Intensity is not a perfume! The Whitehorse Raiders of Montezuma Creek won the annual Battle of the Drum football game between Whitehorse and the Monument Valley Cougars on Thursday, November 3 in Blanding with an intense, hard-played 14-8 win.
The game began in Montezuma Creek the Friday before, but was postponed when law enforcement officials found weapons in vehicles in the parking lot, which is against the law close to a school zone.
Officials made arrests and postponed the game. The game resumed the following Thursday afternoon at the San Juan Bronco field in Blanding.
Even with the change of day, time and venue, a large passionate crowd for both teams entertainingly watched the Raiders and the Cougars duke it out on the field, each team with a-bad-place-to-be-is-between-me-and-the-ball kind of attitude.
The Raiders had a little bigger chip on their shoulder after the incident in Montezuma Creek. “The thing that really bothered me the most,” reflected Raider Head Coach Elliot Benn. “The community was being put down. It really hurt my feelings, you know.
“We are a good community, but we got a label out of this. We told the players, if we win, we win and we get the drum back. But we were mostly playing for the pride of the community.”
Playing for that pride and community and also down 8-0 to restart the game with seconds left in the first quarter, the Raiders needed to send a message that a game was on.
The Cougars had the luck on Friday, but it turned to the Raiders on the neutral field in Blanding.
Late in the first quarter in Montezuma Creek, the Cougars had a big stop at the goal line to stop a Raider drive at the one-yard line.
On the next play, a simple dive play up the middle turned into a thrilling 99-yard touchdown run by Tanner Tsinigine.
The 99-yard run by Tsinigine ties an all-time record for the longest run from scrimmage and the Cougars took an 8-0 lead.
After the six day delay, Monument Valley punted on that first resumed play and then forced the Raiders to punt in return, who returned the favor with the MV offense.
The rest of the second quarter the teams played to a stalemate, with neither team getting an advantage. The defenses dominating with some tough, hard-nosed football.
At one point, the Raiders forced Monument Valley into a fumble, (the tallest fumble ever), one that flew 15 feet into the air. However, the Raiders couldn’t convert the turnover into a score. The first half ended with the score still 8-0.
The third quarter was more of the same, with neither team able to get a drive going until the Raiders completed a couple of passes to get the ball down to the Cougar 20 yard-line.
From there the Raiders scored on a nice touchdown pass that was nullified by a holding call, moving the ball back to the 30.
Raider QB Dante Lansing connected again moments later with wide receiver Jaden Ahtsosie. Ahtsosie made the catch and scampered into the end zone to bring the Raiders to within two, 8-6 with 5:22 left in the third quarter. The try for two was no good.
With the large Raider crowd rousingly cheering them on, the Raiders aggressively forced a fumble on the ensuing kickoff, which they recovered.
With the momentum fully on their side, the Raider offense moved quickly to pay dirt just three plays later and took the lead when Michael Keith ran it in from three yards out.
Lansing added the two-point conversion on a scramble with 4:22 left in the quarter. In just one minute, the Raiders went from being down 8-0 to leading 14-8.
Then the Raider defense took over, forcing the Cougars into punt after punt, an interception and two or three stuffs on fourth down. The Cougars persevered, however, and worked their way to the Raider 13-yard-line with just six minutes left in the game.
But the Raider defense came up big one last time and stopped the Cougars on fourth and four at the 13 to stop the drive and preserve the lead and win the Battle.
“Don’t forget number 82, Brantley John,” praised Benn afterwards. “He had a great defensive game and made some big plays down the end.”
After the hard-fought game, the two teams lined up to shake hands, with the Cougar captains respectfully handing over the Drum to the equally respectful Raider captains. All this to the cheers of the elated Raider faithful.
“We told the players,” a subdued but happy Benn said after the game, “we wanted to get respect. The Drum is just a symbol.” They are happy to have both back.
Cougard Head Coach Jim Dandy Jr. said that his team played hard but couldn’t pull out a win. “I think we may have won it if the game hadn’t been postponed,” said Dandy. He added that three seniors did not participate in the Blanding portion of the game after the confusion of the postponement in Montezuma Creek.
The Raiders finish the 2016 season with a 2-5 record with wins over Monument Valley in their last game, and Rock Point, AZ by a score of 38-26 in the first game of the season.
Their losses were to Tohatchi, NM, 18-14, Crownpoint NM, 28-26, Dolores, CO, 52-6, Wingate (Fort Wingate, NM), 34-24 and Navajo Prep, (Farmington, NM), 33-12.
Monument Valley ended the year with a 2-4 record. The Cougars beat Rock Point, 18-14 and Pinon, AZ, 36-0, with losses to Many Farms AZ, 44-6, Newcomb NM, 20-14, Zuni NM, 52-8 and Whitehorse.
See you next season at the Battle of the Drum!