LAS CRUCES – A 45° wind chill. A few hundred fans covered in blankets and hoodies scattered through Mayfield’s stands. Two offenses desperate to heat up in the coldest game either team has played this season. One team searching for its first-ever win over one of the state’s perennial powerhouses.
And a three-play sequence to keep Mayfield’s season alive.
NMAA No. 6 seed Mayfield’s 21-10 win over no. 11 seed Santa Teresa in the first round of the playoffs (and their second meeting of the season after Mayfield beat Santa Teresa 24-7 in Week Two) was just as emotional as the rest of the Trojans’ week. Head coach Michael Bradley delivered the brutal message to his team Sunday that they weren’t nearly as good as they thought they were after losing all three of its district games by an average score of 42-14, and he said the Trojans responded with a week of practice that made him feel confident about Mayfield’s chances.
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It was only fitting the fate of Mayfield’s season – after a brutal 41-minute war of attrition against a program that had never beat the Trojans – came down to three plays in the final seven minutes.
The Trojans couldn’t have asked for a more dramatic finish. After trailing nearly the entire game until the fourth quarter, Mayfield finally caught the breaks it needed. The Trojans stole their second turnover of the game after Santa Teresa fumbled a ball in the backfield, but Mayfield faced a possible turnover on downs for the second straight possession just plays later.
Quarterback Anthony Carrillo helped making a calculated attempt at a pass and half firing up a prayer to his tight end, miraculously found tight end Brian Coyle for a contested catch in between a double team. One play later, running back Diego Guerra gave the Trojans their first lead of the game on a 9-yard touchdown run. And one play after that on Santa Teresa’s ensuing possession, cornerback Kaden Quinones scooped another fumble for a 10-yard touchdown return.
Mayfield scored 14 points in 13 seconds.
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“I think there were a lot of prayers going around, and finally one was answered,” Bradley said of Carrillo’s heave to Coyle. “It was a bad throw and a great catch. Coyle came back to catch the ball. A bobbling catch right at the tip of his fingertips. You don’t see that too much in high school football, but the whole second helped was that way, in a way.”
In a season where Mayfield has caught few to no breaks, the Trojans caught every break they could have in their biggest game of the season. Mayfield was without five starters and only picked up one first down in the first quarter. Santa Teresa didn’t officially record a first down but ripped off a 52-yard touchdown run in the final seconds to take a 7-0 lead after the opening frame. The Desert Warriors led 7-0 at halftime.
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Mayfield found the end zone midway through the third quarter on a 9-yard touchdown pass to Coyle. Santa Teresa answered with a 36-yard field goal to retake a 10-7 lead going into the fourth quarter.
Mayfield forced an interception on Santa Teresa’s first possession of the final quarter but stalled out inside Desert Warrior territory. The Trojans needed another break.
And Santa Teresa gave it to them.
“We haven’t been used to too many breaks lately, especially in the last three weeks,” Bradley said. “Any win is a big win for us. Today, at first it was just picking up first downs. But we came out in the second half and found a way to win.”
Mayfield hadn’t previously won a game since Sept. 30 against Deming and hadn’t held an opponent to less than 14 points since their Sept. 22 game against Belen. They hadn’t scored more than 14 points since Oct. 14 against Goddard. It was the fourth time the Trojans have defeated an opponent by at least two possessions.
This win just counted for more.
Mayfield moves on to play No. 3 seed Piedra Vista in Farmington next week while Santa Teresa heads home for the season. Mayfield would likely meet Roswell in the semifinal round if the Trojans managed to upset Piedra Vista.
But the Trojans are fine with whatever matchups they draw the rest of the postseason. As long as they give themselves a chance to make a Cinderella run back to the state championship game.
“If we get a good trip, a good practice week, anything can happen in the playoffs,” Bradley said.
Stephen Wagner is a sports reporter for the Las Cruces Sun News. He can found on Twitter at @stephenwag22 and reached at [email protected].