Fort Defiance team wins season-ending TDFL tournament

By Quentin Jodie
Navajo Times

GALLUP, November 8, 2012

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(Special to the Times – Donovan Quintero)

TOP: Navajo Nation Oil and Gas Company Warriors Xavier Freeland runs down the field gaining yardage as KC Broncos Jacob Franco (8) reaches for him Sunday in Gallup. The Warriors defeated the Broncos, 19-0.
SECOND FROM TOP: Warriors runner Cornelius Nez (42) gets pass Broncos Jared Polar (82) Sunday in Gallup. The Warriors defeated KC 19-0.
THIRD FROM TOP: KC Broncos quarterback Brandon Lobato (11) looks down the field for an open receiver as Warriors defender Xavier Freeland (44) runs at him for an attempted sack Sunday in Gallup. The Warriors defeated the Broncos, 19-0.

F rom their vantage point, there was no way to go but up.

That scenario played out itself out for the Navajo Oil and Gas Company football team.

The Warriors compiled a 2-4 record in the Tony Dorsett Football League and entered the season-ending tournament as the No. 4 seed.

But after they knocked off the top seeded Trojans, the Fort Defiance-based team made a complete turnaround and won the city championship by beating the No. 2 seed Titans, 21-6, on Oct. 25 in Gallup.

"The boys finally came together," Warriors coach Galen Pete said. "They started working as a unit and everything fell into place."

The Warriors were hoping to carry over that momentum into the Four Corners Football Championships over the weekend, but they went 1-1 in the tournament.

They opened the tournament and surrendered a 16-12 decision to Aztec on Saturday. The next day the bounced back from that heartbreaker and beat Kirtland 19-0 for the third place trophy.

"We almost had that one," Pete said of their game with Aztec. "We had to play catch-up and if we had another two minutes we could have had it."

"That's the way it goes sometimes," he added.

Despite coming up short, Pete said the coaches from Aztec had nothing but high praises for his club.

"They were real surprised on how well we played and how hard we hit," Pete said. "That's what we try to emphasize. We want to be a hard hitting team and it showed in that game."

The Kirtland bunch can probably attest to that as well as the Warriors dominated at the line of scrimmage on both ends.  

In fact, after holding Kirtland within inches of a first down inside their own five-yard line, the Warriors went 96 yards to go up 6-0 with three minutes to play in the second quarter.

Running back Xavier Freeland scored on a 44-yard scamper and that touchdown was aided by Tsehootsooi Middle School's seventh grader Tyler Pete as he came up with a key block.

"I just try to block for everyone," Pete said when asked about his duties.

His dad, Galen Pete, went on to say that their linemen make the difference on this team.

"We have a quarterback who can pass the ball and we have running backs that can run," the older Pete said. "But our linemen are our go to guys and when they block, our rushers can take advantage."

Tyrrell Begay is one of those rushers who has benefitted from the blocking schemes used by his team.

"I think our season was pretty good," Begay said, who also plays cornerback on defense. "I got a lot of rushing yards."

In Sunday's game he caught a 46-yard TD reception from quarterback Tobias Sarracino.

As for their championship run two weeks ago the 13-year-old Tsehootsooi eighth-grader said they ready to play

"We were just pumped up," Begay said. "We worked real hard in practice (that week) and our linemen executed with the blocks."

"That was the first time we beat them," he said of the Titans.

"That game was pretty fun," halfback Carnelius Nez added. "We made a few mistakes, but we came out with a good cause."

In Sunday's third-place game at the tournament, Nez led his team with 132 yards on nine carries, which included a 73-yard touchdown run.

Nez said they struggled early, but he was glad they finished the season on a strong note.

"We had a few ups and downs," he said, "but we encouraged each other to do better."

Nez said Sunday's game was bittersweet since this was his last game playing for coach Pete. Next season he and five of his teammates will be suiting up for their respective high school teams.

"I've had most these guys since they were six, seven years old," Pete said. "I hate to lose them, but I know they have to move on to the next level. I coached them the best I could and I think they'll be ready to play high school ball."

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