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York, defense power Cards to state semifinal

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Cardinals dominate to win quarterfinal

By Tom Mulherin

EUNICE – The undefeated Eunice football team has won several one-sided affairs throughout the season, but the Cardinals walked away Saturday with their most lopsided victory yet.

Senior Kari York rushed for a career-high four touchdowns, the defense allowed -6 total yards in an eighth straight shutout, and Eunice beat visiting Newcomb by mercy rule, 54-0, in a Class 3A State Quarterfinal matchup at Cardinal Stadium.

The win pushed the Cardinals to 11-0 this season and advances them to a semifinal matchup against Estancia.

“We’re excited to advance, we’re one step closer to our goal,” said Eunice head coach Ken Stevens. “(But) this wasn’t a game, as a coach, I was really looking forward to playing because it’s a game that it’s hard to tell; did we get better? They’re not the same caliber of team we’re used to playing. It’s hard to tell whether or not we improved … and at this point in time of the season, that’s what we want to do.”

York got going in the opening drive for Eunice, following several bad plays from the offense with a 48-yard touchdown rush up the middle on a fourth down.

That big run really set the tone for the offense the rest of the game, where the Cards accrued 356 yards from scrimmage over just 30 plays. Eunice got out of every jam it put itself in, highlighted by York’s run in the opening drive, and a later touchdown that was set up when Evan McCalip took a third-and-27 pass on a slant and bruised his way for 31 yards.

Not once did the Cards have to punt, as they scored on all but one of their nine possessions.

“I did see some good things offensively,” Stevens said. “There was a couple of times I thought (quarterback Mason Caperton) held onto the ball a little too long, but other than that, I thought our pass protection was a lot better and our communication was a lot better. I did see some improvements, some good things there.”

Caperton shined in his role, completing 7-of-9 passes for 112 yards and two touchdowns. But York proved to have the best game offensively.

After Caperton found Avante Stevens for a 27-yard TD and Juan Sosa rushed for a 5-yard score to put Eunice up 20-0, York started to dial up his game with more consistent scoring. His effortless, 13-yard TD rush on a sweep near the start of the second quarter gave the Cards a 27-0 lead. Then, less than two minutes after his brother – Tari York – scored on a 2-yard rush up the middle, Kari scampered for another 13-yard score.

Cameron Santa Cruz’s 18-yard TD catch from Caperton gave Eunice a 48-0 lead at the half, but the game ended on the first play of the third quarter when Kari York took a keeper 61 yards for his fourth touchdown of the game. He finished with 159 rushing yards on seven carries.

“This feels good, we gave those fans a show. For the seniors, it could have been our last game,” Kari York said. “The line blocked very well, left a lot of gaps for me to run through. … I wasn’t expecting (to score four touchdowns), I just came out here ‘win or go home’. Didn’t want to go home, so I played my best performance today.”

While the offense coasted, a big credit behind this win goes to yet another seemingly impossible defensive effort.

The Skyhawks didn’t have a single play over five yards, but had five separate plays where it was tackled for negative yardage. Losses of two, five, eight, two and 15 yards made it nearly impossible for the Skyhawks to gain any momentum, which is probably why they didn’t get even one first down all game. Instead, they turned the ball over three times on three fumbles.

“We were just so much athletically better than them,” Stevens said. “It was very difficult for them to do anything against our defense. (When) they try to go to the outside, we’re going to out-run them out there. We are too big, too physical for them to run up the middle, and they couldn’t maintain a block in the pass.”

Even as he watched his defense dominate for an eighth straight shutout, though, Stevens was still shocked and impressed with the degree in which it came.

“I did not know (we held them to -6 total yards),” Stevens said. “Holy cow, that’s hard to do against anybody. That’s a pretty amazing stat, I didn’t realize that at all.”

With any kind of luck, Eunice will repeat such a dominant performance next weekend against Estancia, which is a team the Cards beat 24-16 earlier in the year. The day and time of the game are both to be determined, but the game will be played at Estancia. Eunice holds the higher seed, yet it owes Estancia a playoff game.

 

Burkett Shaw
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