|The New Mexico Tech Pygmies celebrate Saturday's historic 52-36 win over Santa Fe. It was the first victory over Santa Fe in the club's 38-year history.
Jerod Aragon, James Fallt, and Isaiah Sanchez each scored two tries for Tech, while Brock Romero chipped in one and newcomer Stefan Marr touched down for his first career try. Jordan Fastle added six two-point conversion kicks to complete Tech's triumph.
Tech's historic win capped an up-and-down 7-6 spring season. Two weeks earlier on April 16, the team had won just one of five matches in their own Socorro Challenge 10-man tournament. While that appearance was characterized by slow starts which left them unable to catch up, the collegians started off Saturday's performance with a bang.
Forward captain Jerod Aragon took the opening kickoff cleanly under pressure and his teammates kept possession of the ball through several tackles, until flyhalf (first back in the line) and co-captain Brock Romero spotted a gap and shot through the defense 30 meters from the Santa Fe try line.
New Mexico Tech's Blaine Trujillo rises above a lineout formation to snag the ball.
Head captain Isaiah Sanchez raced up from his fullback position to take a pass before touching down a try between the posts. Conversion kicker and regular lock forward Jordan Fastle, filling in at center to fill a vacancy, stepped up to add two points for an early 7-0 Tech lead.
Tech again controlled the kickoff, giving no quarter against their more seasoned adversaries. Aragon effectively led his fellow forwards from the front, where prop James Chavez, hooker Tyler Fletcher, and flankers Roosevelt Theodore and Blaine Trujillo were especially conspicuous in defense. In the eighth minute the Pygmy forwards stole the ball in a tackle and it was passed through several hands until speedy scrumhalf James Fallt, playing in his last match as an undergrad, shot away for a score in the corner. Fastle couldn't convert from a difficult angle but Tech had a surprising 12 - point lead.
Soon after the resulting kickoff the students got themselves in hot water by failing to kick out of bounds near their own line. The Santos stole possession and the Pygmies gamely staged a protracted defensive stand of several minutes until flanker Jeff Elliott finally barged across for a try. The conversion kick by former Pygmy Rob Harrison was good for a 12 - 7 score.
The final score of the first half went to Tech after a penalty play 40 meters out. Fallt foot-tapped and passed the ball down the line, where fleet-footed forward Jerod Aragon, filling in at lock for Fastle, stepped past his defender and beat the cover defense to score. Fastle's conversion was on target and the teams traded ends for the second 40 minutes with Tech leading 19-7.
Three minutes into the second half Santa Fe flyhalf Elden Pennington kicked far downfield where Sanchez and his fellow backs initiated a running counterattack. The ball came to promising rookie Stefan Marr, playing on a wing, who squeezed around the outside to score a stunning 50-meter try between the goalposts. The kick was easy for Fastle and Tech's lead was 26-7.
Santa Fe stayed in touch at 26-14 after Harrison's short-range tap-and-run try from a penalty four minutes later. At the fifteen minute point James Fallt scored his farewell try for Tech by deftly lofted a kick over a wall of defenders. Fallt never broke stride and collected the ball on the bounce before streaking away untouched for a sensational try. The reliable Fastle's kick made it 33-14 in favor of Tech.
Midway through the half another Santa Fe kick started a Pygmy counterattack, and the ball came to the storming Aragon, who again outpaced two defenders to score a long try. Fastle’s conversion and the 40-14 bulge added conviction to a spreading sense that Santa Fe's 37-year dominance was coming to an end.
Two minutes later Santa Fe number eight forward Matt Kretz, a 2009 Tech graduate, scored on another short penalty run to reduce Tech's seemingly comfortable lead to 40-19.
Sanchez answered for Tech with his second try on a trick play from a scrum 40 meters out. Jordan Fastle’s conversion attempt sailed wide but Tech led 45-19.
With just two substitute players available, the collegians appeared to waver somewhat under the match’s frantic pace. In the final 15 minutes former Tech standout Patrick Simons scored two tries for Santa Fe from short range, and teammate Jeff Elliott's second try brought Santa Fe within 45-36.
Not to be outdone, Fastle boomed his kickoff deep and a bevy of speedy Pygmy backs applied pressure. The ball popped loose and Romero dribbled it softly into the try zone. After a brief scramble he downed it for the game's last try, duly capped by Fastle to seal Tech's historic 52-36 victory.
– NMT –
By Dave Wheelock/Tech Rugby Director