LOVINGTON – In just one night, the season opener no less, the Lovington football team matched its win total from last season on Friday night.
And boy, was it electric.
Behind six touchdowns from senior Evan Cesareo and seven from sophomore quarterback Casey Perez (some overlap), the Wildcats won their first home opener in head coach Anthony Gonzales’ tenure with a 68-54 victory over visiting Chaparral at Wildcat Stadium.
Lovington amassed over 750 yards from scrimmage and had 29 first downs in the win, led by the efforts from Cesareo and Perez. That made it easier for Gonzales to somewhat overlook the ‘Cats’ 125 yards in penalties, the 29 first downs the defense allowed and a vicious comeback the Lobos nearly came away with on the night.
“I was very happy with us,” Gonzales said. “Offensively, I thought those kids did an excellent job. I think that’s a direct reflection of coach Tarin, the offensive coordinator, being brand-new, bringing in an attitude.”
Perez, who threw for five touchdowns – three to Cesareo – and ran for two more, credited a lot of that offensive success to the offensive line.
“Our O-line has been working hard this summer,” he said. “Our O-line did a great job of protecting me. It’s all about the O-line.”
After a two-yard run and 71-yard catch from Cesareo led to a 15-0 lead for Lovington at the end of the first quarter, the Wildcats (1-0) looked like they would cruise to an easy win. But once Perez connected with Jorge Carrasco for a 28-yard score to make it 22-0 with 10:28 left in the first half, that’s when Chaparra started to click on offense.
The Lobos (0-1) outscored Lovington 24-13 throughout the rest of the second quarter, behind two 66-yard TD runs from Joseph Rodriguez and two other scores from Abraham Ibarra. At halftime, the Wildcats’ 22-point lead dropped to 35-24.
Perez started the second half with a 44-yard touchdown run, his first of two rushing TDs on the day, but Chaparra scored two more touchdowns via Abel Martinez and Rodriguez within the next five minutes. Successful two-point conversions left the score at 42-40 at that point in Lovington’s favor.
“Coming into this year, we didn’t know how to play when we’ve had a lead,” Gonzales said. “We’ve never had to do that. That’s something that we got to learn how to do. I felt like we backed off the gas a little bit. The kids got comfortable.”
The Wildcats picked it back up from there, though, scoring a touchdown from each Cesareo (receiving) and Perez (rushing) to hold off the Lobos from ever taking a lead. Once Lucas Arreola picked off Chaparra quarterback Marcos Vale with under a minute left in the third quarter, Gonzales felt that the Lobos’ momentum ended there.
The Wildcats will look to win its second game at Portales next Friday.