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Dexter running back Gustavo Macias spies open field after bursting through the Hagerman defensive line Friday in Hagerman. (Photo Courtesy Jeannie Harris)

For three quarters, the War on the Felix was everything the communities of Hagerman and Dexter could have wanted and more. More being a touch of heartburn and a few less fingernails.

The Bobcats and Demons had been locked in a defensive battle for supremacy that saw the boys in blue leading 9-0 going into the fourth. There, both teams knew, something would have to give – either the ‘Cats were going to rally on offense or the Dexter defense was going to make a stand and close out the win.

It turned out to be the latter with a little something extra on the side, as the Demon offense tacked on a pair of insurance touchdowns while the D maintained its shutout in a 23-0 decision that kept the bragging rights north of the bridge for another season.

“Our defense was just lights out all night,” Dexter head coach Kevin Graham said Saturday. “They were in the spread, and we just handled it.

“We struggled a little bit early on offensively. We kind of came out like we did against Santa Rosa, shooting ourselves in the foot, but we were able to get the job done in the end.”

After a scoreless opening quarter, the Demons drew first blood in the second on a 16-yard
touchdown run by Gustavo Macias. The score would stand at 7-0 at the break, and in the third, Dexter was able to tack on a safety on a tackle in the end zone by Hernan Gonzalez and Jacob Sanders.

“They weren’t putting anybody back on punt return, so that particular punt rolled to the three, and then we got them in the end zone on the next play,” said Graham.

Gonzalez had done the punting honors, as well, booting a 53-yarder.

Up to that point, despite struggling mightily on offense, Hagerman still had a chance. And while it ultimately passed them by, head coach Adrian Olivas says that fact is something of which his athletes can be proud.

“It baffled me a little how basically the same 11 kids who were playing lights out on defense
couldn’t move the ball on offense,” said Olivas. “It was frustrating, because they were playing their tails off defensively.

“And yet still, we were only down 9-0 after the third to Dexter. One or two big plays, and we could’ve pulled off an upset a lot of people thought couldn’t happen. So although I’m not really into those types of victories, that’s something we can build on with our boys, and I’m excited about that.”

The Demons were finally able to put the ‘Cats away in the final 12 minutes, however, on two more touchdown runs by Macias, the first from 26 yards out and the second from the 10.

“They just kind of wore us down in the fourth,” said Olivas. “That safety really kind of deflated
our kids, but we still fought till the end, and that’s a huge bright spot.

“Our defense was a bright spot, as well. They were really flying around the ball. Dexter had
a couple of big plays, but for the most part, I thought we were pretty sound. They’ve just got
some athletes with good size, good speed – just some natural athletes. But our boys worked hard. They’re still learning. This is still brand-new to them. But they’re being coachable, and they got the job done on defense.”

Hagerman’s Velentin Sierra (58) works to bring down Demon RB Gustavo Macias. (Photo Courtesy Hope Franklin)

Graham was also pleased with his defense’s effort on the night, as the Demons held Hagerman to negative 31 yards. Dexter’s offense, meanwhile, saw Macias post his second consecutive 130-yard-plus game, as the junior carried the ball 21 times for 161 yards and three touchdowns. Nick Cobos contributed 47 yards to the team’s 237-yard ground total, and quarterback Jarren Amaro was 11 of 16 for 122 yards.

The Demons (2-1) will now prepare for their third inter-classification matchup of the season as they had to Tucumcari Friday. The Rattlers are currently 1-2, having topped Albuquerque
Academy and fallen to Escalante and Estancia.

“We’ve just gotta clean it up,” Graham said of his squad’s mindset heading into their next bout. “We came out last night and had a fumble, an interception, and a fumbled punt return, and we’re just not good enough to overcome those kind of preventable mistakes. We’re not there yet, not if we want to stay in the game with people, so we have to clean it up and make sure we’re not making them.

“We’re stressing the fundamentals, and that’s just about being a good, disciplined football team. And we’ll get there, because these kids will work. I tell them all the time that they honor the game by how hard they play it, and they play it hard. So it’s not a lack of effort, maybe just a little lack of focus.”

Hagerman (0-3), meanwhile, will take a break from their string of Class 3A opponents to take on a fellow 2A team Friday in Fort Sumner/House. That bout will be the Bobcats’ Homecoming game.

“That doesn’t mean it’s going to be an easy one,” said Olivas. “They’re undefeated. But we’re excited. Like I said Thursday, we’re going to step up to the challenge, and we’re not going to back down. Last night, not a lot of people would’ve given us a chance, but we had a chance, we just didn’t take advantage of it. And that starts with me – I just have to prepare them a little better.”

Olivas was also pleased to report Hagerman’s middle-school team blanked Loving 38-0 Saturday, meaning the future is continuing to look bright for the Bobcats.

“That’s a testament to this community sticking behind these kids and these kids hanging in there,” said the coach. “They’re not hanging their heads just because they’ve lost a few games. They keep fighting, and at the end of the day, we just have to do well in our district. That’s what it’s all about, and these games are preparing us for that.”