By John Philip Wyllie
Prior to the start of the 2004 football season wide receiver Robert Ortiz expressed hope that he could improve upon his 2003 performance and contribute more to the Aztec’s offense. While overshadowed by fellow wide-out Jeff Webb a year ago, Ortiz’s 33 catches for 329 yards and one touchdown were good enough for third place among Aztec receivers. Having matched his previous career scoring output of 12 points in just the first 17 minutes of the Saturday’s 38-21 triumph over Idaho State, the Horizon Christian product is off to a scintillating start.
“We have been working on it and we were able to execute it tonight,” Ortiz said with a smile. “I felt I could do that a long time ago. It was just a great opportunity to do it tonight.”
Ortiz finished the evening with four receptions for 58 yards and established himself as a reliable receiver to pair with Webb, the Aztecs primary target of a year ago. Playing before the largest crowd in Aztec history (57,216) Ortiz & company picked a good night to put on a show. He was just one of many stars on this night.
Running back Michael Franklin set the tone of the game with a nifty 67 yard touchdown run on the first play from scrimmage. Little more than two minutes later the Aztecs scored again on a 10 yard scoring pass from Matt Dlugolecki to Ortiz. The Bengals blown coverage on the play afforded Ortiz the opportunity to make one of the easiest touchdown catches in Aztec history. Three minutes later, Former Rancho Buena Vista star Brandon Bornes added the third touchdown of the first quarter when he barreled in from the three yard line. The rout was on.
A Garret Palmer field goal made it 24-0 in the waning seconds of the first quarter. Ortiz then brought the fans to their feet with his second touchdown catch of the evening just before intermission. This time, Ortiz put a move on Bengal DB Mich-ael Harris and took off on a deep post pattern. Freshman quarterback, Kevin O’Con-nell, who had come on in relief of Dlugolecki, hit Ortiz in stride and sent the Aztecs into the locker room holding a 31-0 lead.
Rather than further embarrass the befuddled 1-AA Division Bengals, Aztec coach Tom Craft opted instead to use the second half as an opportunity to look at some of his younger, less experienced players. The resulting drop-off in play was dramatic, but the experience gained might prove valuable in the long run, especially for a team lacking in depth in a number of areas.
Playing against a patchwork defense of a few veterans and lots of newcomers, Idaho State rallied in the second half to make the score look somewhat respectable. The Aztecs came out flat after the intermission and unraveled on both sides of the ball. The long and lethargic second half seemed to last weeks, but with the post-game KGB Sky Show awaiting them, most of the 50,000+ on hand remained in their seats.
The Aztecs are idle next weekend and then travel to Ann Arbor September 18 to take on eighth-ranked Michigan in a game that will be locally broadcast on ESPN. The Aztecs return home to Qualcomm Stadium on September 25 when they battle the University of Nevada.