ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Volcano Vista’s football season continues to almost defy logic the way it keeps moving forward — now, into Thanksgiving weekend.
Well, illogical to everyone except the Hawks, who are getting thick-skinned about such things.
“We’re one of those teams,” quarterback Reid Hendricks said. “We just fight through. The thought never crosses our minds that we won’t fight to the end, to the very last second.”
Friday night’s 28-27 playoff victory over Valley was confusing, to the naked eye.
Valley was clearly the better team most of the night.
The Vikings outgained the Hawks 437-360.
Valley’s rushing game, in which the Vikings gouged the interior of the Volcano Vista defense, had the Hawks on their heels all night.
And yet this morning, the Hawks will gather to break down film, and Valley will get ready to turn in equipment.
“We had a pretty good turnaround in one year,” Valley coach Enrico Marcelli said.
The Vikings, after going 2-8 last year, finished 7-4 and won their first district title in 10 years.
“I think we proved that we’re not just some team from a poor district,” Marcelli said. “We can play with anybody in the state.”
Valley returns 19 starters next year.
Early Friday, the Vikings set the tone. With terrific blocking up front, they rushed for more than 100 yards in the first quarter, as fullback Esteban Loera and quarterback Bo Coleman had their way with the Volcano defense.
Loera had a 1-yard run early in the second quarter for a 7-0 lead. After a quick three-and-out by the Hawks, Valley went right down the field again, marching 92 yards in 10 plays.
The key play was a 33-yard throw from Coleman to Aaron Molina on a fourth-and-14 from the Volcano 34. Coleman scored on the next play from the 1 and it was 14-0.
Hendricks engineered a critical scoring drive just before halftime for the Hawks. He completed five passes on the drive, but it was really a gutsy play call that cut the deficit in half.
Volcano had a second-and-goal from the Valley 14 with 16 seconds left, but the Hawks were out of timeouts. Instead of taking a couple of shots into the end zone with Hendricks, Volcano Vista ran a beautiful draw, and sophomore Dominico Chavez scampered in for a touchdown.
“We went in at halftime,” Volcano receiver Dorsett Valdez said, “and we had to pick up the energy. That’s all we needed.”
But Valley was not staggered.
To begin the second half, the Vikings went 76 yards in 14 plays, and scored in a most bizarre way.
Coleman had lost his helmet on a second down, and by rule had to leave the field for one play.
On a third down from the Volcano Vista 23, back-up QB Russell Montoya chucked a touchdown pass to Molina, giving the Vikings led 21-7.
The Hawks responded quickly. Hendricks, on a fourth-and-goal from the 7, fired a TD pass to Connor Anderson with 1:32 left in the third quarter.
Coleman was intercepted on the next play by Volcano Vista cornerback Brandon Madrid, and the Hawks went right back on the offensive. They tied the game on a 28-yard run by Chavez — again, on a draw — with 9.5 seconds to go in the quarter.
The Vikings quickly regained the lead.
Loera looked like he was going in from the 13, but fumbled at the 3. Teammate Troy Giddings picked up the ball and went the final 3 yards for the go-ahead score.
But what happened next defined the evening for both teams.
A low snap clipped off the kicking tee, Marcelli said, and kicker Grant Rowe was unable to try the kick. Instead, Molina, the holder, tried to run for a conversion. He never got close.
Although Hendricks was intercepted on Volcano’s next drive, the Hawks had one final chance, thanks to a major gamble by the Vikings that backfired completely.
Valley tried to convert a fourth down from the Hawks’ 40 with three-plus minutes to go, but Loera was stopped.
With a much shorter field, Volcano had just enough time to score.
Isaiah Perry’s 6-yard run with 20 seconds left tied the game, and Connor Anderson’s PAT put the Hawks in front.
“I was shaking,” Anderson admitted. “But I felt like I was gonna make it. We had worked too hard for me to miss that.”
Volcano had a first-and-35 from the 50 with about 90 seconds left.
“That’s a monster situation,” Hendricks said. “If you don’t challenge yourself, then how do you know how good you are?”
Hendricks supplied a crucial throw to Joe Searcy-Ortega on the game-winning drive, and also ran for a first down on a fourth-and-3, potential season-ending play.
“My guys set up the blocking perfectly,” Hendricks said of his run for a first down. “I got over there, and there was a huge hole and I just dove for the first. That’s a monster situation right there.”
— This article appeared on page 7 of the West Side Journal