ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — The District 2-5A football season consists of six games. If the other five are anything like the opener, fasten your seat belts.
This is gonna be fun.
Although Thursday night’s annual Eldorado-La Cueva showdown didn’t necessarily have that spirited vibe at the midway point, it proved to be a near classic.
The Bears marched up the ramp at Wilson Stadium with a commanding 28-7 lead at halftime and were almost halfway to a 700-yard night.
But Eldorado, led by quarterback Zach Gentry and his 400-plus-yard effort, not only made it close, but had the ball with a chance to the tie the game in the final 2 minutes.
But La Cueva’s defense held off the late charge and the Bears escaped with an entertaining 35-27 win.
“A win in district,” La Cueva quarterback Zach Silva said, “is always big. To get a win against Eldorado, is always big for us.”
The teams combined for 964 yards. La Cueva (7-1, 1-0) had 516, the Eagles 448.
Despite La Cueva’s 21-point bulge at halftime, it was no surprise that the Eagles (3-4, 0-1) made this a horse race, given the nature of this, Albuquerque’s best rivalry.
Gentry chucked TD passes in the third quarter of 78 yards to Toben Brazier, 8 yards to Jonah Mestas and 27 yards to Alex Ostrem, and Eldorado was within 35-27 after three.
Gentry threw for 234 yards in the third quarter.
“We saw some windows in the defense that we didn’t pick up on as quick in the first half,” said Gentry, who finished 29-of-48 for 417 yards, with two interceptions.
“It was tough toward the end,” said La Cueva defensive end Calvin Allen, asked about chasing Gentry all night. “We got a little tired.”
Eldorado, which attempted only 10 rushes, had the ball twice in the fourth quarter with a chance to tie. The first drive ended with an interception by La Cueva’s Jarrick Sharp.
The Bears answered with a long drive, reaching the Eldorado 14 before stalling.
Chris Thompson was summoned to attempt a 31-yard field goal, well within his range. And a field goal would have put Eldorado down two possessions with five minutes to go.
Then a funny thing happened.
La Cueva opted to try a fake. Silva, the holder, threw to Thompson. The Eagles stuffed it easily. It remained a one-possession game.
“I felt like we needed a cushion,” La Cueva coach Ed Lucero said. “They were driving the ball on our defense.”
“It was a good idea,” said Thompson, who caught a pair of second-quarter touchdown passes from Silva (31 and 46 yards). “I thought it would work fine.”
Eldorado got the ball at its 12 and was at the La Cueva 6 with a second-and-goal.
On second down, Gentry scrambled, getting knocked out at the 1. But, a crucial holding penalty — the Eagles’ only penalty of the second half — ended up pushing Eldorado back to a second-and-goal from the 21.
Gentry threw incomplete, then 11 yards to Brazier. On fourth-and-goal from the 10 with 1:30 to go, Gentry threw incomplete again.
Not to be forgotten in La Cueva’s win was senior tailback Michael Rose. He was outstanding, rushing 32 times for 281 yards.
“He came through. He wants the ball in his hands,” Lucero said. “And we tried to give it to him as much as we could tonight.”
Rose had a first-quarter touchdown that made it 14-0 early, on the heels of Sharp catching a 42-yard TD pass from Silva on the game’s opening drive.
“They came back and punched us in the mouth,” Rose said. “But we kept punching back.”
Eldorado’s only first-half score was a 97-yard kickoff return by Michael Ward.