ALBUQUERQUE — There were only two things hotter than the football field surface at F.M. Wilson Stadium Saturday afternoon.
Eldorado quarterback Brendon Olivas and Demons coach Andrew Martinez — and neither was good news for Santa Fe High.
Coming off the bench during Albuquerque Eldorado’s homecoming game, Olivas held his own coming out party. The sophomore connected on 20 of 25 pass attempts against the Santa Fe High defense for 229 passing yards and had three touchdowns to lead the Eagles to a 28-12 District 2/5-6A opening win. The game was not as close as the final score indicated.
On the other side of the field was Martinez, who was steamed at the lackluster performance of his Demons. That was particularly true for an offense that was anemic for three quarters as Eldorado (3-2, 1-0) steadily built an insurmountable 28-0 lead.
Heading into the fourth quarter, Santa Fe High had 87 yards of total offense and quarterback Luc Jaramillo was 7-for-25 passing for only 26 yards and one interception.
The senior ended the game hitting just 11 of 37 pass attempts for 83 yards, two touchdowns and a pick. What irked Martinez about the Demons’ lack of production wasn’t that the Eagles defense was so dominating.
It was the number of dropped passes Demons receivers committed — 10. But there were also throws by Jaramillo in which he targeted receivers a little too long or too short.
The short drives helped to wear Santa Fe High’s defense out just as much as Olivas’ accuracy did.
“I haven’t seen double-digit drops, and I never expected double-digit drops,” Martinez said. “That kills us because people want to load the box on us, and our passing game has been progressing every single week. I thought this week we were going to be on point with it, but obviously it didn’t work out.”
With Eldorado getting plenty of chances to take advantage of a tiring Demons defense, it was just a matter of time before it happened. Enter Olivas.
Eagles head coach Charlie Dotson said he anticipated playing Olivas, but it became an easier call when starter Elias Franco only connected on one of his first five passes for 2 yards through the first quarter.
The Eagles also stepped up the tempo with Olivas with a no-huddle offense that limited the Demons’ ability to change personnel.
If anyone benefited from Olivas’ presence on the field, it was Franco. Moved to receiver, Franco caught eight passes for 109 yards and two second-quarter touchdowns that gave Eldorado a 14-0 lead at the half.
Dotson said he wanted to use Franco as a receiver to take advantage of his athleticism.
“We hadn’t shown him at wide receiver any,” Dotson said. “Santa Fe High was doing a great job against us defensively, so we had planned on [the quarterback change] the whole game so we could challenge their [defensive backs] a little bit, and that’s what we did.”
Despite those struggles, Santa Fe High (4-1, 0-1) missed a scoring opportunity prior to the end of the first half. The Demons drove 40 yards to the Eldorado 24-yard line, thanks in part to a Jaramillo-to-Patrick Gardner connection for 15 yards and a 12-yard run by Jaramillo.
The drive fizzled at the 24 as Jaramillo missed Isaiah Madrill in the end zone, then Jaeden Opetaia was corralled for a 9-yard loss on fourth down with 1:51 left in the half.
“Our passing game looks great in practice,” senior running back Daniel Wright said. “It was the dropped balls that messed us up. This game could have been a lot different.”
Martinez called the first drive of the second half the most crucial one of the game, but the Demons went three-and-out. Eldorado responded with a nine-play, 55-yard drive that ended with Olivas’ 1-yard touchdown run around the left end for a 21-0 advantage with 7:43 left in the third quarter.
Santa Fe High finally got on track in the fourth quarter, scoring two touchdowns to get within 28-12. The second score included a fancy 33-yard hook-and-ladder play in which Patrick Gardner took a short pass from Jaramillo and lateraled it to a streaking Martell Mora for the score with 2:41 left.
It was the high point for Mora, who had just 62 rushing yards as the Eagles committed themselves to bottling up the senior running back. Jaramillo said the dropped passes plagued the offense and, in turn, led to some of the fatigue the defense felt in the second and third quarters because of quick drives.
“It was just execution — we didn’t do it,” Jaramillo said. “We work on passing and we prepare for everything, but we weren’t prepared today.”
Martinez said it is imperative for the Demons to be cleaner in their execution, which has been a common theme since the season began. He already made a point to the players after the game that he didn’t want to hear about anything regarding next week’s homecoming game against Albuquerque Manzano.
The goal is to win a football game.
“We got a game to play and we got to be able to get ready and do it,” Martinez said.
If the trend of sloppy play continues, the steam coming from Martinez’s collar will be more visible in the cool, crisp September evening than it was in the heat of the afternoon.