By Melissa McCaghren
The Slaton Tigers faced a tough opponent in the Denver City Mustangs Friday evening (Oct. 9), eventually losing 28-14 in the Tiger’s homecoming game.
Head Coach Lawrence Johnson said the team fought hard, but came out short in the end.
“We battled a good football team and at the end of the day it comes down to execution. They did it more than we did,” he said. “We forced turnovers on defense but didn’t execute tackling their guys as consistent as we needed.
“Offensively, we have to execute drives and clock management. Our coaches have to sustain a sense of urgency throughout the game.”
The Mustangs struck first, scoring on a 46-yard run in the first quarter. Their extra point attempt missed.
Then Slaton went on to score in the same quarter, with Eli Perez making a one-yard run into the end zone.
In the second, Denver would score twice, once on an 11-yard run, succeeding on the two point conversion, and then again on a 17-yard run, adding on the extra point kick.
Matt Vigil then scored again for the Tigers on a 39-yard pass from Ayden Ramirez. Tae Thompson scored both extra points for the Tigers.
The Mustangs would go on to score one more time in the fourth quarter.
Johnson said the defense was key in keeping the game close overall. “Our linebackers were the leaders this week on defense. Landen Simmons ended the game with 12 tackles and the other linebackers applied pressure on DC the entire second half,” he said.
“Matt Vigil made some plays offensively and put some points on the board. Our team is always in a ‘get better’ mode.”
On the night, the Tigers had a total of 300 yards compared to 373 for the Mustangs.
Ayden Ramirez completed four of 15 passes for 74 yards with no interceptions. Eli Perez made six of nine for 54 yards and no interceptions.
Zephron Ortiz was top rusher, having rushed 13 times for 85 yards. Other rushers were Elijah Williams (nine for 32), TJ Payne (five for 20), Eli Perez (five for 13), Ayden Ramirez (twice for 13 yards) and CJ Anzley (four times for nine yards).
Top receiver was Vigil, who caught the ball four times for 79 yards. Andrew Trotty received two passes for 25 yards and Eddie Betancourt twice for 24 yards.
The team also punted six times, averaging 36.8 yards a punt.
Now the team will face the Brownfield Cubs Friday evening.
The Cubs and Tigers last met in the Bi-District round in 2019. The Tigers won the game 41-12, advancing to the Area round where they eventually lost to Pilot Point.
Johnson said he was working on the team’s execution to help it become more consistent. “We have to tackle people in space, so that will be a point of emphasis this week in preparation for Brownfield,” he said. “They have guys that can take it the distance and bounce off arm tackles. Our offense needs to regain some confidence and establish the run game so our passing game isn’t coming off of obvious passing situations.”
The two team’s rivalry is also a factor that has to come into play, especially as the Cubs will be out to avenge their early playoff exit from last season.
Johnson said he’s looking forward to the matchup, but they will be working on ensuring the game is well played – game and attitude.
“There are sparks between the two teams for sure and we look to build on the momentum from last years win,” he admitted, adding that the past two games were one possession games.
“Myself and Coach Flores run a disciplined program and we will make sure our kids keep everything between the whistles. Our Tigers are expected to exhibit good character regardless of the adversity in front of them.”
The Tigers will continue their District play at 7 p.m. in Brownfield. Those who cannot attend the game can hear it on KSSL’s radio station 107.3 or 94.1 or view it on Slaton ISD’s YouTube page, SlatonTigers.
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(Editor’s note: Game time and date is accurate as of press time Tuesday, Oct. 13. Any changes or cancellations will be posted on The Slatonite website and Facebook page, Slatonite).