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Sartans Outlast Spartans

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For the first 38 minutes of Bernalillo’s homecoming game Friday night against the St. Pius Sartans, there was hope.

Despite being thoroughly dominated by the Sartans’ run game, and not being able to muster seemingly anything on offense, Bernalillo still found itself trailing just 14-7 with under 10 minutes remaining in the game.

That’s when the domination that had been taking place on the field finally began to translate to the scoreboard as St. Pius scored four fourth quarter touchdowns to pull away in a lopsided 41-7 win over Bernalillo.

“I don’t know how many guys they have going both ways, but our offensive line only has one guy going both ways and even he subbed in and out some,” St. Pius head coach San Juan Mendoza said. “By the fourth quarter, we just started opening up bigger holes and getting bigger plays. That’s how we want to do it. Wear other teams down.”

The philosophy worked Friday night to the tune of 56 Sartan rushing attempts for 505 yards on the ground and touchdown runs of 95, 24, 22, 19, 13 and 1 yards. St. Pius improved to 3-1.

The Sartans’ 1-2 senior backfield punch of T.J. Sanchez (21 carries, 233 rushing yards, three touchdowns) and Nic Stafford (20 carries, 163 yards, two TDs) was the driving force behind the St. Pius offensive attack — one that couldn’t get out of its own way most of the night.

And while St. Pius’ 27 points and 180 rushing yards in the fourth quarter alone would suggest they finally wore Bernalillo (0-4) down physically, Spartans’ head coach Ken Noel wondered if it wasn’t more of a mental breakdown — something he spoke with his team at length about on the field after the demoralizing loss.

“I don’t know if we got tired or what, but when they got up 20 to 7 (with 9:46 left in the game), it kind of looked like we started quitting a little bit,” Noel said.

Still, Bernalillo was able to stave off the blowout most of the game thanks to 12 St. Pius penalties for 107 yards and the Spartans forcing five turnovers — three fumbles and two interceptions, one of which junior linebacker Victor Trujillo returned 70 yards for a touchdown with 1:31 left in the first half to pull the Spartans within 14-7 at the break.

“They played a good game and made us turn the ball over,” Mendoza said. “They made two really good, smart plays on those interceptions.”

But those turnovers only delayed the inevitable. As dominant as St. Pius’ run game was, its defense wasn’t far behind. Bernalillo managed just 43 total yards of offense (12 rushing, 31 passing) and four first downs (one from a penalty and one on the final play of the game).

“They’ve kept the opponents’ offense out of the end zone in three of our four games this year, with the other team’s defense scoring once tonight and then another game it was a special teams score,” Mendoza said. “They’re tough. They just played great tonight and have been all year.”

St. Pius next plays Los Lunas, 20-7 winners over Sandia.

“They’re a great team that runs the ball great and plays great defense,” Mendoza said.
— This article appeared on page 22 of the Albuquerque Journal

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