The Eastern New Mexico News - Serving Clovis, Portales and the Surrounding Communities

By Dave Wagner
Staff writer 

Mules nearly rally against Friona


September 13, 2020

Kevin Wilson

Muleshoe junior Jacob Reyes gets into the backfield for a stop on Friona rusher Mario Bautista in the first quarter of Friday's game at Benny Douglas Stadium.

MULESHOE - Fighting uphill the entire game, Muleshoe needed a break down the stretch to have a chance against rival Friona on Friday night. And the Mules certainly got one.

Trailing by two scores with just over three minutes left, sophomore Irvin Torres hauled in a deflection of a deep pass by quarterback Zach Hasley and completed a 78-yard touchdown play. Then Muleshoe pulled within seven points on a 2-point conversion.

Suddenly fired up, the defense forced only its second three-and-out of the night and the Mules took over at their own 41 following a punt. Two plays later, though, Hasley's pass into the flat was tipped again - but this time, Chieftains sophomore Tony Rodriguez made a diving interception to seal Friona's 27-20 victory.

Coming off the team's first win since October 2018 the previous week, it was a bit of a tough pill for Muleshoe to swallow.

"We're still trying to change the culture," first-year Mules coach Jason Richards said. "It took us a while (in this game) to believe we could win. (Friona's) a good football team; we didn't play good, and we had a chance to win it."

In the end, the Mules were overwhelmed by Friona's potent ground attack, which accounted for 459 yards and 6.4 yards a carry. And that was without starting tailback Jacob Bautista, who sustained a high ankle sprain in the Chieftains' previous outing against Borger.

"Those kids for Muleshoe battled hard," Chieftains coach Jimmy Arias said. "This rivalry is so heated, you just never know what's going to happen.

"We're young. We need to be patient and not feel like we have to score on every play."

Senior Malachi Torres led Friona (3-0) with 201 yards on 18 carries, accounting for much of it on first-half TD runs of 66 and 56 yards. Sophomore Mario Bautista - Jacob's brother - added 145 yards on 30 attempts, pounding out consistent runs between five and 10 yards.

"They had a great tempo on offense," Richards said. "They do a really good job over there. You've got to wrap them up, for sure (on tackles); if you don't, they're going to go."

The Chieftains tallied on their first two possessions, putting together a 14-play, 68-yard drive following the opening kickoff before Malachi Torres got loose on the first of his two long scoring runs. It looked like the contest could turn into a rout.

Muleshoe (1-2) got back into it when junior quarterback Zach Hasley marched the team 75 yards in 16 plays, capped by a 1-yard run from senior Joey Martinez early in the second period. Malachi Torres' second long run made it 20-6 midway through the stanza, but Hasley found junior Jeremiah Barron on a 44-yard TD pass to pull the Mules to 20-12 at the half.

The game was a district clash for a long time, until the past three seasons.

"It's a little different," Arias said of the early-season matchup. "But the kids almost take it as a playoff-type game. It helps us get ready for that."

Hasley finished the night 18-of-34 for 234 yards, throwing to seven receivers. Irvin Torres caught eight passes for 110 yards, while Martinez had 82 yards rushing on 20 attempts.

Farwell 32, Sudan 7 - The Steers' defense narrowly missed posting its third consecutive shutout - Farwell (3-0) gave up a defensive TD last week against Bovina - in cruising past host Sudan.

"They scored on their last drive of the game," Farwell coach Darren Kelley noted of the Hornets (1-2). "We played good, but we still turned it over four times.

"We were a lot more physical than they were, for sure. That's something we're getting better at."

The Steers (3-0) were without starting QB Leefe Actkinson, who broke his left hand during the win over Bovina. Kelley, whose team has an open date this week, said he isn't sure if Actkinson could be back in time for the team's next game against Sundown (2-1) at home on Sept. 25.

Freshman Corey Stancell filled in for Actkinson, rushing for 30 yards and tossing TD passes of 29 yards to Jose Rodriguez in the second quarter and 28 to Kolter Henderson in the third. Meantime, Henderson also scored on defense, returning a fumble 34 yards in the third period.

Senior running back Guerrero Olmos added 149 yards rushing on 26 attempts, and scored on runs of 50 yards in the first quarter and 17 in the third.

Clarendon 30, Bovina 14 - The Broncos (3-0) pulled away with a pair of TDs midway through the final quarter at Bovina.

For the second week in a row, sophomore linebacker Darian DeLaRosa returned a fumble for a touchdown for the Mustangs (1-2), this one covering 32 yards, to break the scoring ice midway through the opening segment. But they were held to 44 total yards, including minus-9 rushing, and just five first downs.

Still, Bovina pulled to 16-14 when junior running back Zack Monson hauled in an 11-yard scoring pass from Angel Lara in the third period. It stayed that way until Broncos QB Lamarcus Penigar tallied from six yards out with 6:43 left, and senior running back Antwan Bassett added a 22-yard rushing TD just over a minute later.


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