The Volcano Vista Hawks got deeper into the Class 5A state football playoffs than anyone expected.
On Friday night, they got into deeper trouble with turnovers than anyone could imagine.
The Hawks — who forced their opponents into a combined eight miscues in their first two playoff games — coughed it up five times in the second half, and lost 37-5 to Sandia in the semifinals at Milne Stadium.
Sandia advances to next week’s title game against the winner of today’s semifinal between Las Cruces and Eldorado. The Hawks finish the season at 7-6, having won one-point playoff games against Valley and top-seeded Rio Rancho.
“It ain’t ever fun to lose,” said Chad Wallin, who has coached Volcano Vista all of the Hawks’ five varsity seasons. “But what I’m proud of, is whenever they faced adversity, they fought and played their hearts out. We played a better team tonight. But I’m very proud of my guys fighting until the end and showing the heart to compete.”
The Hawks lost 31-14 to Sandia earlier this season when the Matadors (9-3) scored the game’s final 17 points — all in the final seven minutes. This time, Sandia didn’t wait that late to put it away. But almost.
Volcano Vista led 2-0 after the first quarter and 5-0 midway through the second. The Hawks then surrendered a pair of long Sandia drives — the first for a touchdown and the second ending in a 20-yard field goal by Craig Coffman on the final play of the first half — and trailed 10-5 at the break.
Sandia went on another long, impressive drive to open the second half and the Hawks soon unraveled. Besides the five second-half turnovers, they had seven penalties in the half. The Matadors capitalized in a big way.
“The wins we got, they were close, and I think that comes down to coaching. We had amazing coaching,” said VV senior quarterback Reid Hendricks. “I think tonight, nine times out of 10 (the result) wouldn’t be this way. I think tonight, we let one go. The difference was turnovers. We just turned the ball over too much.”
Volcano Vista had just one offensive TD in its first game with the Matadors, that on a fake field goal. It had no answers offensively this go around and played nearly the entire second half in its end of the field.
The Matadors, too, sputtered a bit in the second half. But they got enough opportunities to finally wear the Hawks out.
“We needed to calm everybody down and take a deep breath,” said Sandia coach Kevin Barker. “I’m an emotional coach, and it’s a very emotional game, and our kids play that way. So sometimes those things happen. But then we calmed everybody down, we got refocused and then (SHS junior defensive end) Camrron Bean just played his tail off. The Lobos should just offer him (a scholarship) now.”
Bean, a transfer from Texas, didn’t play in the teams’ first meeting when the Hawks had four turnovers. He dominated this time with five sacks and two forced fumbles of Hendricks.
Despite the lopsided final, Barker said he was extremely impressed with the Hawks.
“They’re a very good team and Chad did a very good job with them,” Barker said. “He had a very good senior class. They turned their whole season around against Eldorado (a 39-34 Volcano Vista win on Oct. 18). We’re very impressed with their running backs, and Reid improved greatly through the year. I knew we had to come out and be physical with them, and we did that and responded well.”
The Hawks certainly gave their fans their money’s worth this season.
In the win against Eldorado, they used a 33-point fourth quarter to erase a 28-6 deficit.
Then they lost 37-34 to Rio Rancho after the Rams converted a fourth-and-32 on the game-winning drive and pulled it out with 20 seconds left.
The Hawks were able to squeeze into the playoffs with a come-from-behind overtime win against Cibola in the final game of the regular season, then scored with 20 seconds left to beat Valley 28-27 in the first round of the playoffs.
Last week, VV scored a TD with 90 seconds left and got a 2-point conversion to stun top-seeded Rio Rancho 25-24.
“We just fought and fought and fought tonight and all season,” said Hawks sophomore running back Dominico Chavez. “We really worked hard all season. I really think we should have made it to the state championship, but we didn’t. It was our loss.”