The host Chieftains fell behind 49-0 before firing off two late scores during their 4A state playoff loss
SHIPROCK — The Chieftains showed heart today by playing hard until the final whistle against a team that ran away with the football game very early on.
No. 7 Shiprock (7-4) was dominated on both sides of the ball by No. 10 Silver for the better part of their 4A state playoff match-up. The Chiefs descended into a 35-0 first-half hole, but showed life later on with a 16-0 run in the fourth quarter. Silver (5-6) ultimately came away with the 49-16 win and will tangle with No. 2 Portales next week.
"They're a well-coached ball club, they're very disciplined, (Silver coach) Raul Diaz does an excellent job with his coaching staff," Shiprock coach Eric Stovall said. "My hat's off to Silver. I think they'll do very well at Portales."
Silver got off to a nearly perfect start, on both sides of the ball. The Fighting Colts got into the end zone on their first five offensive drives, while the hosts managed just 40 yards of total offense through a scoreless first half.
"We came out a little flat, and they came out strong, and they did a good job up front, initially," Stovall said. "I give them full credit."
Silver used multiple two-back set variations to keep a Shiprock defense that hadn't allowed a point since Oct. 7 off balance. The offensive line of the Fighting Colts gave Silver running backs like Rocky Diaz a lot of room to operate. Diaz, a junior, showed plus vision and cutting ability on his way to more than 100 yards rushing and two long touchdown runs.
Silver QB Joe Hanson-Rivera left his mark on the game, as well, with two touchdown passes and two rushing scores. He showed great touch on a first-quarter, 20-yard TD pass to Mikey Hernandez on a wheel route, then again in the second quarter on a 22-yard TD lob to Chandler Bryan, who caught the pass in stride in the corner of the end zone.
Stovall said he had a message for his players at halftime, and he thinks that message was received.
"We made up our minds that, 'You know, we're going to play until the last whistle,'" Stovall said. "I was very impressed with the way the kids handled themselves through adversity. Got two quick scores on the board and were trying to get a third."
A Devin Corral 1-yard touchdown run late in the third quarter gave the Fighting Colts a 49-0 lead, at which time they decided to rest a handful of key players.
Shiprock took advantage in the fourth, getting good penetration on defense to shorten Silver's offensive possessions, while scoring twice itself on back-to-back drives. Rhakeem Anagale connected with Adrian Gibson for a 15-yard touchdown pass, and a few minutes after that, Steve Lara busted loose for a 45-yard TD scamper.
When the final seconds ticked off the clock, and the opponents finished shaking hands, many parents of the Shiprock players joined in with the Chieftain coaches to speak with the team and show their support one final time in 2016.
The District 1-4A champions will look to advance even further in the playoffs next year, according to Stovall, who said this is just the beginning for the Shiprock football program.
"Our attitude already, as a staff and as a team for that core group of sophomores and juniors coming back, is we're going to get in that weight room in January and keep working at it all the way through the spring," Stovall said. "Our goal is to go deeper in the playoffs next year. We've laid a good foundation for the future, and we're going to work on making things even better."
Jake Newby covers sports for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4577.