Hilltoppers Prevail In Hard Hitting Season Opener

Quarterback Tyler Weiss carries the Topper banner and Defense man JD Carson carries the hammer to mark the opening of the 2019 football season played in Española at the recently remodeled football/track facility on the Española High School Campus. Photo by John McHale/ladailypost.com

Tyler Weiss, #2, takes the helm as Toppers quarterback and had an outstanding game throwing touchdown passes, running for critical yards and engineering the Toppers win over the Sundevils 21-6. Photo by John McHale/ladailypost.com

Ryan Schwarzkopf turns the corner in the first quarter and picks up the first down yardage. Photo by John McHale/ladailypost.com

By George Morse
Sports and Outdoors
Los Alamos Daily Post

Los Alamos High School won its opening football game of the season, defeating local rival Española Valley High School 21-6 Friday at Española High School.

The Hilltoppers led 14-0 at halftime. Espanola finally scored in the fourth quarter with 7:44 left in the game to make the score 14-6 and momentum seemed to be swinging the Sundevils’ way.

Los Alamos needed to answer the challenge on their next possession.

“I just said ‘Let’s go score,’” Los Alamos Coach Garett Williams said. “Sometimes, you don’t need to say much.”

The Hilltoppers began from their 40-yard line and drove across midfield for a first down. After a five-yard penalty moved the Hilltoppers back to their side of the 50-yard line, a 14-yard run by Devan Mayfield put the ball on Española’s 37-yard line. From there, quarterback Tyler Weiss dropped back to pass and spotted wide receiver Jose Salazar behind the defense. Weiss rifled a pass that Salazar caught, running into the end zone for a big touchdown that answered the Sundevils’ score.

Alex Chavez booted the extra point and Los Alamos led 21-6 with 5:16 left in the game. Hindered by penalties, Española couldn’t mount a drive on their final possession. Los Alamos took over on downs and ran out the clock for the victory.

“Nice, nice, nice,” Williams said to the team after the game. “We clean a few things up and we’re going to put a lot of points on the board. Great job tonight.”

 The Hilltoppers had started the game scoring on their first possession of the season. An 11-yard run by Matt Archuleta up the middle and a 30-yard scramble by Weiss set the Hilltoppers up on Española’s 13-yard line. Ryan Schwarzkopf ran the ball down to Espanola’s one-yard line. Archuleta finished off the drive with a short touchdown run. Chavez’s extra point made the score 7-0 in favor of Los Alamos at 8:21 of the first quarter.

The score remained 7-0 until late in the first half as penalties and turnovers plagued both teams, thwarting both offenses from mounting a sustained drive.

Los Alamos took advantage of a fumble by the Sundevils late in the first half, recovering the ball at Española’s 22-yard line. From there, Mayfield scampered around the right side, hurdling a tackler at the five-yard line and falling into the end zone for the touchdown. Los Alamos led 14-0 with 51.8 seconds left in the second quarter.

It looked like the Hilltoppers would add another touchdown on the last play of the first half. Salazar scooped up a fumble by Española and took off for the end zone with nothing but open field in front of him. He crossed the goal line for an apparent score, but the play was called back because of a penalty. The first half ended with the Hilltoppers holding a 14-0 lead. Los Alamos was able to move the ball between the 20-yard lines, but Española’s defense would stiffen in the red zone and force the Hilltoppers into turning the ball over on downs.

Helped by an obvious late hit out-of-bounds by the Hilltoppers, Española finally put together a scoring drive. Sundevils’ quarterback Arlen Garcia scored on a twisting, 11-yard run to make the score 14-6 in the fourth quarter. Española was apparently successful on their first attempt at a two-point conversion, but the play was negated by a holding penalty. The next attempt from back on Los Alamos’ 13-yard line was unsuccessful and the score remained 14-6 in favor of Los Alamos.

That’s when the Hilltoppers mounted their drive for the game’s final touchdown that padded their lead. Los Alamos, who had routed Española 57-12 in last year’s opening game, held on for the win. The crack of the pads, hard hits and jarring tackles highlighted the action that was all a football fan could want in an opening game.

“We’ve got a lot of young dudes,” Williams said. “We left a lot of points on the field. We’ve got a lot of kids doing things they haven’t done before.”

Los Alamos hosts defending Class 4A state football champion Taos High School Friday in Los Alamos.

Tyler Weiss hands the ball off to Matthew Archuleta who ran the ball in for the first touch down. Photo by John McHale/ladailypost.com

Alden Johnson sets up to tackle the Sundevil quarter back, Arlen Garcia near midfield in the first quarter. Photo by John McHale/ladailypost.com

Erik Herrera intercepts a pass intended for #44 Christopher Salazar deep in Sundevil territory in the second quarter. Photo by John McHale/ladailypost.com

Aiden Johnson tries to strip the ball from the runner, Arlen Garcia as #56 Dimitri Bullock helps out. Photo by John McHale/ladailypost.com

JD Carson recovers a Sundevil’s fumble, which gave the Toppers great field position for the second touch down. Photo by John McHale/ladailypost.com

Kicker Alex Chaves kicks the extra point after the second touch down as Tyler Weiss held the ball. Photo by John McHale/ladailypost.com

Wide open Jose Salazar catches the pass from Tyler Weiss for the third touch down. Photo by John McHale/ladailypost.com

The Toppers celebrated their victory by singing the Topper Fight Song to the crowd following the game. Photo by John McHale/ladailypost.com