CARLIN – Despite the lopsided final score, the Wells and Carlin football teams played a competitive ballgame for a half on Friday night.
After leading 28-16 at the break, the Leopards pulled away – finishing the game on a 32-6 run – locking up a spot in the postseason with a 60-22 victory, eliminating the Railroaders from playoff contention. The scoring got underway early.
With 11:07 remaining in the first half, Wells senior quarterback Zane Rodriguez broke free from the pocket for a 37-yard touchdown with his legs – throwing the conversion to senior Enrique Aguilar.
The lead of 8-0 was short-lived.
Carlin senior running back Eddie Gomez knotted the ballgame by himself, rushing for a 40-yard touchdown and adding the conversion on the ground with 10:13 on the clock.
With 8:12 remaining in the first, Rodriguez scored his second rushing touchdown – coming from a yard out. The conversion was unsuccessful but Wells led 14-8.
A long-play strike gave the Leopards a 20-8 advantage with 9:35 remaining in the second quarter.
Rodriguez connected with freshman Chris Franco for an 81-yard catch-and-run.
Just a minute later, Carlin pulled itself right back into the contest.
From a yard away, sophomore quarterback Toby Pinnell punched through – senior Sebastian Pinnell turning the conversion into a family affair – the Railroaders pulling to within four at 20-16 with 8:32 remaining in the half.
Wells’ freshman stamped his footprints on the contest again.
Franco rushed for a 16-yard touchdown with 7:12 on the clock, also catching the conversion from Rodriguez.
At the break, the Leopards led by 12 at 28-16.
Wells wasted little time in staking claim to the No. 2 and final position from the Division 1A Northern-East to the playoffs with a huge third quarter.
With 10:32 remaining in the third, Rodriguez looked to the youngster – a 29-yard touchdown pass to Franco – a run by Rodriguez for the conversion opening a 36-16 advantage.
A 22-yard TD pass to Aguilar at the 7:18 mark and a throw to Franco for the two-pointer surged Wells to a 44-16 lead.
Less than a minute and a half later, Aguilar used his legs for an 18-yard rushing touchdown – also receiving the conversion – the Leopards rolling to a 52-16 lead.
Wells was not done – more Aguilar.
With 40 seconds on the clock, Aguilar reeled in an eight-yard TD pass from Rodriguez – the throw to Aguilar for the conversion opening a 60-16 lead.
The Leopards outscored Carlin 30-0 in the third.
In the fourth quarter, Gomez turned from runner to passer – tossing a 10-yard touchdown to senior lineman Ethan Davis with 5:30 remaining in the game for Carlin’s final points of the season.
Wells exploded in the second half and cruised to a 60-22 victory, the Leopards earning the No. 2 seed from the Northern-East for the 1A state playoffs.
Rodriguez accounted for six touchdowns.
He finished 19-for-26 for 357 passing yards with four touchdowns and no picks – chewing up the Carlin defense for a 154.6 QB rating (158.3 is perfect) – rushing six times for 63 yards and two TDs and a conversion.
Franco caught nine balls for 185 yards with two touchdowns and three conversions – including an 81-yard TD – Aguilar racking up 143 yards receiving on eight receptions with two TDs and three conversions.
Aguilar and Franco each scored three TDs – adding one apiece on the ground – Aguilar rushing for 113 yards on 15 carries, Franco taking two carries for 30 yards.
Junior Sergio Soriano led the Leopards with 17 tackles (two for losses), Rodriguez making 10 of his 15 stops unassisted with three for losses – leading Wells with 1.5 sacks – Aguilar tallying two of 15 tackles in the backfield and junior Charles Martinez posting two of his 14 tackles behind the line of scrimmage.
The Leopards were takeaway machines – forcing six turnovers – Rodriguez and Aguilar each recovering two fumbles, Aguilar also intercepting two passes – giving him four takeaways.
Wells improved to 6-2 overall and 4-1 in league play, dropping the Railroaders to 5-4 overall and 3-2 in league during the swinging Division 1A Northern-East matchup.
*Carlin did not report stats.
“It was a close game at halftime but our guys did what they were supposed to do in the second half and blew it open,” said Wells coach Mike Rodriguez.
The Leopards will play West No. 1 Virginia City either Friday, Nov. 2 or Saturday, Nov. 3 – in Virginia City – East No. 1 Eureka playing a home game against Sierra Lutheran or Whittell on either of the same dates.
Sierra Lutheran and Whittell will square off at 7 p.m. Thursday in a winner-take-all for the second and final berth from the Northern-West, the victor traveling to Eureka for the first round of the playoffs.