The Tigers played their last home game of the 2016 season and knocked off the fourth-ranked team in the state in class 4A in the process. The West Las Vegas Dons came to Taos with a 6-1 overall record, 3-0 in district play, but went home with an extra digit in each of those loss columns after an exciting night of football at Anaya Field Oct. 21. The final score — a 30-27 win for the Tigers.
On a late October evening that saw temperatures gradually fall throughout the game, the Tigers were able to strike first on their home turf and would never surrender the lead to the Dons — answering every threat thrown at them.
The implications of this win were enormous for the Tigers who now find themselves with a 4-4 overall record, 2-2 in District 2-4A. Statewide, Taos is ranked 11th in class 4A in both the New Mexico Activities Association and MaxPreps polls.
The Taos Tigers have now played four games in this newly expanded league that saw the Santa Fe Indian School Braves, St. Michael’s Horsemen and the Bernalillo Spartans join the district in 2016. The Tigers beat Santa Fe Indian School Sept. 23 in a homecoming game rout to begin the district season, but then dropped two-in-a-row to top-ranked Robertson Oct. 1 and perennial powerhouse St. Michael’s Oct. 8. Coming into the game against favored West Las Vegas, the Tigers found themselves in a make-or-break game that could have spelled doom for Taos’ post-season aspirations with another district loss.
Not only did the Tigers snap the two-game skid, they put the pressure on the Dons to pick up two more wins against the top two district teams to stay ahead of Taos in league standings. Essentially the Tigers could end up alone in third place in the district if Taos can run the table and win their final two games against Pojoaque Valley and Bernalillo — and if West Las Vegas loses just one of their final two games against Robertson and St. Michael’s. By beating West Las Vegas, Taos owns the tie-breaker and is bound to secure a favorable playoff spot with a 6-4 overall record.
Taos must not look past the Pojoaque Valley Elks, however, who find themselves right behind the Tigers in the state rankings at spot No. 12, and with exactly the same overall record of 4-4 and the same district record of 2-2. The Elks have wins over the Hot Springs Tigers, Española Valley Sundevils, Bernalillo Spartans and Santa Fe Indian School.
Bernalillo is struggling this year and currently owns a 1-8 overall record – besting only the Santa Fe Indian School 34-7 on their home turf Oct. 21. Before the Santa Fe Indian School game, the Spartans had only been able to average five-points per game during the entire span of the 2016 season – which included three shutouts to the Moriarty Pintos Aug. 26, the Bloomfield Bobcats Sept. 16 and St. Michael’s Sept. 30.
Any time Taos can come away with a win against West Las Vegas (in any sport), it’s a great thing. In football, a natural level of disdain is felt between Taos and Robertson High School — giving rise to a rivalry moniker. But given the fact that Taos has such a lopsided record against the Cardinals (only one win in the past 16 years), it probably makes more sense to label games between Taos and West Las Vegas a true rivalry. These two programs are more evenly matched and always seem to bring their best games of the year when they face each other. The raucous celebration by the victors, and the deflated slumping shoulders of the vanquished, summed up the worth of a single game to each team and respective community.
Taos is now in the driver’s seat, so to speak. After such an important win, the Tigers must now put their emotions in check and prepare for the next step in the process and get ready to take on the Elks Oct. 28. In post-game remarks after the win against the Dons, Coach Art Abreu Jr. said, “I’m definitely going to enjoy this moment — but only for a moment. I need to get ready for the next game.”
Kickoff at Pojoaque Valley is slated for 7 p.m.