Spartans on Nov. 5.

‘Spirit Stick’

During the game, fans were treated to a dramatic scene, as the helicopter from television news station KRQE swooped in and landed in the adjacent baseball field on the Pojoaque Valley High School campus. The helicopter was delivering the “Spirit Stick” to Taos High School, who was voted the school with the most spirit for week 10 of the football season.

Taos was up against Pojoaque Valley, Santa Fe High School and Manzano High School (Albuquerque) and handily won the award with well over 4,200 votes in Taos’ favor.

Taos is now in the running for the “Spirit of the Year Award,” where each winning school community can vote for the chance to claim the distinction for 2016 and keep the stick. More information will be shared when it becomes available.

Spartans next

The Tigers wrap up regular season play hoping to extend their win streak to three games against the district newcomers. The Spartans are struggling this year, owning a 1-8 overall and a 1-4 district record, but coming off a bye week. Their lone win was a 34-7 victory against the Santa Fe Indian School earlier this month.

Dating back to 2009, the Tigers have the historic advantage – winning four of the last five meetings, including a 37-0 win in last season’s opener in Bernalillo.

Currently, the Tigers are ranked ninth in the state in class 4A. With a victory over the West Las Vegas Dons Oct. 21, who are currently ranked eighth, the Tigers own the advantage in a head-to-head comparison – meaning they could possibly move up in rank and host a home playoff game if they beat Bernalillo. Playoff brackets will be published on Nov. 5.

Game time is 7 p.m. at Bernalillo High School.

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