By Dave Wagner: CNJ sports writer
MELROSE — Carlos Ruiz was back in action Friday night and provided the Melrose Buffaloes with a big lift.
Not that they needed a whole lot. The top-ranked and top-seeded Buffs opened defense of their state six-man title with a 48-0 quarterfinal victory over Roy-Wagon Mound.
Melrose (10-0) advances to a semifinal game next weekend against the winner of today’s 7 p.m. matchup between fifth-seeded Valley Christian of Roswell and the Buffs’ District 3 rival, Logan.
Ruiz, who had missed the previous two games because of a heart murmur, threw an 18-yard touchdown pass to sophomore Lonnie Clark late in the first quarter and added fourth-down scoring runs of 52 and 51 yards out of apparent kick formation in the second stanza, the latter on the final play of the half to make it 36-0.
“I was glad to be back,” said Ruiz, who finished with 259 yards on 15 carries, including 223 on 12 first-half totes. “I’m still kind of out of shape. I’ll have to work hard next week.”
Sophomore Adam Hairgrove added 81 yards rushing for the Buffs and scored twice, including a 12-yard run to end the game late in the third quarter on the 45-point mercy rule.
Senior lineman Justin Lockmiller said were happy to have Ruiz back.
“It’s a big confidence booster just having him in the backfield,” he said. “I thought for our first playoff game, everybody played real good. The younger people stepped up, and Carlos had a good showing.”
Even though the Longhorns (5-5) ran more plays than Melrose in the first half, the Buffs had little trouble establishing control.
Starting late in the opening period, Roy-Wagon Mound had possessions of seven and 11 plays, but one ended on downs and the other on a punt. Ruiz followed each with his long TD runs.
“They’re tough and they’re quick,” Longhorns coach Matthew Baca said of the Buffs. “They’ve just got a lot of experience.
“We moved the ball fairly well, but turnovers hurt us.”
Baca, whose team reached three consecutive state finals in the late 1990s, said he thinks his program is on the upswing.
“This was a real positive step,” he said. “Any time you can play the better teams, you only get better.”
Melrose coach Dickie Roybal said he thought Logan should have been higher than a fourth seed, and expects to see his district rival next week.
“We’re the No. 1 seed and I think we’ve got a harder road to the finals (than other teams),” he said.
“I thought our kids did a good job,” Roybal added. “It was good to have our speed back (with Ruiz). Adam stepped in at times and ran well for Carlos.”
Other Melrose touchdowns came on a 2-yard run by Cedar Rush in the first quarter and a 12-yard pass from Brock Graham to Tyler Tatum in the third. Freshman Ramon Arenivar went 3-for-6 on two-point conversion kicks.
“We’ve got to keep from getting complacent,” Lockmiller said. “We know every team from here on is going to give us their best game.”
Melrose 48, Roy-Wagon Mound 0
Roy-Wagon Mound 0 0 0 — 0
Melrose 22 14 12 — 48
M — Adam Hairgrove 1-yard run (Ramon Arenivar kick), 7;27
M — Cedar Rush 2-yard run (Arenivar kick), 1:52
M — Lonnie Clark 18-yard pass from Carlos Ruiz (kick blocked), :53
M — Ruiz 52-yard run (kick failed), 7:22
M — Ruiz 51-yard run (Arenivar kick), :04
M — Tyler Tatum 12-yard pass from Brock Graham (kick blocked), 7:48
M — Hairgrove 12-yard run (no PAT try), 2:24
First downs 4 12
Rushes-yards 27-99 26-333
Passing yards 10 42
Total yards 109 375
Comp-att-int 1-3-0 3-7-0
Punting 2-36.5 0-0
Fumbles-lost 3-2 1-0
Penalties-yards 3-30 4-30
Rushing — Roy-Wagon Mound, Robert Rivers 6-54, Nathan Gutierrez 11-35, Levi Shaw 2-10, Jake Pendley 8-0. Melrose, Ruiz 15-259, Hairgrove 9-81, Rush 1-2, Graham 1-minus 9.
Passing — Roy-Wagon Mound, Pendley 1-3-0-10. Melrose, Graham 2-6-0-24, Ruiz 1-1-0-18.
Receiving — Roy-Wagon Mound, Gutierrez 1-10. Melrose, Clark 1-18, Rush 1-12, Tatum 1-12.
Records — Roy-Wagon Mound 5-5, Melrose 10-0.