Socorro broke open a 21-21 tie and used a tremendous defensive effort in the fourth quarter to stop Hope Christian 30-27 to advance to the quarterfinals of Class 3A 2023 Nusenda Credit Union State Football Championships on Nov. 3.
The No. 7 Warriors (9-2) now advance to face No. 2 Robertson (8-2) in Las Vegas in a rematch of Socorro’s 28-13 season-opening loss on Saturday at 1 p.m. in Las Vegas.
“We probably have to play like mistake-free football and then cause some turnovers for sure,” Ocampo said.
The Warriors committed five turnovers in their loss to the Robertson, and that fact played on Socorro coach Damien Ocampo’s mind following his team’s first playoff win.
“We’ve got a lot of work to do,” coach Ocampo said.
The Warriors took a 21-14 lead at the half but emerged from the locker room discombobulated. On offense, Socorro had several misalignments and took until the final second to snap the ball, and the hurry up to get the ball snapped left the Warriors out of sync.
“We had some holding calls; we had some other stuff go wrong. Just like every single drive — we just stopped ourselves. It was an ugly night,” coach Ocampo said.
The game could have gone either way after the Huskies pounced on a Socorro fumble and returned the ball 50 yards to knot the score at 21-21. It was a stunning moment, but it served as a wake-up call for the Warriors, who responded on defense.
Following a quick kick, Hope found itself pinned at its two-yard line, and the Warriors looked like they had a safety, but the running back kept the ball out of the end zone. The tiny yardage lost on the play appeared to be the difference maker because on the next play, Kaden Dow, Pete Lopez and Cenyon Scarbrough corralled around the Huskie quarterback, and middle linebacker Chase Boykin stepped up to score the safety and establish a slim 23-21 lead.
When Alex Amaro beat his defender on a tightly laced pass from Isaiah Ocampo, the Warriors had a two-score lead and would need every bit of it as the Huskies scored with 2:04 remaining. Jojo Barba broke through to block the extra-point kick.
Socorro then worked to run out the clock and end Hope’s (4-7) season. What made Socorro’s second-half struggle look even worse was the team was clicking offensively in the first half.
To break the ice in the first quarter, Ocampo turned a third-and-five play into a 30-yard rip through the Huskie’s defense, and Dow was perfect with his PAT kick as he was throughout the night.
Barba produced some big plays, including a 40-yard plus kick return. He recovered a fumble, preventing a Huskie score and he caused a fumble. Hope took a 14-7 lead via an 84-yard pass when Socorro got caught out of alignment and allowed a wide-open score. The Warriors bounced back with a 12-yard scoring run by Scarbrough. Barba forced a fumble that Dow recovered to set up the Warriors with a short field, and an extra-effort after-contact run by Ocampo popped the ball into the end zone.
“They (Huskies) ran what they did at us last time, but then they put a floating linebacker in there, and he started hitting gaps that caused problems for us early. There was a mess with our blocking schemes. We have lots to work on, and we need to be mistake-free.”
With a Saturday road trip to Las Vegas, the Warriors will have an extra day of preparation that will need to face a much-improved Cardinal squad. Robertson has two losses on its record, and those came against No. 2 (2A) Santa Rosa (27-24) and a 21-0 blanking by No. 1 (3A) Saint Michael’s. Led by dual-threat quarterback Jesse James Gonzales, the Cardinals don’t put many points on the board, but their defense tends to throttle opponents into submission.