EAGAR — In past years the Round Valley Dome for visiting Snowflake has been a house of horrors, including last year when the Lobos suffered their only defeat in a state championship-winning season.

Those bad memories were all forgotten Friday night after the Lobos’ convincing victory over the previously undefeated Elks.

Almost everything went right for the 8-1 Lobos — including a school-record 52-yard field goal by senior Samuel Crockett that capped the scoring at 52-8 — while the 8-1 Elks were haunted by five turnovers, a tally that could have been seven if not for Snowflake penalties that negated a pair of interceptions.

Four of the turnovers came on interceptions of Round Valley sophomore quarterback Ryker Marble, and a fumble by standout running back Seth Wiltbank on the Elks’ 10-yard line set up Crockett’s booming field goal. About the only mistake the Lobos made came on the first play after recovering the fumble. A bad snap from the center sailed over backup quarterback’s Easton Butler’s head, so the kick came from the 35-yard line.

The Lobos were prepared offensively, defensively and emotionally, coach Kay Solomon said.

“I told them very short and sweet after the game that’s the way to get locked in and prepare for a big football game,” Solomon said. “Traditionally, we haven’t played well here in the dome. It’s not an easy place to come in and play. This year we showed up and did what we know how to do. Last year we didn’t manage to do that.”

Snowflake improved to 4-0 in the 3A East and Round Valley dropped to 2-1. Show Low, which plays at Snowflake this week, is 3-1 and would force a first place tie with a win.

Rhett Wengert had two interceptions for Snowflake, and the others were by Jace LeSueur and Matthew Brimhall, who returned his 25 yards for a touchdown.

Marble was not under heavy pass rush, but Snowflake’s secondary was reading his passes well and was positioned for the pickoffs, Solomon said.

“From what we’ve seen he kind of hangs the ball up a little bit and we’ve had a really good year. Our secondary’s leading the state in interceptions, at least was a couple of weeks ago. Big night for those guys back there,” Solomon said. “We got enough pressure at times to help throw some of those off a little bit or get some throws up that maybe shouldn’t have gone up. When he throws deep he’s got a tendency so as long as our guys stay with him they’ve got a chance to make a play on a ball. It’s basically a 50-50 ball.”

Marble was not at fault for the interceptions; his coach took the blame instead.

“I don’t think it was a factor on him,” Elks head coach Brad Baca said. “I think it’s my responsibility as the offensive coordinator to put him in better situations and I didn’t. I’ll take that fully. He was trying to make plays. He was trying to help our team, and I put him in some bad situations. That’s on me.”

The giveaways did surprise Baca, however.

“Yes. Very. We didn’t expect that, but Snowflake was as good as we thought. We knew we couldn’t make mistakes and we made too many and they capitalized I think on every one of them. That’s what happens when you turn the ball over that many times.”

If the game was not going well enough for Snowflake after Brimhall’s interception return gave the Lobos a 22-0 lead, the rest of the four minutes left in the first half was surreal. After the interception, the Elks advanced from their 20-yard line to the Lobos’ 19 as the southpaw Marble completed six of six passes, the biggest gain coming on a 31-yard catch and run by Rowdy Rivera to the 19, giving the Elks some confidence as halftime neared, and they were to receive the second-half kickoff to boot.

A 6-yard sack of Marble and a 1-yard loss placed the ball at the 26-yard line. With 27 seconds on the clock, Marble was intercepted by Kaiden Brewer, who scampered 90 yards for a touchdown that was negated by a post-interception penalty.

Still, the Lobos had a first down at their 27-yard line with 12 seconds to go. Rather than settling for a 22-point lead, Solomon rolled the dice and called for a pass play. Quarterback Caden Cantrell found receiver Lance Christensen over the middle past the Round Valley coverage, and the half ended on a 73-yard touchdown.

“That was a big play,” Solomon said, “and they looked a little dejected coming out (after halftime) but you got to give them credit. They rallied. That eight points they put on the board was a legit drive down the field.”

The Elks were stunned but not done, Baca said.

“It was tough to handle but our kids at halftime were still pretty confident that we could continue to play and try to stay in the game. That did hurt us,” Baca said.

The Lobos’ third interception, by LeSueur, ended the Elks’ opening drive of the second half. Camden Brimhall took a pitch from Cantrell and scored from 6 yards and the Lobos had a 36-0 lead at 8:03 of the third.

The Elks ended the shutout on their ensuing drive — one that had the Lobos’ second negated interception — that lasted four minutes and covered 66 yards in 10 plays. Wiltbank scored on a 3-yard run for his 20th touchdown this season, which is the second highest total in the 3A Conference.

(0) comments

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
PLEASE TURN OFF YOUR CAPS LOCK.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.