Late-game defensive stand helps Shiprock stave off Thoreau

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FARMINGTON — It wasn't pretty, but the Shiprock football team was able to sneak away with the 24-20 win over Thoreau on Friday night at Chieftain Stadium.

It was a tale of two halves for the Chieftains (3-3, 1-0 District 1-4A), who scored all 24 of their points in the first half before sputtering after the break.

The Shiprock defense made up for the offense's shortcomings by standing tall inside the final two minutes when Thoreau (3-3, 0-1) got into the red zone with the chance to win the game.

On fourth and 6 and down by only four points, Thoreau attempted a pass into the end zone, but sophomore Jahred Smith was there to get a hand on the ball to force the change in possession.

Shiprock then kneeled on the ball to lock up the win.

"I can't say enough about our defense and can't say enough about Jahred Smith — that's the third time he's made a play on a ball on fourth down in a key moment this year," Shiprock coach Eric Stovall said. "That's a big-time player right there."

Led by Steve Lara and his two rushing touchdowns, the Shiprock offense looked good in the first half. After the break, though, the offense couldn't find a rhythm, something Stovall took responsibility for as the play-caller.

"I didn't do a very good job calling plays in the second half, to be honest," he said. "We couldn't get anything going because I didn't do a good enough job of putting us in a position to score."

The Hawks got hot in the fourth quarter, scoring twice and blocking a punt for a safety before Shiprock's defense came up clutch with its back against the wall.

Rhakeem Anagale was another bright spot in Shiprock's gritty defensive effort. He scored a second-quarter fumble return touchdown from 45 yards out.

The win comes on the heels of Shiprock's forfeit of last week's 30-0 victory over Newcomb. Stovall said his team has thrived against adversity more than once this season.

"Going back to the break-in, this team has shown a lot of heart after some really tough weeks," he said. "That's really a testament to my assistant coaches and these kids' will to win."

Shiprock will have its hands full when it tries to get over the .500 mark on the road next week against 5-1 Bloomfield.

Kirtland Central 50, Zuni 0 

Bloomfield wasn't the only team to inflict the mercy rule on its opponent in the opening week of 1-4A district play, as Kirtland Central rolled over Zuni 50-0 at Bronco Stadium on Friday.

The Broncos improved to 2-4 on the season with the win over the Thunderbirds (2-4) in a game that was called before halftime because of the lopsided score.

Broncos coach Greg Jenks was suspended for Friday's game after being ejected during KC's 48-8 loss to Piedra Vista on Sept. 25. But he said he was able to watch an entire replay of the game online as soon as it ended.

What Jenks said he noticed most was Kirtland's ability to capitalize on a short field time and time again.

"Zuni had a hard time punting the ball," Jenks said. "There were a couple that only went 10 yards and a couple more where they didn't even get the snap off."

KC scored seven touchdowns in the game, all on offense.

Six of the hosts' seven touchdowns came on the ground. Keishaun Aspaas rushed for four of them, Aiden Cockrell ran in one, and backup quarterback Zach Vanduren scampered for another.

Starting QB Bryson Dowdy threw one touchdown pass. It went to to Avery Washburn.

Jenks said he wanted to see his defense do a better job of understanding and grasping the scheme, as it has struggled to do for most of the year.

"Just watching film back from the PV game, I noticed only two or three defenders doing their jobs the second the ball was snapped, and that was all game long," he said. "We want our guys to do the fundamental things we ask of them on that side of the ball, and I absolutely saw a lot of improvement in that area tonight."

KC will hit the road to play Thoreau (3-3, 0-1 District 1-4A) next week.

Jake Newby covers sports for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4577.

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