Brian Armijo rushed for two touchdowns, including an 83-yard scamper.
Russell Huffman | El Defensor Chieftain

The defense dominated the second half as the Warriors (6-0) came from behind to beat previously unbeaten Raton (5-1) 27-14. Socorro lived up to its new No. 1 ranking with a win over the No. 3 Tigers.

The New Mexico Coaches Poll flip-flopped the two teams after the 3A Warriors topped 5A Miyamura 46-29, and Socorro secured the needed votes. The only thing that matters is what happens on the field, but the voters appar­ently have some great insight.

Led by the nation’s No. 2 run­ning back, Cayden Walton, the Tigers relied heavily on the run all season, and Walton was producing a stunning 270 yards per game.

Socorro bent but didn’t break, and coach Damien Ocampo’s worries about a wildcat offense were featured in practices before the game. There was a twist to the Tigers’ “wildcat” because Raton was without its starting quarterback Jacob Mattorano (ankle), putting the offense into the hands of Walton.

The speedy back ran for 222 yards, but it took 30 carries to get there, and his longest run of the game was for 19 yards. The most prominent note being Walton was averaging four touchdowns a game but could only muster one against Socorro.

“We got the worst-case sce­nario because the hardest thing in the world is to deal with a great running back who can catch and run,” coach Damian Ocampo said. “Everybody’s blocking; they get you in different formations that give you problems, and their linemen are faster than you nor­mally see.”

By the time Walton made it into the end zone, his Tigers were already trailing as Socorro stopped Raton’s opening drive and went on an 11-play 90-yard drive capped by Brian Armijo’s four-yard score. The first of Kaden Dow’s three extra-point kicks made it 7-0 with 3:34 left in the first quarter.

It looked like a shootout was about to get underway as the Tigers marched down the field and returned the favor eight plays later. An untimely facemask pen­alty aided the score, and penalties plagued the Warriors all night.

Ocampo, who has already team, faced a fourth-and-five situation near midfield and elected to go for it. The play didn’t work, but it allowed Socorro to apply some “rat-a-tat” defense on the Tigers.

Big defensive plays by Xamien Aguilar, Cenyon Scarborough, Warren Chiwiwi, Brian Armijo, Warren Kurtnaker, Caden Moreland and Damien Greenwood kept the Tigers off balance. Chiwiwi broke up a third-down pass, and a fourth-down effort hit the turf.

Pinned deep in their own territory, quarterback Marcus Armijo linked up with Alex Amaro for a short gain to give the Warriors a little comfort zone and loosened up the Tigers’ run coverage.

It was a colossal mis­take, and Brian Armijo blasted off and didn’t finish until 83 yards later.

A missed PAT kick would allow the Tigers to get a one-point advantage when a series of penalties against Socorro players led to Raton taking the lead 14-13 at the half.

“We made a couple of mistakes. We jumped off­sides a couple of times,” Ocampo said. “At least it was a bunch of flags on both sides.”

The field looking like a laundry mat at times couldn’t take away from the Warriors’ efforts in the second half, and Socorro made better choices with its defensive adjustments.

The third quarter was also a test of how the Warriors would respond after trailing for the first time all year. Socorro answered almost immediately on its initial possession of the second half.

Armijo stayed home under a heavy pass rush, started with a hookup with Amaro, and then found Isaiah Ocampo for the go-ahead score. Amaro sliced past defend­ers on a two-point conver­sion and a 21-14 lead.

Amaro’s sticky hands came up with an intercep­tion on the Tigers’ ensu­ing possession and gave Socorro a short field with a 17-yard return.

Proving their grit for the second time in the game, the Warriors overcame a penalty that left them with a fourth-and-20 when Ocampo snagged another Armijo pass. Armijo ended the night’s scoring on a 10-yard run the next play.

From then on, it was all about bending but not breaking against Walton’s rushing attack.

“I am surprised how efficient we were, consider­ing we didn’t play great. But we did compete. The kids played hard, especially in the second half. They answered the bell. I am proud of them for that,” Ocampo said.

The Warriors hit the road for the second week as they travel to Gallup. The 4A Bengals are struggling this season and have yet to crack the win column.

The game presents the opportunity to get the entire Warriors’ roster on the field, which is essential because Socorro opens District 3-3A play with an Oct. 15 game against Hatch.

“(Gallup goes) from an option offense to a wide-open spread offense. They run a lot of, like, unbal­anced sets and things that make sure you need to be on your guard,” Ocampo said. “They’ve had two weeks to prepare for us.”