Cardinals dominate Demons
EUNICE – The matchup between Eunice and Dexter was supposed to be the best of Class 2A against the best of Class 3A. It was billed as a battle of tough defenses and good offenses. But when it was all said and done, it was Eunice dominating again as the No. 1 ranked team in Class 2A beat up on Dexter and walked away with a 34-0 win at Cardinal Stadium Friday night.
“Dexter played hard,” Eunice coach Ken Stevens said. “I thought the score would be a lot closer than it was, I really did. They are a good football and have been putting up points and shutting people out. I really expected a close 21-14 type ball game. … I was kind of shocked that the game turned like it did.”
The win was the Cardinals’ 18th straight. Eunice, which improved to 5-0, will be on the road next week as it plays at Texico (2-3).
For one quarter of play, the game was as billed. Eunice went three-and-out on the game’s first drive while Dexter marched down the field, getting all the way to Eunice’s 10-yard line before the Cardinals’ defense held. Dexter attempted a 28-yard field goal, but it was no good.
“To start off the game, we did not defend the option very good,” Stevens said. “That quarterback was having his way with us on that first drive.”
That was the Demons only legitimate scoring opportunity of the night.
“We made some adjustments and reminded the kids of what to do,” Stevens said.
The Cardinals adjusted on their second drive and covered 80 yards on 10 plays. Avante Stevens got into the end zone on a three-yard rush on the first play of the second quarter to give Eunice a 7-0 lead.
On Dexter’s ensuing drive, Johan Juarez and Noah Mendoza bad back-to-back sacks before Manuel Lujan intercepted a pass on 4th-and-19, giving the Cardinals the ball on their own three-yard line. Eunice needed just seven plays to cover 97 yards and score. Evan McCalip caught a 12-yard pass from Mason Caperton to give Eunice a 14-0 lead.
“When I go up to catch them, I don’t think nothing about them,” McCalip said. “My mind is just blank and that is it.”
Dexter’s next drive was not any better. A Demons’ receiver dropped what should have been an easy reception and on the next play, Logan Gaskins had the Cardinals’ third sack of the night.
The Cardinals went into the break leading 14-0.
The Demons got the ball to start the second half, and while they did move the ball some, it wasn’t enough. On 3rd-and-15, Felix Gonzales had the Cardinals’ fourth sack of the night, forcing yet another Dexter punt. The Cardinals were unable to get into the end zone on that drive, but after Stevens picked off a pass on Dexter’s next drive, Eunice’s offense scored five plays later when Juan Sosa scored on a two-yard run.
“The defensive line did a great job,” Stevens said. “It’s a lot of the same guys from the offensive line doing the work on the defensive line for us and they did an outstanding job.”
Eunice scored again in the fourth quarter when McCalip caught a five-yard pass from Caperton, extending the Cardinals’ lead to 27-0.
Senior Garrett Bush hauled in his first career interception on the Dexter’s next drive and returned the ball nearly 50 yards, putting the Cardinals’ offense on first and 10 at the Dexter 27.
“That was my first one in my high school career,” Bush said. “It felt amazing.”
Stevens was glad to see Bush make some big plays.
“Bush is one of those kids who have been around the program for four years and has never really been a fulltime starter for us,” Stevens said. “He is one of those kids who you love to have on the team. He is a great kid and works hard. I am so proud for him to be able to make some plays.”
Sosa carried the ball four times on the five-play drive and scored on a four-yard run, putting the Cardinals up 34-0 with 3:03 to play.
“I couldn’t do it without my line blocking,” Sosa said. “I have the best line and I basically just walked in (to the end zone).”
Dexter got its offense moving on its final drive, moving the ball from its own 24 to the 45, but once again a Eunice interception stalled the drive. On a first and 10 play, Bush went up to knock down a pass and came up with a one-handed interception seal the Cardinals’ win.
“I didn’t know he caught it,” the Cardinals’ coach said. “It hit his hands and I though, alright he batted it down, great play. Then I see him take off running and I was like what the heck! Sure enough he had the interception. That was a great play.”
Eunice finished with 373 total yards of offense. Caperton had two touchdowns and 269 yards passing while completing 19-of-25 passes. Cameron Santa Cruz caught six passes for 134 yards.
“Mason (Caperton) did a great job of staying in the pocket and delivering the ball,” Stevens said. “Our receivers made some big time catches for us. They stepped up and played big in a big game.”