Prep football: Grants shuts down St. Pius in opener

James Yodice, Albuquerque Journal, N.M.
·4 min read

Mar. 13—BERNALILLO — The Grants defense pitched a shutout, even if the Pirates didn't.

Bryan Hernandez's 75-yard punt return in the second quarter proved to be all Grants needed on Friday night, as the Pirates beat St. Pius 13-2 in a prep football opener for both teams.

The game was played before about 215 socially distanced fans at Bernalillo High School on a breezy evening. It was the first football game for both schools since November of 2019.

"It was just awesome," said Hernandez, who also had a crucial fourth-quarter interception for Grants when the score was still just 7-0 and with St. Pius driving. "Just feeling this energy again from our fans ... our fans make a difference, 100 percent."

Offensively, there wasn't much going on throughout the first half. Hernandez — whose older brother, Brandon, is the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach at West Mesa High — provided the game's first jolt, fielding a punt and running the far sideline, weaving in and out for a TD.

"I saw the wall my teammates had set up for me, it's a little play we got," he said. "I trusted my teammates to get their blocks and it worked out."

St. Pius late in the half reached the Grants 20 — the Sartans' deepest offensive penetration of the game — but it stalled after a missed fourth-down try. It was 7-0 at halftime. The only excitement in the third quarter was a line-drive field goal attempt by Michael Trujillo that hit so hard off the crossbar it was easily audible to everyone in the stadium.

Early in the fourth, the Hernandez interception stopped a St. Pius drive, but the Sartans still came away with points in this sequence when moments later a snap sailed five feet over the head of Grants punter Trujillo and went 40 yards to the back of the end zone where it was covered by a Pirate. The safety cut the deficit for St. Pius to 7-2.

After Grants punted away to the Sartans, St. Pius turned it over on a fumble. With a short field, the Pirates went 34 yards in four plays, with running back T.J. Hocker going over from the 1. The PAT failed; the lead was 13-2.

"After 16 months, it's that excitement we've been waiting for since corona happened," Grants junior quarterback Brandon Furbee said. "We've been waiting for this game."

Grants' last game before Friday was a Class 4A state semifinal loss to Bloomfield on Nov. 23, 2019.

For St. Pius, the Sartans' defense was outstanding. They sacked Furbee six times.

"Defense played great," St. Pius coach Dave Montoya said. "Our front seven is pretty good. ... But we have to be able to move the ball and create some offense."

To that end, St. Pius used three quarterbacks. The starter, Cian Jones, played a large part of the first half. But, after he left with an injury, two sophomores who've never taken a varsity snap, Miguel Zarate and Alejandro Sapien, were forced into more pressing duty.

St. Pius also clearly missed junior tailback Marco Ybarra, who will miss this season with a non-football injury.

Note

CLOVIS-CLEVELAND: There were, as of 11 a.m. Friday, still about 600 tickets available for the general public for Saturday's Clovis at Cleveland (3 p.m.) matchup. Tickets will be on sale at Cleveland one hour prior to kickoff on Saturday, and will end at kickoff.

Friday scores

Alamogordo 37, Ruidoso 12

Bloomfield 14, Piedra Vista 0

Capitan 34, Mesilla Valley Christian 6

Centennial 49, Onate 17

Clovis Christian 44, Dora 6

Eunice 34, Jal 21

Farmington 60, Miyamura 18

Fort Sumner 50, Logan 0

Grants 13, St. Pius 2

Hagerman 50, Loving 0

Lovington 28, Hobbs 25

Melrose 52, Menaul 0

Portales 34, Dexter 6

Ramah 67, Reserve 12

Socorro 40, Las Cruces High JV 0

Saturday (1 p.m. unless noted)

Goddard at Artesia

Aztec at Kirtland Central, 6 p.m.

Gallup at Bernalillo, 2 p.m.

Los Alamos at Capital

Animas at Carrizozo

Pojoaque Valley vs. Deming, at Los Lunas

Mountainair at Gateway Christian

Tularosa at Hatch Valley

Hope Christian at Hot Springs

Mayfield vs. Las Cruces, Field of Dreams, 3 p.m.

Española Valley at Moriarty

Crownpoint at Newcomb

Carlsbad at Roswell

Rio Rancho at Santa Fe, 2 p.m.

Estancia at Santa Rosa

Roy at Springer

Socorro at St. Michael's

Raton at Taos

Magdalena at Tatum

N.M. Military Institute at Texico, 11 a.m.

Cuba at Thoreau

Shiprock at Tohatchi

Albuquerque Academy at Tucumcari

Clovis at Cleveland, 3 p.m.