The Curry County Cats had difficulties with the El Paso Raiders during the New Mexico Premier League regular season, despite a series sweep.
No such problems in the playoffs, as the Cats rolled to a 42-8 victory on Sunday at Leon Williams Stadium.
The Cats (10-2), seeded third in the NMPL playoffs, travel to Albuquerque this weekend to face the top-seeded New Mexico Titans.
Curry County took care of business quickly, taking the lead with a three-play drive off the opening kickoff. Manuel Robles followed up a 29-yard Jerrod Long reception by finishing up the drive with a 28-yard burse up the middle for the score.
Quarterback John Props got into the running game, as well, scoring on a 6-yard keeper in his only rush, and threw a pair of touchdowns to J.J. Gross in the next two quarters.
Gross led the Cats with 86 yards receiving on four catches, including a 17-yard touchdown late in the second and a jump ball victory against El Paso’s Miguel Ortiz that turned into a 48-yard score.
The Cats outgained the Raiders 397-240 and got a defensive touchdown to end the second quarter on a 14-yard fumble return by Nicholas Brune.
Cats coach Paul Lopez said the biggest keys to the game were keeping everybody healthy and keeping the turnovers down.
In the first situation, the Cats did lose defensive back Kendale Parker to a knee injury but Lopez expects Parker to return against the Titans.
In the latter scenario, Curry County had an interception and a lost fumble, but both took place with a 35-point lead already secured.
With a similar focus, Lopez feels the Cats will have a decent chance at an upset.
“The games we’ve lost and been close in, we’ve had four or five turnovers,” Lopez said. “We’re going to go to Albuquerque and play a good team. We’ve got to be better next week.”
Mando Alarcon caught five passes for 84 yards to lead the Raiders (3-8), including a 10-yard touchdown with 2:07 left to spoil the Cats’ shutout bid.
Brian Mead ended the scoring with an 8-yard run in the final minute for Curry County.
The other NMPL semifinal, in Bernalillo, will pit the host Miners against the Albuquerque Wolfpack, who advanced due to a forfeit from the Albuquerque Blackhawks.