In fourth straight title game, Robertson hurt by turnovers, loses again
DEXTER — It almost didn’t matter that the crackle of fireworks mixed with the fog horn from a nearby fire truck and the marching band’s school fight song effectively drowned out most of head coach Leroy Gonzalez’s postgame speech.
His players had heard it before.
So had the parents and fans and family members surrounding the Las Vegas Robertson football team as the sun began to set on the yellow grass of Dexter’s football field.
“I don’t even know what to say anymore,” Gonzalez said a few minutes after walking away from the group following Saturday’s Class 3A football state championship game.
It was Las Vegas Robertson’s fourth straight appearance in the title game. It was also the Cardinals’ fourth straight championship loss.
Robertson turned the ball over five times in a 22-12 loss to host Dexter, giving the hard-luck Cards another miserable memory to end the season. One of the common denominators in all four games was the opposing team’s quarterback.
Each time the guy taking the snaps on the other side came up with one big play after another. In Saturday’s case, Dexter senior Jarren Amaro ran for two scores and passed for another to lead the Demons into a postgame celebration.
The moment featured one Dexter coach dropping to a knee to propose to his girlfriend and a senior captain tearfully taking off his championship medal and putting it around his dad’s neck.
“I can’t even imagine what it’s like for them over there,” Amaro said, looking through the throng of blue-clad teammates and fans and toward the Robertson group milling around on the other side of the field. “Getting here just once was really hard, but to do it four times in a row, that’s crazy.”
The playoffs’ second seed, Dexter (12-1) completed the Vegas sweep Saturday after eliminating West Las Vegas the week before in the semifinals. Like every game the Demons have played for the last month or so, they won with defense.
They held the Cardinals (11-3) to 119 yards total offense, including just 21 yards rushing. They forced a fumble and an interception in the first half, taking a 12-6 lead into the break after both teams combined to miss three extra points and a chip shot field goal.
The biggest gaffe came on the opening kick of the second half when Robertson’s special teams unit let a short end-over-end kick bounce outside the 20 and shoot past the return man. Dexter beat everyone to the ball and took over at the Cardinals’ 11.
A few plays later, Amaro leaned across the goal line on a 1-yard sneak to score what proved to be the game-clinching points.
The 19-6 margin was too big to overcome, even after Robertson quarterback Brandon Lucero converted a pair of huge fourth-down plays; one on a 34-yard pass to Matthew Gonzales to get to the Demons’ 12, then an 8-yard lob to the front pylon to Antonio Padilla.
It got the Cardinals within 19-12 with five minutes remaining in the third quarter.
It led to three straight punts by Dexter, none of which did anything to spark the Robertson offense.
The final nail came on a Juan Fuentes field goal from 22 yards with two minutes remaining. Whatever chance the Cardinals had died just seconds before when Fuentes missed from
27 yards, but was given a second chance when Robertson jumped offsides.
Lucero was picked off twice in the final seven minutes and finished with 119 yards. That included a 49-yard touchdown pass to Padilla in the first quarter that tied the game at 6.
Just moments after he walked into the heart of Dexter’s postgame celebration to accept the runner-up medal given to each player from the losing team, Robertson running back Santiago Gonzales ran the oven mitts he has for hands through his hair he dyed bright red a few days before.
“I don’t even know what I feel,” he said. “To get here, it’s so hard to go through all the two-a-days. You throw up in practice, come home hurt, go through all the stuff you do every year and work hard to get here. Then you get here and lose. It’s the worst, you know? Hurts.”
Gonzales had a handful of solid plays on defense as he and linemen like Mackenzie Ebell and Margarito Ortega, to name a few, managed to bottle up everyone except Amaro.
He finished with 138 yards passing and 43 rushing. He threaded a touchdown pass of 34 yards in the first half and had a gutsy 7-yard scoring run on fourth-and-goal on the team’s opening drive. Flushed from the pocket, he rolled to his left and dove into the front corner of the end zone for the game’s first score.
At one point in the second half, he ran over to the sideline and called for a drink of pickle juice.
“No, it’s not code for a secret drink or anything,” Amaro said. “It’s just pickle juice. I take it when I’m cramping, and when I started to feel it I was, like, no way I’m letting a cramp take me out of this game.”
In some ways, it’s the same old same old for Robertson. It was part of the message Gonzalez shared with his players — not that anyone really heard. Several players wept and others stared blankly ahead.
“It would be nice to do this a little different,” Gonzalez said, looking down at his shoes for just a moment. “I don’t know. I mean, it’s a great accomplishment for us getting to this game four years in a row, but back home we still have that  trophy sitting there. In a lot of ways, we’ve been chasing it this entire time.”