2021 Week 9 (Southwest)

2021 Week 9 (Southwest)

So, I’m catching up on these now. Unfortunately, I’ve had some issues, personally, that have kept me from doing much of anything after this weekend of games. And though I did manage a few more games in Week 10, it was not without some issues. So, I mostly stuck to live updating and photographs. And haven’t gotten much onto PA Football News.

I’m not happy about it, either. For one, I have a bad back. And I managed to hurt it before heading to El Paso for the week. And then, to make it worse, Sunday after returning from El Paso, I really wrenched my back pretty good. So, I was out of commission for most of the week. But managed to be ambulatory at some point.

So, this will be a quick recap of my trip. And I promise to get a better documentation on PA Football News about the marquee game I attended. At one of the most unique places I’ve ever seen a game.

It started with getting some wheels. I usually rent midsize from Enterprise, despite the cost being ridiculous after the rental companies had sold off their fleets during Covid, only to now be on the waiting list for new vehicles, along with everyone else who put off new purchases last year. But, when I got to Enterprise, I found out the only thing available was an Escalade. Though, I still got it for the same rate as the Full Size. Which I wasn’t going to complain about. Though, this was point two in my back hurting.

I have a Cadillac at home. An XT5, and the seats are similar. And for me, they’re not that comfortable. Mostly because the giant center console keeps your right leg straight. This becomes an issue after driving for hours.

Now, the problem was that I didn’t have much of an option for a Thursday game. At the time, I knew of two. One was in Las Cruces. And one in El Paso. With my weekend planned to end in New Mexico, I was leaning toward Thursday in El Paso. Though the Las Cruces game between Mayfield (the winningest team in New Mexico) and Santa Teresa was slated to be a good matchup, I instead picked the 28-27 prediction of Pebble Hills and Americas at the SAC on the east side of El Paso.

Both schools are members of the Socorro ISD, and I both wanted to see the SAC (Student Activities Complex) and the Pebble Hills Spartans. So, I contacted the school and Texas Redzone Report, who I shoot for when in Texas, and made my way the few miles to the game that night after running around doing errands in town. Including picking up a new monopod at Best Buy.

#44 – Pebble Hills v. Americas

However, this game was not looking to live up to its projections. Pebble Hills, with one of the cooler logos and uniforms in high school football, followed a hiccup that gave Americas a quick 7-0 lead, with an onslaught of scores.

During the game, I got some great photos. Including one of which is going to be a favorite for a while of Brandon Cardenas extending the ball across the line on a 38 yard TD pass.

2021 HSF Wk 9 Texas

During the game, I was also watching the Browns-Broncos game on my phone. And as the game got exceedingly out of control, I was really regretting that I had chosen this one. Also, even if I hadn’t gone to New Mexico, I learned that at 6pm, there was another game in El Paso. This one on the west side of the city at the famous Sun Bowl. Though projected to be a blowout, it wasn’t much worse than this one.

But, alas, I stuck through this one. Uncomfortable back and all, and through the Browns victory. Pebble Hills would win easily, 57-20.

The next morning, I tried to wake up early for the drive to my mystery game. I knew where I was headed. But, even with confirmation of covering the game, I wanted to not jinx myself. And my back did NOT like the five hour-plus drive.

But, I made the best of it.

I put out some teasers, for those followers who were curious where I might be headed for the night.

I drove across the Trans Mountain Corridor for the first time north of El Paso, and then followed I-10 west into New Mexico. I stopped briefly for gas, and then got back on I-10 through Las Cruces to Deming. There, I got onto US180, and headed up through Silver City. This was all a first for me. It wasn’t quite what I was expecting. Though the scenery on the way to Arizona was quite beautiful the closer I got to the White Mountains.

By now, the secret was figured out. I was heading to the only domed high school football stadium in the United States. Now, technically, several high schools play in domes. Frisco ISD uses the Ford Center as one of two home fields for their high school football teams. And Pocatello (ID), Vermillion (SD) and Cedar Falls (IA) all use domed stadiums for their home games. These stadiums weren’t built just, or primarily, for their teams. They were built for other purposes and the high school team simiply uses the venue as well.

This one, however, was built just for the school, owned by the school, and used by the school.

It is the Round Valley Dome in Eagar, Arizona.

After getting into town and taking a circular path around the stadium area, I headed to my hotel to check in, in neighboring Springerville, and then back to one of the highly recommended restaurants in the small bordering towns. That being the Trailriders Restaurant.

Now, I arrived a bit later than expected, but still felt I had plenty of time to eat and run to the stadium. But then the restaurant was quite busy, and my food took nearly 45 minutes to reach my table.

It was worth it, definitely. But, made my chance of touring the stadium prior to the game a bit more difficult.

But, who can say no to a 16oz Prime Rib?

Then, it was the quick 0.3 miles to the stadium.

#45 – Round Valley v. Snowflake

When I got into the dome, I followed the stairway to the right, down to field and was surprised at just how yellow everything looked. The lighting, mixed with the team colors of black and gold/yellow, and the off-white paint and natural wood beams supporting the roof gave everything an tint. And one that I tried to color correct, but it would wash out the Round Valley Elks’ signature yellow color from the field, signage, and uniforms.

So, I opted to keep the yellow tint to the photos. As Billy Splain put it, it gives an old-timey feel to the photos.

Despite that, this stadium is just incredible. At just over 5,000 seating capacity, it both feels intimately small and incredibly large. The endzones are open, and fans walk freely from sideline to sideline behind the goal post and endzone.

I stayed on the field for the first quarter. Opting to stick to the Round Valley sideline, as there was a much higher first row height compared to the Snowflake sideline being near field level.

At the change of ends, I made my way upstairs to check out the concourse some more, before settling into the far upper level seats to get a top down view of the venue. There, the expansiveness of the place feels less intimidating. But still impressive.

Snowflake, being poor guests for this game, scored several times, taking a 29-0 halftime lead.

After watching the halftime show, I made my way back around the concourse where I met the building manager who I spoke to earlier. And tried not to gush about this place. It really is a sight to behold that photos, though I tried to capture it, doesn’t do it justice.

The game was moving at a brisk pace as I stayed in the upper levels, taking top down photos toward the Snowflake Lobos scoring plays. As they tallied them quickly now. The once close projection between undefeated Round Valley and one-loss Snowflake now looking like a mismatch.

For the fourth quarter, I was back on the field to document the end of the game. What competitiveness remained. Snowflake had a sizable lead and added to it with a 52 yard FG. Even at over 7,000 feet, in a dome, that’s impressive at the high school level. And turned out to be one of my better photos. Wish I had used a larger f-stop to get the kicker with better clarity, but the line play and ball in near perfect focus for moving so quickly came out well.

2021 HSF Wk 9 Arizona

That would be the final score of the game, as the Snowflake Lobos would crash the party, with a 52-8 victory. But for everything about this place, this school, and this team. It was a great night and I’m glad I got to experience it. Now, I will get a full write up of the trip on PAFN at some point. But, it might not be until after Week 11. Just depends at this point.

The game itself was secondary to the experience. And that’s what I want to document.

It was also my first ever game in Arizona. And as I said at the time, what better place to see the first game in a state than one of the most unique stadiums in the country?

After the game, I stopped at McDonald’s and then back to the hotel. Which was now packed. It wasn’t the cheapest place. But, with my discount, I only paid $6.44. But, it would’ve been worth the full price on its own. It was also nice to not have to drive far for a hotel post game.

I did take longer than anticipated, thanks to my back, to get the photos at least screened from the Thursday and Friday games onto my laptop. Although I did not process them.

The next morning, I had a game to get to. And also was going to lose an hour crossing back into New Mexico.

There were only two afternoon games that I was aware of in Arizona and New Mexico. One being in the small reservation outpost of Pine Hill, on the Navajo Nation land in western New Mexico. They were hosting Dulce, from the Jacarilla Apache Nation. Though many of the students were also non-native. Pine Hill, however, was entirely native. Though both schools are public schools in the state of New Mexico.

I had been, once, not far from Pine Hill. Driving from Denver through western and Northern New Mexico to clinch the remaining counties I had yet to be in, I pass from Gallup, down toward Quemado, stopping just passed the Catron County line, and returning north toward Grants. This time, I took Indian Service Road 125 south of Route 53 east of Ramah, and followed that on a meandering path to Pine Hill.

Now, it’s labeled both Pinehill and Pine Hill. And since this isn’t really a ‘town’ in the traditional sense, it’s unincorporated, and the post office uses Pinehill, while the signs and school use Pine Hill, and it seems interchangable at worst, and indifferent at best. I use the school’s name for the town. Not too dissimilar to Harbor Creek and Harborcreek in PA.

#46 – Pine Hill v. Dulce

I got to the stadium not long before kickoff. There was already a nice crowd assembled for an 8-man game featuring a winless team on Homecoming/Senior Day. The stadium was simple, without a press box. Instead, a canopy tent was set up at the top of the stands and used to operate the speakers for songs. Though there was little in way of play by play.

The field was in decent shape for end of the year. And seemed just like so many 8- and 9-man games I’ve stumbled upon in my travels.

Now, though I couldn’t get a prediction on this game, looking at the schedules told me what I needed to know. This was going to be a rough game for the home squad. And in New Mexico, as I learned the first and only two games I’ve been to in New Mexico, that New Mexico operates a hard 50-point mercy rule. Just as did South Dakota last weekend (except for the state title games). There was a good chance this game wouldn’t last past halftime.

Which was a good and bad thing. As I had a 6pm game scheduled about an hour northeast of here in Grants.

But, Dulce didn’t disappoint. They charged out to a quick lead by the rushing of #20 (no rosters). Four scores in the first quarter gave them a 30-0 lead. The second frame didn’t look much better. Two more scores in the quarter flirted with the mercy rule. But, Dulce was unable to drive home one last score (and conversion) to end things. So, we had more game to play after an extended halftime where the seniors on the team were honored, as well as the homecoming court and results were announced.

The freshman had a homecoming prince and princess, along with a homecoming runner-up for the senior class. Before revealing the King and Queen. Along with plaques for the four seniors on the team.

Less than two minutes into the second half, Dulce scored the penultimate points of the game. Followed by the two point run to give them the 50-0 lead to end things early. Dulce didn’t gloat about it, and Pine Hill didn’t hang their heads. They lost, but weren’t beaten. They knew the struggle, and met it head on.

I spent a bit of time finishing photos for my usual halftime posts after the game concluded, and then headed to Grants.

I found an Indian restaurant in nearby Milan, that, once I got there, found out there was no indoor seating. It was only take out. But, having gotten myself expecting Indian (subcontient, not native) food, I placed my order and than ate it haphazardly in the car. An order of Vindaloo and Tikka Masala.

I then headed over to the school a few miles away.

Now, as I alluded to previously, I had been to Grants before. It’s right on I-40 between Gallup and Albuquerque. So, it’s not like I’m unaware of the place. But, getting to see a rare Saturday night game made this destination worthwhile on its own.

They were hosting St. Pius X, the Sartans (not a typo), and it wasn’t looking to be close. A 52-7 prediction. And, I was kind of hoping if it was a blowout, that at least it could be ended early by the mercy rule and I could get a jump start on the long ride back to El Paso.

#47 – Grants v. Albuquerque St. Pius X

Grants Stadium is nice. Complete with turf and located on the north end of town near the foothills. The vistas to the north and east are both great. The school, including restrooms and lockers, sits to the south. Which is where the large pirate inflatable is set up. Two police cruisers, from Milan, sat astride the mascot. With lights flashing when the players emerged.

It was interesting that the Pirates were wearing “color out” jerseys, similar to the NFL’s Color Rush uniforms, sponsored and paid for by a local business.

It looked like X was going to run away with this one. A 19-0 first quarter lead paid homage to the fact they were the favorites. But the second quarter saw them struggle to move the ball after a key injury at quarterback. And then, it was the Grants turnovers doing the heavy lifting. They’d get the ball, and immediately turn it right over. A pick six by Dominic Esparza, after earlier returning a punt for a TD, made it 32-0. And we were only three scores away from an early finish.

But they just couldn’t move the ball on offense. Instead, setting up shop deep in Grants territory and turning it over on downs many times. After going up 39-0 early in the fourth, Grants put to rest the notion of an early finish. An incomplete pass that was ruled a fumble, gave the Pirates the ball deep in X territory. And on the next play, a diving catch in the endzone gave Grants their first and only score of the game. X would milk the clock on their remaining drives, and finish with the 39-8 victory.


This trip was not necessarily a work trip. But, I did benefit with hotel freebies. In fact, the only hotel I paid for was $6.44 in Springerville, Arizona. Total driven miles was 942mi. Total trip cost including rental car, gas, hotel, and food, was $765.74. The Escalade was $344.28 for three days, while gas was $199.91. Food was the next biggest expense at $161. I also bought a new monopod at Best Buy for $54.11. As I left my other one, I believe, at Greenville High School. Though that’s just speculation. Either way, it just disappeared.

Photos of the Week

2021 HSF Wk 9 Texas

2021 HSF Wk 9 Texas

2021 HSF Wk 9 Arizona

2021 HSF Wk 9 Arizona

2021 HSF Wk 9 Arizona

2021 HSF Wk 9 Arizona

2021 HSF Wk 9 Arizona

2021 HSF Wk 9 Arizona

2021 HSF Wk 9 New Mexico

2021 HSF Wk 9 New Mexico

2021 HSF Wk 9 New Mexico

2021 HSF Wk 9 New Mexico

2021 HSF Wk 9 New Mexico

2021 HSF Wk 9 New Mexico

2021 HSF Wk 9 New Mexico

2021 HSF Wk 9 New Mexico

2021 HSF Wk 9 New Mexico

2021 HSF Wk 9 New Mexico

2021 HSF Wk 9 New Mexico

2021 HSF Wk 9 New Mexico

2021 HSF Wk 9 New Mexico

2021 HSF Wk 9 New Mexico

2021 HSF Wk 9 New Mexico

2021 HSF Wk 9 New Mexico

2021 HSF Wk 9 New Mexico

2021 HSF Wk 9 New Mexico

2021 HSF Wk 9 New Mexico

2021 HSF Wk 9 New Mexico

Next Week

Though at the time, I only had a rough idea that I’d be at a game in Texas. I didn’t realize where in Texas. Dodge City had a six-man championship game on Saturday evening. And a Friday night game in Hooker, Oklahoma was on my wish list. But, the only Thursday night options were in Amarillo, Lubbock, or Follett. Follett being a six-man game projected to be over at halftime. While the Amarillo game was between Amarillo and Lubbock, the two eponymous schools. However, on my way to Follett, which was along the northern border with the Oklahoma panhandle, I discovered Petrolia was hosting Windthorst on Thursday night. And I headed east, instead.

2021 Statistics

47 Games
90 Teams
37 Stadiums

13 States

46 New Teams
24 New Stadiums

1,343 different teams
440 different stadiums

1,217 total games

For more, and larger, photos from this weekend, click HERE.

For photos from previous weeks and seasons, visit http://www.flickr.com/sykotyk/sets/

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