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Friday, February 23, 2024

The strange, weird game of football

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In the fall of 1976, we were heading for head coach Mike Phipps’ third state championship. We were still reeling from the Carlsbad fiasco. Remember, we were waiting to play Carlsbad but got interrupted by the snowstorm.

We were scheduled to play Albuquerque Academy in the first playoff game. The game was played on a Friday night. The offense started off flat. At the end of the game, the score was tied 14-14. Academy tried to win it with a long field goal. It was unsuccessful. No problem, we will just have a playoff. Wrong! The NMHSAA didn’t have a playoff system in place at the time. So the game went to the tie-breaker. Penetrations. What is a penetration? Apparently, a penetration is any time you move the ball inside an opponent’s 20-yard line. We had more.

We moved on to face Taos. That Saturday, we woke up to snow. It was snowing again. Taos was excited. They were used to the snow. They had an advantage. I also want to point out coach Bowden was a member of that team; sorry, Ridge. Taos hadn’t brought along a full team. Coach Phipps would later say, “If they don’t think I will throw the ball, they’re crazy.” This comes from a man who wouldn’t put the ball in the air unless he had 200 yards on the ground. In the first half, Taos’ defense had sucked up to stop the run; we hit them with a slant pass that went 80 yards for a score. In the film, you see James Pope, the snow, and me all alone for 60 of those 80 yards. In the third quarter, we led 48-6. One of their best atheletes caught a pass over the middle. He ran into our all-everything safety, Toby Rhodes. A broken collarbone was the result. The Taos coach had seen enough. He called off the game. Nine minutes still remained.

So in three short weeks, we had a no-show, a penetration win, and a game not even three quarters long.

(EDITOR’S NOTE: Corey Tolle is a 1977 graduate of Artesia High School. He will be sharing classic sports stories to lift the spirits of Bulldogs everywhere.)

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