By Dave Wagner
MELROSE — While the Melrose Buffaloes were in relative control at halftime, coach Dickie Roybal wasn’t happy with what he was seeing.
The Buffs hurt themselves with 65 yards in penalties in the opening half and led Carrizozo just 14-0.
They also made a switch in the second half, moving senior Rowdy Allen back from fullback to his customary tailback position. That seemed to spark the offense and the Buffs pulled away to a 40-12 win over the Grizzlies in an 8-man state quarterfinal matchup.
Melrose (6-3), seeded fourth in the six-team field, advances to a game in Roswell against top-ranked, two-time defending champion Gateway Christian, likely to be played at 7 p.m. on Friday.
Sophomore quarterback Wyatt Williams ran for a touchdown and passed for another and junior Boone Roberts scored twice, including a 55-yard interception return.
“I told the kids at halftime, ‘If we continue to make penalties like that there’s no way we can play with Gateway,’” Roybal said. “They haven’t been beaten in three years and it’ll take a near-perfect game to beat them.”
Allen finished with 100 yards on 16 carries, getting 75 of them in the second half. John Parales added 75 yards rushing and Williams had 73 for the Buffs, who won earlier this season at Carrizozo 60-22.
“Coach really had a good talk with us at halftime,” Williams related. “We just had to get our heads together. In the playoffs, anything can happen.”
Melrose recovered the Grizzlies’ onside kick to start the second half, and the Buffs covered the distance in just six plays, with Allen carrying three times for 27 yards. Junior Jay Faust got the touchdown on a nine-yard run.
Allen then ran 11 yards for a score on the Buffs’ next possession, which was followed by Roberts’ interception return for a 34-0 lead about midway through the period.
Roybal said the offensive line played better after halftime.
“We got after them at halftime,” he said. “They backed down (early) from Carrizozo, but in the second half they stepped up to the challenge.”
The Buffs held Carrizozo senior running back Nick Chavez and senior quarterback Jace Hill in check. Chavez finished with 81 yards, but had only two carries longer than eight yards, while Hill misfired on eight of his first nine passes before completing eight in a row in one stretch late in the game to finish 11-of-22 for 105 yards.
“Melrose is a good football team,” Grizzlies coach Kevin Sheehan said. “We came out flat tonight, and we just couldn’t recover.
“I thought we played a decent defensive game, but once they got momentum it was pretty much over for us.”
Williams said the Buffs are looking forward to the challenge against Gateway (9-0), which handed Melrose a 52-6 loss earlier this season in an 8-man District 3 game at Melrose.
“They’ve been the top dogs the last three years,” he said. “They really dominated us early; we didn’t really know what we were getting into. Preparation will be the key this week.”