SHIPROCK — Shiprock’s players and coaching staff stood tall following the Chieftains’ homecoming win over Wingate Friday, their eyes up and beaming, their shoulders lowered and relaxed.
A giant weight fell off the whole group. Actually, more like several giant weights.
Shiprock won its first game of 2018, erasing a six-game losing streak to start the year. First-year coach Michael Switch left the field as a winner for the first time as a head football coach.
The Chieftains (1-6) finally got rolling on offense, scoring 38 points. Shiprock had scored just 20 total points coming into the game.
“It’s a big relief. They’ve been through a lot this year. Overcoming some of the opponents we played, (the players) still have that fight in them. Our guys dug deeper and wanted it more. You could see in their eyes they wanted it so bad,” Switch said. “No matter (what) bad situations we might encounter right now, they do get better in the end.”
The Chieftains opened the game on a 22-0 run, and that scoring barrage demonstrated Shiprock’s potential entering the final three games.
Quarterback Tyris Newton said he saw that expression of “finally” in his teammates' faces as Friday's game unfolded.
“Going 0-6, it was really frustrating at the beginning of the season because it was a lack of communication,” Newton said. “We definitely needed that (win). Hopefully, players get it in their head that we’re getting momentum from this (win).”
Sitting together in the locker room afterward, the reality quickly set in. It finally happened.
“Honestly, it’s really great. I’m just speechless,” running back Alfred Smart said. “(I spent) weeks, practices, day and night, just thinking about that, ‘When are we going to get a win?’ ”
After enduring tough losses against foes like Bernalillo and St. Michael’s, Switch said the team had spent the past several weeks often wondering when that first win would come, whether it would come.
It finally came on homecoming night. The tension is gone.
“I’m just really appreciative for this moment,” Newton said. “I hope our players continue to strive, strive for greatness.”
Matt Hollinshead covers sports for the Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4577.