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Arjay Miller scores five touchdowns in rout

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SHIPROCK – Sometimes, homecoming can really light a fire under a football team.

This was the case on Friday night, as the Shiprock football team toppled Zuni 61-8 at Chieftain Stadium. The mercy rule was triggered in the fourth quarter with two minutes and 11 seconds remaining.

The Chieftains (4-4, 2-1 District 1-4A) went from losing a game by more than 50 points to winning a game by more than 50 in a one-week span.

Chieftains coach Eric Stovall said his team was excited to get on the field Friday and make last week’s 52-0 loss to Bloomfield a distant memory.

“They were eager to come back and prove they were a team that could rebound and a team that has resiliency,” Stovall said.

Speedy sophomore Quaid Shorty was dynamic as a receiver out of the backfield, racking up more than 100 yards after the catch and picking up two long receiving touchdowns. He scored three times on the night.

Shorty’s first TD came on a fourth-and-3 play early in the game. He caught an Arjay Miller pass in the flat, turned on the afterburners and navigated through the Thunderbird defense for a 45-yard score.

Shorty said his field vision is a product of hard work.

“I just work hard in practice to see the gaps and take that into the game and try to do the same thing,”he said. “I wouldn’t be where I’m at without (Arjay), and the lead blockers did a great job for me tonight, too.”

Shiprock’s defense stymied Zuni (3-5, 1-2) from start to finish, allowing only three completed passes and four first downs the entire night. The Shiprock D went on to pick up six sacks and four interceptions in the game.

“The defense did a job tonight. They were well prepared by our coaching staff,” Stovall said. “There were a lot of kids on that side of the ball that got to contribute and do good things for us.”

The suffocating Shiprock defense allowed Miller and the Chieftain offense to score 36 unanswered points in the first half.

Junior Steve Lara showed his versatility by getting loose for a 40-yard touchdown run and catching a 26-yard TD in the first two quarters. But Lara’s solid game turned into a monster game when he caught two more touchdowns in the second half to give him four on the night.

Miller accounted for five Shiprock touchdowns as the team’s quarterback and free safety. He passed for three, rushed for one and returned one to the end zone on an interception.

Perhaps most important, Miller didn’t turn the ball over. Interceptions and fumbles have plagued the senior QB all season, so the turnover-free effort against Zuni was a welcome sight for Stovall.

“No turnovers was big because he goes into next week with a lot of confidence, and he played great on defense, too,” Stovall said of Miller.

On the second-half kickoff, Shorty put his speed on display once again. He somehow came away from a gang of Zuni tacklers on his feet at his own 30-yard line before bolting to the end zone for his third TD.

On the ensuing drive, Miller picked off a Zuni pass and returned it for a 60-yard score to make it a 49-0 game. But Shiprock would miss the extra point, which would delay the implementation of the mercy rule.

Zuni then burned the Chieftains for a 72-yard kick return for a touchdown.

Stovall said he wasn’t disappointed that his team didn’t capitalize on the opportunity to end the game early, because it gave some of his underclassmen the opportunity to play.

“(Zuni) earned that kick return score. I commend them,” Stovall said. “It gave our younger kids the opportunity to play, and they work hard in practice, so they deserve to play, as well.”

Next week, the Chieftains visit Kirtland Central (4-4, 3-0) for the Broncos' homecoming. Stovall said his team is going to start watching film for that game right away.

“They’re a good ball club, they've got good kids and they do a good job,” Stovall said. “Let’s be honest, both teams are fighting for a playoff spot next week. We’re going to do the best we can to prepare, put us in a position to win and play our hearts out.”

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

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