Hilltoppers pour out of the helmet to face the Gallup Bengals for the 2021 Homecoming Game Friday evening at Sullivan Field. Photo by Nate Limback/ladailypost.com
Melaki Gutierrez takes the opening kickoff and returns it 89 yards for a touchdown. Photo by John McHale/ladailypost.com
Sally Hopkins kicks the extra point, she was 6-6 for the night. Photo by John McHale/ladailypost.com
By MIKE COTE
As expected, the Los Alamos Hilltopper football team earned a big victory in its homecoming contest Friday night over the struggling Gallup Bengals.
Los Alamos scored three touchdowns in the opening quarter, then followed that up with three more touchdowns in the second quarter. Playing mostly its second string after halftime, the Hilltoppers put the game away with a touchdown early the fourth quarter to win 51-0 at Sullivan Field.
Jacob Green threw two touchdown passes in the first half as Los Alamos dominated from the get-go.
On the opening kickoff, Melaki Gutierrez went 89 yards, untouched until one Bengal clipped his ankle about 10 yards from the goal line. Gutierrez kept his balance to score the opening touchdown just 16 seconds into the game.
From there, Los Alamos never looked back.
Gallup, which has not won a game in five outings this season and has been shut out three times, showed flashes of potential to at least become something more than a speed bump. But Gallup didn’t net its first positive play on offense until the second quarter.
The Bengals could hardly slow down the Hilltoppers’ defensive penetration up-front throughout that first half and managed just two first downs in the first half, one on penalty. Jeremiah Hartzol, who had a big homecoming night, had two tackles for losses in the first half, as well as knocking down an attempted pass.
On the offensive end, Hartzol also scored twice, one on a catch-and-run and one on a rushing play. Teke Nieto also caught a touchdown and ran for a touchdown, along with running a blocked punt back for a touchdown early in the game.
Even backup quarterback Jake Sorenson got in on the scoring spree for Los Alamos, finishing off the game early in the fourth quarter with a 5-yard touchdown run.
For Green, he was 6-for-10 throwing in the first half, but he could’ve been 9-for-10 if not for three dropped passes, two of which could well have gone for touchdowns. The Hilltoppers’ struggles to hold onto the ball was about the only negative on an otherwise big night.
Friday’s win snapped a two-game losing streak for Los Alamos (3-2), which will play again on Thursday at West Las Vegas. That game will close out Los Alamos’ nondistrict season.
It was also a huge showing for Los Alamos’ special teams. Along with Gutierrez’s touchdown runback to open and the blocked punt and runback by Nieto, Charles Steinkamp had five touchbacks on kickoffs – one of the only two he failed to boot into the end zone was due to a penalty assessed on a previous play – and added a field goal in the third quarter, Los Alamos’ next-to-last score.
Meanwhile, starting placekicker Sally Hopkins was a perfect 6-for-6 on point-after attempts. In addition, she was named the 2021 homecoming queen at halftime.
The Topper defense kept the Bengals on their heels all evening. Josh Duran and Eliseo Valdez tackle a Bengal runner near the line of scrimmage. Photo by John McHale/ladailypost.com
Jeremiah Hartzel had a good night by scoring 2 touchdowns. Photo by Nate Limback/ladailypost.com
The Topper cheerleaders were on hand to help celebrate the action on the field. Photo by Nate Limback/ladailypost.com
The Topper line in action. Photo by Nate Limback/ladailypost.com