It’s fitting that Capital’s football team was ordered by the coaching staff to run a wind sprint following Friday night’s season opener because, really, all the Jaguars did the entire night was run in straight lines up and down the field.
Behind a video game stat line from sophomore running back Luke Padilla — half a dozen carries, 224 yards, four touchdowns, plus two kickoff returns for another 125 yards and one more score — Capital sent the fans home early with a 67-14 laugher over the overmatched Elks.
“I’m embarrassed to play this game,” said Capital head coach Bill Moon. “I get no pleasure out of this. Those poor kids from Pojoaque, they didn’t deserve this.”
The game ended on a walk-off touchdown run of 28 yards by fullback Jacob Jiron barely halfway through the third quarter. It initiated the 50-point mercy rule, officially putting a stop to a game that was out of hand as soon as it began.
The Jaguars forced a punt on the opening drive, then Padilla went to work.
Lining up under center for the first snap of his varsity career as a starting quarterback, Manuel Vargas nearly short-circuited everything. He fumbled the snap, stumbled slightly when bending down to pick it up, then shoved it with his left hand into Padilla’s gut. Fifty-two yards later it was 6-0.
“Hey, I’m a 14-year-old sophomore in his first game,” Vargas said. “I’m pretty nervous out there. The only thing I was thinking was not screwing it up, so the first thing I do is fumble it. I’m just grateful a guy like Luke is out there, guys that do the blocking for him are out there. Give it to Luke and let him do the work.”
Vargas threw only one pass (a 26-yard completion) and had seven yards on his only carry of the first half when he ran the wrong play and found himself rolling out to the right all by himself.
As it turned out, the biggest defensive play of the night wasn’t the pick-6 by Capital cornerback Jasper Mares or the crunching hit of Pojoaque’s quarterback by Jaguars linebacker Julian Sanchez. It wasn’t even the interceptions by Jiron and Jared Elicio.
It was actually by Capital receiver Isaiah Baldanado. Running in front of Padilla on what looked like a surefire 70-yard touchdown run, he came off his blocking assignment and collided with Padilla after 40 yards. The two rolled to the ground together.
“All summer we practiced that play, the [defensive back] over the hole and I made my cut a little late, but nothing on [Baldanado],” Padilla said. “That was just on me. I ran right into him. He was right where he should have been.”
The common theme for Capital — aside from one huge gain after another — was youth. With just six seniors on the 43-man roster, this is a team that’s supposed to make goofy mistakes and take the field with a certain sense of undisciplined play. Aside from a few miscues like an illegal shift that wiped out a touchdown run and shoddy defense when the Elks ran three identical plays inside the red zone for their first touchdown, the Jags played like a veteran team.
“I’m done talking about us being a young team,” Moon said. “We can’t do anything to change our age, so it’s one of those ‘Eff it, play it,’ things. We’re a team. We had all summer to be young and with the season starting, that’s not an excuse anymore. We are a team that will rely on the players on hand and not talk about our youth anymore.”
Have it your way, coach, but the youth is something that can’t be overlooked. Padilla is just a sophomore, as is the starting quarterback and running back Geo Munoz, who finished with 34 yards rushing and a touchdown. Everywhere you looked, an underclassman was making a big play or playing a key role.
“No matter who you have in, we’re going to run the system very well,” Padilla said. “As coach says, we have a system, and if we run it the way we know it, it’s going to work out. So far it has.”
Exactly where Padilla’s 82-yard return for a touchdown on the opening kick of the second half fits into that system is anyone’s guess. He initially fumbled the ball as it settled into his chest, then had it squirt through his legs as he tried to pick it up.
He finally did pick it up and within 10 steps, a Capital assistant coach said, “He’s gone.”
Lost in a pack of black and white jerseys at that exact moment, Padilla cut back at midfield and hit his stride just inside the logo at the 50. It was his fifth touchdown of the night, and his two kick returns — he had another one for about 40 yards — gave him roughly 345 yards in all-purpose yardage on just eight touches.
“I’m pleased with the result from a team standpoint, but I would have preferred we score our last points a little more slowly,” Moon said. “Getting a full game in for these kids would have been preferable, but we’ll take it. What else are we going to do?”
Jaguars: Leo Guzman had 75 yards rushing on seven carries. He scored on runs of 15 and 5 yards as Capital carried a 54-14 lead into halftime. … One of Padilla’s six carries went for a 46-yard touchdown in the first quarter. About midway through it, he bulldozed an Elks defender to break free in the secondary. … After building a 27-0 lead in the first 10 minutes, Moon took out most of his starters and had what was essentially a who’s who of the team’s freshmen and sophomores on the field for two possessions. … The Jaguars remain at home next week to face Deming.
Elks: Their longest drive of the night led to their first score less than 2 minutes into the second quarter. They marched 63 yards, getting an 11-yard scoring pass from Bryan Martinez to Devonn Leyba-Holmes. Leyba-Holmes started the game at quarterback and played the majority of the snaps there. … The Elks’ second touchdown came on fourth-and-seven from their own 42. Leyba-Holmes eluded pressure in the pocket and hit a wide-open Anthony Meloy in the flat. He outran the defense from there. … Pojoaque visits Santa Fe Indian School on Thursday night.