Matthew Lopez had two interceptions in Magdalena’s 40-0 shutout of Navajo Pine.
Russell Huffman | El Defensor Chieftain

Not even playing on a short week of practice could deter Magdalena as the Steers defense created opportunities that its offense turned into touchdowns in a 40-0 homecoming win over Navajo Pine on Sept. 21.

The shortage in New Mexico’s of high school football officials forced a Thursday game and left the Steers with only three days of practice. Combined with a week of homecoming distractions, the Steers wanted to avoid a trap game where they needed a win.

“It’s a great win for us during homecoming week. It’s one of those wins you got to have, and we struggle with scoring,” Magdalena coach Danny Daniels said. “We’re trying to figure it out because we can move the ball around and do different things. Once we start to figure it out, we will be fine. We are just sometimes shooting ourselves in the foot.”

Matthew Lopez’s first of two interceptions set up the Steers’ first opportunity, and a 52-yard run by quarterback Shane Montoya put Magdalena on the scoreboard, and Krae Stephens’ point-after catch made it 8-0.

The Steers went right back to work on their next possession, as Ky Stephens set up a score with a 20-yard gain on a reverse. The Warriors were caught off guard when Montoya went to the air, finding Krae Stephens, who made a tiptoe catch in the back of the end zone.

Navajo Pine misfired on a 4-11 play to turn the ball over on downs on its next possession, and Montoya found Krae Stephens on a 12-yard touchdown pass. Stephens would provide a 26-0 lead at the half when he pulled down a high pass and juggled it before settling the ball and racing to paydirt from 75 yards out.

“We moved the ball, but it seemed like it was on third or fourth down. We have young guys, and those are things that we’re working on,” Daniels said.

Neither team moved the ball well in the third quarter, and at one point, the Steers found themselves needing 35 yards to get a first down when the Warriors capitalized on a couple of big sacks of Montoya. The Steers also lost a long touchdown by Lopez when the play was called back due to a block below the waist.

Magdalena regained its momentum with Montoya scoring on a 28-yard run and connecting with Lopez for another score. Lopez ended Navajo Pine’s hopes of getting on the scoreboard with his second interception to close the contest.

Krae Stephens is Magdalena’s only senior on a youth-laden team, and his three touchdowns are something Daniels is expecting from his team leader.

“We appreciate him. He’s our only senior, and a lot of responsibility falls on his shoulders, and we want a lot of stuff out of him,” Daniels said. “I’m very happy. This is one of those games that you have to win. It’s homecoming. You know, we’re trying to build a culture where, you know, we want people to come in and be excited about participating in football.”

Magdalena’s expected move to six-man football got a debut when its middle school team pounded Ramah 44-0. The six-man win came with only a week’s preparation, and it was a personal boost for Daniels, who played and graduated in Ramah along with Magdalena athletic director Jory Mirabal, who was his quarterback.

“They’ve been playing for a long time; I feel like they had an advantage just because it’s something new to our game. I was yelling and doing all kinds of stuff. It was a little bit out of character, but it’s important to me just because it’s Ramah,” Daniels said.

Daniels’ excitement wasn’t lost on players like Paul Chavis Lopez, who wanted the Steers’ team picture taken with the 44-0 score in the background.

“I wanted them to put the score back up, remember when we play. We didn’t have a week of practice. We had only three days. I’m proud of our whole team committing, learning super-fast, and knowing what to do,” Lopez said.