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HS football: Eldorado soars past West Mesa, St. Pius tops Lovington

Eldorado was a little too explosive for West Mesa in a 56-35 Class 6A first-round triumph at Wilson Stadium on Saturday afternoon.

The No. 7 Eagles set the tone for the day when quarterback Gabe Smith found wide receiver Graham McKenney streaking uncovered down the middle of the field for a 91-yard touchdown on their second play from scrimmage. Eldorado would extend its lead to 21-0 early in the second and to 42-13 after three quarters. A 69-yard scoring run by running back Richard Gallegos gave the Eagles their largest lead at 29 points.

Gallegos finished with 164 yards rushing and four touchdowns for the Eagles (7-4). Smith threw for 243 yards and a pair of scores while adding a rushing touchdown.

The Eagles let their foot off the gas pedal at times, including during the fourth quarter when West Mesa put up 22 points. While the margin of victory could have been larger, Eldorado, coming off a bye week, was never truly in peril.

“We had a bye week, so a lot of sloppiness as far as penalties and stuff like that. Whenever you get a playoff win it’s good,” he said. “We didn’t play real well defensively. I’m proud of the kids; a playoff victory is hard.”

The No. 10 Mustangs (7-4), who were making their first playoff appearance since 2010, were led by senior quarterback Gabriel Ramirez, who threw for 240 yards and four touchdowns and rushed for another. Things briefly got interesting in the second quarter when a pass from Ramirez intended for Antonio Herrera bounced into the arms of Camren Schroer, who raced into the end zone to cut the deficit to 28-13. West Mesa would never get closer than two touchdowns, however.

“Coach (Ron) McMath has done a great job at West Mesa getting them to the playoffs and he should be commended,” Eldorado coach Charlie Dotson said.

Eldorado plays No. 2 La Cueva at Nusenda Community Stadium on Friday night in the quarterfinals. The Bears beat the Eagles 35-21 in the regular season on Oct. 27.

—Tristen Critchfield

ST. PIUS 42, LOVINGTON 35: AtCommunity Stadium, St. Pius sophomore quarterback Diego Pavia put the offense on his back, leading the eighth-seeded Sartans from three touchdowns down to victory in Saturday’s Class 5A state playoff against No. 9 Lovington.

Pavia’s fifth rushing touchdown — a 2-yarder with 5:21 remaining in the fourth — snapped a 28-28 tie, giving the Sartans (7-4) their first lead of the game.

“It feels amazing right now,” Pavia said. “I’m just proud I’m on our team, and we fought hard. Our coaches made good decisions, moving players in and out, and we just made a comeback.”

Everything went Lovington’s way in the second quarter. Wildcats sophomore quarterback Casey Perez picked apart the Sartans’ defense at will.

Perez ran for a touchdown early in the second quarter and added two more TD passes, lifting his team to a 21-0 lead with 2½ minutes remaining in the opening half.

Pavia then directed a 78-yard scoring drive that he capped with his first touchdown run. Still, there was no indication the Sartans had an answer on defense for Perez.

“We made some adjustments with the kids, but they just manned up and played better defense in the second half,” said St. Pius coach Dave Montoya. “All the credit goes to the kids.”

After scoring late in the first half, St. Pius drew to within a touchdown on the opening drive of the second half. Pavia accounted for all 73 yards on the ground, finishing the possession on a 4-yard keeper.

Lovington (5-6) quickly re-established a two-TD margin. On an option keeper, Perez dashed 68 yards down the right sideline making it 28-14.

From there, it was Pavia and his receivers that spearheaded a four-TD, final-quarter surge. Pavia finished with 249 yards rushing and 151 yards passing. The sophomore QB’s 15-yard TD pass to Aaron Swallows with 3:12 left gave St. Pius a two-touchdown advantage.

The Sartans play at No. 1 Artesia on Saturday afternoon at 1 in the quarterfinals. St. Pius beat the Bulldogs in last year’s state championship game.

—Patrick Newell