Kevin Wilson: Freedom newspapers
TUCUMCARI — The flu was making Tucumcari junior Drew White sick, but the thought of another loss to Texico made him sicker.
White recovered in time to play, and make a marquee defensive play, as the Rattlers rolled 38-6 over visiting Texico to stay perfect on the season.
D.J. Martinez and Josh Benavidez both scored twice for Tucumcari (6-0) and Eric Holt ran for a team-high 110 yards, but White created a turnover and helped anchor a defense that forced four Texico turnovers and carried a shutout until the contest’s final 18 seconds.
An undefeated season continues for the Rattlers, who earned their first victory over Texico in four seasons.
”I was throwing up all morning,” White said. “All the years I’ve been here they’ve killed us bad and I wanted to beat them.”
White made sure Texico didn’t make it four in a row, as he was able to cause a turnover on the Wolverine’s opening second-half possession. With Tucumcari protecting a 17-0 halftime lead and Texico driving, White stripped the ball away from Wolverine quarterback Zane Anderson near midfield.
White’s coaching staff was shocked to see him come up with the ball that way, and White admitted he tried to give the ball away as soon as he got it.
“I just saw (Anderson) running backward,” White said. “I saw the ball and took it. I tried to give it to my running back so I could block for him, but he decided to block for me.”
It was one of six times Texico (3-3) turned the ball over — twice on interceptions and four times on fumbles. Seven plays after that particular turnover, Benavidez found Adrian Jones for a 13-yard touchdown pass to end any hope of aWolverine comeback.
Rattler coach Dub Smith thought his team did a good job of taking advantage of the turnovers, but felt his team made its own luck on the evening.
“(The turnovers) helped a bunch,” Smith said. “They’ve got a good football team, they’re well ccoached.
“Sometimes, turnovers are caused by a good ballclub. We played a really good ballclub there and we’re happy. But we think we’re a good ballclub too.”
Two of Texico’s fumbles came as the Wolverines were receiving punts, and each time the Rattlers got the ball for an extra possession. The first gave Tucumcari a second chance after its opening drive, and Martinez took advantage with an 8-yard run to start the blowout.
The second punt Texico fumbled away put Tucumcari in the unusual position of declining a roughing the kicker penalty midway through the fourth quarter.That sequence was more than enough indication it was the Rattlers’ night.
“That’s the best club I’ve seen in a while,” Texico coach Michael Prokop said. “We knew coming in that we’d have to play picture perfect to beat them.
“We held them to three-and-out on the first drive and we thought we were OK, then we gave it back to them on the punt. You can’t do that.”
When Texico gave them a chance — and often when they didn’t — Tucumcari answered with pivotal scores.
Martinez scored on a 25-yard run on the Rattlers’ third drive, and kicker Anas Badshah booted a 30-yard field goal to make the score 17-0 early in the second quarter.
Benavidez scored twice in the fourth, first on a 1-yard sneak early in the fourth and again on the game’s exclamation point, a 51-yard run down the right sideline after scooping up a Zane Anderson fumble.
Prokop was upbeat after the game, even though the road doesn’t get any easier. Texico faces Santa Rosa next.
“Our non-district is tough,” Prokop said. “That’s how we want it, so when we go into district, there are no excuses.”
The Wolverines got on the scoreboard late as Billy Scott scored on a hook-and-ladder play, with a pitch from Jonathen Sullivan at the 27 and a run down the sidelines.
The Rattlers stay home next week, with Dexter coming in as its homecoming opponent. Smith said Texico was a better team than the score indicated and was pleased with the victory.
“We were really happy to win,” Smith said. “We’re happy with the victory and we’re loking forward to playing Dexter next week.”
Justin Garrison had a game-high 141 rushing yards on 29 carries for Texico.