LAS CRUCES — Rio Rancho didn’t know what to make of Ben Tingen.
Mayfield, with a wink and a smile, knew all too well.
The Trojans on Friday night turned over the most important half of football they’ve played all year to a 5-foot-8, 145-pound, untested junior back-up quarterback. All Tingen did was lead No. 2 seed Mayfield into the Class 5A semifinals, after starter Kavika Johnson got hurt.
He threw a pair of second-half touchdowns, and was an unlikely source of offense in the Trojans’ 45-24 state quarterfinal victory over the seventh-seeded Rams at the Field of Dreams.
It was the third time in the last seven years that the Rams (7-5) ended their season with a loss to Mayfield at the Field of Dreams; RRHS lost 57-16 in the quarterfinals in 2007 and 27-3 in a first-round contest in 2010.
Tingen was the most unlikely of heroes as the Trojans (10-1) moved into the semis.
The teams were tied 17-all at halftime. Mayfield got the ball to start the second half.
On the third play from scrimmage, Johnson was knocked from the game with what he later said was a stinger to the right side of his neck.
Enter Tingen, a slightly-built southpaw. With Johnson out and the Rams now really stacking the box on Mayfield tailback Philip Ehly, the Trojans actually managed to turn Johnson’s absence into an assembly line of bonuses.
The first was Ehly, pulling up to throw a 53-yard halfback option touchdown pass to a wide open Elijah Stout as Mayfield took a 24-17 lead early in the third quarter.
“Rio Rancho was keying hard on that run,” said Ehly, who finished with 193 yards rushing on 28 carries. “It was a great call and great execution.”
Later in the third, with Rio Rancho still eyeballing Ehly’s movements, Tingen stepped back and calmly delivered a 55-yard touchdown pass on a deep crossing pattern to Stout. Tingen’s presence was a shock to the Rams.
“I don’t even know who that kid is,” Rio Rancho coach David Howes said.
Angelo Lujan’s 14-yard touchdown run for Rio Rancho with 1:26 to go in the third quarter cut the deficit for the Rams to 31-24.
And then Tingen went back to work. He found another wide-open receiver, Dominic Carrasco, in the flat, and Carrasco turned it into a 43-yard touchdown and 38-24 lead.
“That was not something we anticipated,” Howes said. “They had a quarterback come in and caught us in some botched coverages.”
Ehly’s 3-yard TD run with 6:50 left in the game ended any chance for Rio Rancho (7-5) to rally.
“Everyone was probably a little worried (when Kavika went out),” said Tingen, “but I knew my coaches were confident in me.”
So were his teammates, who seemed elated at Tingen’s success.
“I was so proud of him,” said Johnson, who added that he would be back for next week’s semifinal game. “He’s been working his tail off all season.”