Chieftains crush Thoreau behind strong defensive pressure

Shiprock rushers force Hawks QB into ill-advised throws

Matt Hollinshead,
  • Chieftains defensive end Cota Nakai had an early fumble recovery to set the tone.
  • Shiprock defensive back Tyris Newton had two interceptions, one of which he returned for a touchdown.
  • The Chieftains face Navajo Prep next week for the District 1-4A title.


SHIPROCK — The Shiprock defense attacked the pocket relentlessly, forcing Thoreau into some rash decisions during today’s 40-0 Chieftains victory at Chieftain Field.

“We put enough pressure on them in the backfield to have them make errant throws on several occasions,” coach Eric Stovall said.

Shiprock defensive end Cota Nakai helped set the tone in the first minute of regulation, recovering a fumble after the ball got knocked loose.

All day, the Chieftains had stellar group tackling through the inner creases and also quickly closed in the Hawks’ ball carriers moving left and right on the wings. A number of those tackles resulted in lost yardage.

Shiprock notched a safety off a botched punt attempt.

Shiprock defensive lineman Cota Nakai chases Thoreau quarterback Bradley Largo during the first quarter of Saturday’s District 1-4A game at Chieftain Field.


“We got off the ball very quickly, we beat the line, and that’s how we gave them pressure,” Nakai said. “We tried to put many helmets on the ball.”

Stovall said he put some extra players in the box to help maximize opportunities for getting stops stops up front.

“We were trying to collapse the pocket as fast as we could. That allows our linebackers to scrape and run free to the ball,” Stovall said.

Under frequent duress, Thoreau quarterback Bradley Largo made some ill-advised throws. That resulted in some easy interceptions for the Chieftains, including cornerback Tyris Newton’s 52-yard pick-6 during which he coasted to the end zone down the left side.

Shiprock’s Tyris Newton, right, eyes Thoreau tackler Gabriel Loera, No. 24, while returning an interception 50 yards for a touchdown in the first quarter of Saturday’s District 1-4A game.


“It’s very exciting. I’m glad the ball came to me on those throws,” said Newton, who had two interceptions. “Our line was definitely keeping pressure on them. (Largo) was just throwing it up, and we made a play.”

The running clock was turned on after the Chieftains hit 40 points with 2:35 left in the second quarter.

Shiprock (7-2, 2-0) looks to win its second straight District 1-4A title at 7 p.m. Friday at Navajo Prep (4-5, 2-0).

Matt Hollinshead covers sports for the Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4577.