A team playing a predictable, yet highly productive script ran into the story of a plucky underdog Friday night at appropriately named Happy State Bank Stadium, where only one team could leave the field in a happy state.
Sometimes, it’s not the little guy who gets the Hollywood ending, but instead the long-haul performers who get what’s been coming for a long time, and this time, it was the Sunray Bobcats.
In what was a surprisingly easy outing in a Class 2A Division II state quarterfinal game, Sunray rode prolific quarterback Armando Lujan and a dominant defense against Clarendon to a 67-6 victory in which the Broncos were every bit as dominant as the final score indicated. As a result, the Bobcats (12-2) are now the most successful team in school history, and they’ll face defending state champion Albany (14-0) in the state semifinals at 6 p.m. on Thursday at PlainsCapital-Park Lowrey Field in Lubbock.
Sunray had to overcome a hot team in Clarendon (10-4), which had won 10 straight games to reach this point after losing their first three of the season. It’s a testament to where the Bobcats stand right now that they so dominated the Broncos.
“I won’t take anything away from (the Broncos),” Sunray coach Wes Boatmun said. “They’re a good football team. I was probably more worried about this game than I was any other game, probably because there was more riding on it. When it happens like this I don’t think you question it, you just enjoy it.”
Both teams leaned heavily on their quarterbacks in the first half when the game was still relatively competitive, but Lujan carried more weight. He accounted for all eight of Sunray’s touchdowns ion the first three quarters.
Ironically, Lujan got Sunray on the board first with an 8-yard touchdown run for a 7-0 lead midway through the first quarter. After that, Lujan simply threw four touchdown passes to four different receivers in the first half and finished with seven in the game.
“The only special thing I did was move out of the pocket to find my wide receivers, that’s all,” said Lujan, who’s been playing on a sore right ankle but still completed 18-of-24 passes for 357 yards. “(The ankle) didn’t bother me at all today, it felt great. I was going to play through it no matter what.”
Two of Lujan’s scores were on short routes in which the receivers accounted for most of the yards for 50-yard plus scores. Lujan hit Dawson Bennett on the sideline at midfield, and Bennett broke at least three tackles en route to a 59-yard scoring pass to make it 13-0 with 30 seconds left in the first quarter.
If there was one play which established the Bobcats for the rest of the game, that was it.
“We ran that route one time and (Lujan) didn’t hit it, and we ran it again and there was a dude on my ankle and another dude coming in so I ducked, and I got out of it and took off,” said the 5-foot-5, 150-poind Bennett, who led Sunray with four catches for 132 yards. “It was a big momentum shifter for us. I knew we had it in us, we just had to execute.”
In the second quarter, Lujan hit Damian Barragan and Ty McDowell for scores, then hit Kagan Davis on another short route, and Davis took it in for a 50-yard score to make it 33-0.
Clarendon averted a first half shutout when Lyric Smith completed an 8-yard scoring pass to Easton Frausto with 34 seconds left in the first half to cut it to 33-6.
Smith pretty much carried the Broncos in the first half offensively. He threw for 71 yards and had 62 yards rushing.
Whatever hopes Clarendon may have had seemed to end on the first possession of the second half, when Sunray’s 338-pound Luis Calderon pancaked Smith on a running play and Smith rolled his ankle, sending him to the sideline the rest of the way.
“They’re athletic across the board and their offensive line is big and physical,” said first-year Clarendon coach Aaron Wampler, who saw a winning streak finally end. “Skill-wise they’ve got receivers who can run with anybody, so we knew we’d have our hands full. We knew it would take our best, but we didn’t play that clean of a game all the way around. The message to the team afterwards was thank you for buying in and trusting the process and continuing to not look at the record or the score.”
Lujan threw two more scoring passes to Barragan in the third quarter. Barragan had four catches for 105 yards.
What might have been lost in the shuffle was Sunray’s Dominic Casares running for 118 yards and a touchdown on 12 carries, just one highlight on a night the Bobcats racked up 617 yards of offense.
“A lot of things went right for us,” Boatmun said. “Things were clicking. We took care of the football. We scored and kept momentum and kept them out of our side of the field a lot of the night. Momentum is probably the hardest thing to beat in football.”