It took a few seconds for Santa Fe defensive back Zach Martinez to do the math in his head.
Looking down at his right hand, he ticked off the years, using his fingers to sound off the digits as he went.
“Let’s see,” he finally said. “I guess I was about 10 years old back then.”
“Back then” is October 2014. That’s the last time Santa Fe High’s football team was on the plus side of .500. The Demons began that season winning four of their first six games, then dropped all four of their district contests and finished with a losing record.
Until Friday night, the Demons have been staring up at the break-even point ever since.
Riding the roughshod defense that has become the team’s calling card through the first three weeks, Santa Fe High (2-1) squeezed the life out of Española Valley in a 35-8 victory at Ivan Head Stadium. It’s the Demons’ second straight win, setting up a litmus test for the ages next week when they visit defending Class 4A champ Taos.
“I guess we’ll see,” head coach Andrew Martinez said when asked how good his team really is. “It gets a little tougher now, but I’m curious to see what we can do.”
What the Demons did Friday was dominate the game with special teams and defense. The Sundevils (0-3) managed just 65 yards total offense in the first half, turning the ball over three times while looking comically bad in the kicking game.
Their first attempt at a punt resulted in a bad snap that led to a dogpile on top of the kicker 12 yards behind the line of scrimmage. Their second was a shoulder-height liner that went straight to Zach Martinez just a few feet past the line of scrimmage. He returned it less than 20 yards for a touchdown.
It turned out to be a heckuva first half for the Santa Fe High defensive back. He picked off two Española passes, scored on the mini-punt return and nearly scored again on his first interception when he read quarterback Ollie Fell’s eyes and jumped a quick-out at midfield. He got as far as the 1-yard-line before being stopped.
“I was definitely thinking about it,” Zach Martinez said of coming just a few feet shy of pay dirt. “Maybe if I make a little spin move at the end, I get in. It was crazy.”
Simply put, it was not a good night for Fell and the Española offense. He finished 7-for-16 for 69 yards and a touchdown.
At one point in the first half, someone on the Sundevils sideline shouted that it was fourth down when it was actually only third, prompting the offense to jog off the field. In the second half when things began to get chippy and the flags started flying, one of the officials spotted the ball at the line of scrimmage and yelled, “Guys, shut up,” at both teams.
For Española, the frustration began mounting in the lopsided first half. After that initial bad snap on a punt attempt, the Demons needed just two plays — both handoffs to running back Martell Mora — to cover 30 yards and break a scoreless tie.
It stayed that way into the second quarter when Martinez scored on his short punt return. A fumble on the ensuing kickoff led to a five-play drive ending in a Cipriano Mora 3-yard run to make it 21-0. The Demons scored again after Zach Martinez returned his first interception to the 1, making it 28-0 on a Luc Jaramillo quarterback sneak with three minutes left in the half.
It wasn’t exactly a stellar night for the Santa Fe High offense. Held to 124 yards in the first half, the starters remained on the field through three quarters when Jaramillo laced a 34-yard screen pass to Mora on fourth down that resulted in a touchdown, the unit’s fourth scoring drive of the night.
“We did some things [Friday] on offense that I really liked but there are a lot of those self-destructive mistakes we need to clean up if we really hope to get where we want to be,” coach Martinez said. “I do love the way we’re getting after it on defense. I’ve always said if you have a defense that can keep you in ball games, you’re going to be OK. Our defense is getting after it and starting to hit people.”
The defense did produce perhaps the best play — or plays — of the night. One, in particular, led to the Demons’ lone touchdown in the second half. Linebacker Matthew Maestas chased down an Española ball carrier and jarred the ball loose with a crunching shot to the player’s chest.
Santa Fe High’s Isaiah Madrill returned the ball 15 yards to set up a four-play drive ending in Jaramillo’s touchdown pass to Mora.
“Coach said it’s a program win,” Zach Martinez said. “It’s a win for this whole team and, yeah, we’re starting to believe now. We can do this.”
Santa Fe High’s 35 points are the team’s most since that 2014 season when the Demons beat Los Alamos 50-0 — their final win of the year. … The last time the Demons scored more than
30 points was against Taos in 2016, a 35-34 loss to the Tigers at Ivan Head Stadium.