Melrose senior Adam Hairgrove forces the ball loose from Mountainair running back Gabriel Ramirez in the second quarter of Friday’s eight-man playoff game as teammates Brian Raulie (22) and Sammy Lawrence come to make the recovery.
Melrose senior Adam Hairgrove applies a diving stop to Mountainair quarterback Mathew Chavez in the second quarter of Friday’s 8-man playoff game at Melrose.
MELROSE — A stingy Melrose defense kept Mountainair’s high-powered attack in check for a little over two quarters, but the Buffaloes couldn’t contain the top-ranked Mustangs in the second half as two Mountainair touchdowns went unanswered in a 22-8 win in the semifinals of the state 8-man playoffs.
Two touchdowns by the Mustangs in the second half went unanswered and Mountainair survived with a 22-8 win to advance to next week’s championship game against either Floyd or Animas, who play today.
Senior quarterback Mathew Chavez threw a 27-yard touchdown pass to freshman Josh Sisneros to put Mountainair (11-0) in front for good with 1:38 left in the third quarter, and the Mustangs converted a Melrose fumble when senior Victor Romero scored from 8 yards out on a direct snap in the final period.
“That’s a great football team, and anytime you can be 8-8 with them at the half, that’s good,” Melrose coach Dickie Roybal said. “We played our hearts out tonight.”
After a scoreless first quarter, the Buffs (8-4) scored first early in the second quarter. After a sack of sophomore quarterback Clint Barnard set the Buffs back on their own 1-yard line, Melrose moved the ball back out to the 7 on an off-tackle play.
Then Barnard took the option left and timed his pitch perfectly to senior Adam Hairgrove. Hairgrove slipped one tackler near the line of scrimmage and was off to the races for a 93-yard touchdown.
Junior Call Barnard ran the conversion in for an 8-0 Melrose advantage with 10:01 left in the half.
The Melrose defense continued to rise up through much of the quarter, stopping the Mustangs’ next series and then forcing a fumble at the Buffs’ 20 on Mountainair’s next possession. But Melrose’s offense was harried for the rest of the game.
Hairgrove, who ran for 129 yards, broke another big carry with a 24-yard draw play that put the ball at the Mountainair 38. The drive stalled near the 20, though, when Hairgrove couldn’t hang on to a pass near the goal line on fourth-and-nine.
Down by 14 points, the Buffs drove to the Mustangs’ 30 on a 23-yard catch by junior Lane Draper, but Mountainair stiffened on defense and stalled the drive with a sack with under a minute to play.
Roybal said his team, beaten early in the season 40-16 by Mountainair, didn’t have anything to lose coming into this game. Melrose had won seven in a row since that loss.
“After that (start) I told our kids we shouldn’t lose another game, and they didn’t until tonight,” Roybal said.
Mountainair coach Robert Zamora said Melrose didn’t look like the same team the Mustangs had played earlier.
“That was a tough game, a real tough game,” Zamora said. “What it came down to was the team that made the least mistakes was going to win.”