For the second year in a row, the Taos Tigers fell in the first round of the state football playoffs.
Improving their win percentage from a year ago, Taos was dealt a confusing hand when the selection committee from the New Mexico Activities Association gave a higher seed to a team with a lesser overall record. The result was a 260-mile road trip for a 6-4 Taos Tiger team who finished the regular season on a three-game win streak but ranked ninth — traveling to a 5-5 Ruidoso Warrior team who finished on a two-game losing streak ranked eighth. Disadvantage Taos.
The start of the game showed signs of promise for Taos’ offense, who marched down the field during their initial possession. With a balanced air and ground assault, the Tigers plunged deep into Ruidoso territory before getting stopped near the goal line. A missed field goal attempt from approximately 20-yards out by freshman kicker Angel Limas meant zero-yield on a very successful drive.
Shortly after turning the ball over to the Warriors, Taos’ defense was caught off guard by the agility of the Ruidoso offense and quickly gave up a touchdown and extra point to go down 7-0.
Taos would answer with a touchdown of their own to tie the game with just over six-minutes remaining in the first quarter. A long running play by Ruidoso would put them back on top, only to see the Tigers match the Warriors in points by the end of the first quarter.
In the second quarter, the Tigers would grab their first lead of the game with a plowing run by Taos’ Ryan McCarty. A third-straight extra point kick by Limas put Taos ahead 21-14. A swift Ruidoso answer would tie the game for a third time, and another score by the Warriors with three-minutes left in the half would put Ruidoso up for good.
With momentum on their side, Ruidoso emerged from the half-time intermission with energy and enthusiasm — fueled by a raucous hometown crowd. Conversely, Taos came out flat and on their heels. The tale of each team’s attitude showed in the second half with a 35-6 drubbing by the Warriors to put the game out of reach, and to end the 2016 campaign for the Taos Tigers.
Final score: Ruidoso 63, Taos 27.
The final game of the season was also the final high school game for seniors McCarty, Ronnie Salazar, Johnny Montaño, Jared Torres and Peter Bond.
Even with the loss, the Tigers still finished the season with a 6-5 overall record.
Though disappointed with the loss, coach Art Abreu expressed his appreciation for the hard work that the players put into the season. “I’m really impressed with the way our seniors stepped it up this year. They could have chosen a different path, but instead they gave everything to me and their team,” he said.
Abreu was grateful for the support from the community that was felt throughout the fall season. “I see support for our team and our sport growing, just like we’re growing as a program,” Abreu said, alluding to the growing hometown crowds at football games and the loyal fans that follow the team to out of town games.
“I can’t thank our fans enough for what they mean to us. For this reason, we’re going to take a few weeks off and then it’s back to work. The first week of August is right around the corner,” he said.