Aztec is still two wins away from securing another District 1-4A title, but the No. 6 Tigers can almost guarantee the championship with a win tonight at
No. 5 Piedra Vista.
After disposing of No. 10 Farmington 20-7 last week at Hutchison Stadium, the defending 4A state champion Tigers (4-3 overall, 1-0 District 1-4A) are ready to ride the bus to the Hutch once more to take on the district’s highest-ranked team.
“This win would mean a lot to us because it would bring us that much closer to another district title and my fourth in high school,” said Aztec senior quarterback and safety Adam Lucero. “We’ve been focused all week and we are ready to get it on with PV.”
Piedra Vista (7-1, 1-0) returns to full strength tonight with the return of dynamic playmaker Beau Clafton, who was injured two weeks ago against St. Pius X in the Panthers’ only loss of the season.
The Panthers bounced back nicely with a win at Kirtland Central last week, but PV still made too many mistakes that they will have needed to clean up before 7 p.m. tonight.
The Panthers are confident those adjustments have been made, and junior quarterback Isaiah Valdez and senior captain Bryson Martinez agreed that this has been the team’s best week of practice all season.
“Of course this is the biggest game of the year so far,” Valdez said. “This win tells who the best team in 1-4A is.”
Fans in attendance will be treated to two phenomenal matchups between great athletes.
The biggest matchups directly involve Martinez, who will cover Aztec wide receiver Brad Hardin on defense and will be manned by Aztec corner back Ryneal Lewis-Adams when he lines up at receiver on offense himself.
But Martinez knows other skill players will have to step up for PV to win the game.
“As a competitor I always want to go against the other team’s best players,” he said. “But I believe as a team we must win all of our individual matchups. The beauty of football is that it is a team game.”
Lucero is a tough matchup for any opposing defense.
The talented senior quarterback has thrown for 1,773 yards and 21 touchdowns this season, averaging 295 yards-per-game.
Lucero also has faith that his offensive weapons such as Hardin, Cody Rinerson, Lewis-Adams and Braden Goimarac can match the production of any PV player.
“PV has a lot of weapons, but I will compare our athletes to theirs any day,” Lucero said after the team beat St. Pius X two weeks ago. “I think ours are better.”
Piedra Vista hasn’t beat Aztec since 2006, but the team hasn’t had playmakers such as Martinez, Clafton, Jacob Armijo and Stratton Waller all on one team with a veteran offensive line.
“This win would mean so much to us. The tireless hours and all the work we have put in during the offseason is the foundation to the success we have had this season,” Martinez said. “It would be amazing my senior year to beat Aztec. That is something that lasts forever.”
That experience is exactly what sets these two teams apart. On paper, they may have the same number of weapons and PV may have a better record, but the Tigers have the swagger of a team that has known nothing but winning for years while beating Aztec would be monumental for the Panthers.
“Our guys know how to win. The craftiness of an Aztec football player is that he knows how to win games,” Aztec head coach Matt Steinfeldt said after the team beat Farmington a week ago.
Piedra Vista has had a better home crowd in recent weeks, but the Tigers will be in Farmington ready to celebrate if Aztec can get by the Panthers.
Get to the game early and get loud.
No. 10 Farmington at No. 20 Kirtland Central
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Bronco Stadium
What to watch: The Scorpions are in need of a bounce back win and a Piedra Vista win at Aztec to set up a big game in a week against the No. 5 Panthers.
Fresh off a 20-7 loss to No. 6 Aztec, No. 5 Farmington (5-3 overall, 0-1 District 1-4A) will see a good matchup tonight in Kirtland against the No. 20 Broncos (3-5, 0-1).
The Scorpions hung tough against Aztec with the Farmington defense playing a near-perfect game for three quarters.
Kirtland Central won’t be able to move the ball much against the Scorps defense, and it is up to the offensive of Farmington to move the ball on the ground and eat up clock without committing turnovers.
Kirtland Central showed least week against Piedra Vista that it won’t go down easily in district this year, and the Scorps can’t afford to give the Broncos extra possessions and good field-position.
Look for Farmington playmaker Kyle Reynolds to fly around the defensive backfield while looking to make interceptions, and he should be able to get room at wide receiver if the Scorps use more of the play-action passes that worked with great success against Aztec.
No. 5 Bloomfield at Wingate
When: 7 p.m.
What to watch: Bloomfield (4-4 overall, 1-0 District 1-3A) can get one win closer to a District 1-3A title with what should be an easy road win tonight at Wingate (1-7, 0-2).
Bloomfield has been unstoppable in recent weeks, dismantling Kirtland Central and Thoreau by a combined score of 102-0.
Josh Archibeque has been the key to Bloomfield’s success, scoring on offense and defense.
Junior quarterback Bobby Lyon improves each week and has made a living throwing the ball; to Archibeque in open space.
Bloomfield’s running game has also been effective as the Bobcats wear out opposing defenses.
Wingate shouldn’t have much success against the Bloomfield defense, either.
The Bears have allowed 30 or more points to opponents four times this year while being outscored 225-64 this season.
It is the last tuneup game for Bloomfield before likely playing for the District 1-3A title against Shiprock in next week’s season finale.
No. 15 Shiprock at Thoreau
When: 7 p.m.
What to watch: Shiprock looks to gain momentum before a regular season finale against Bloomfield.
The Chieftains hope to make that game for all the marbles in District 1-3A by moving to 2-0 in DIstrict 1-3A with a win at Thoreau.
Shiprock (4-4 overall, 1-0 District 1-3A) bounced back from consecutive road losses with a big 31-6 win against Wingate in the district opener.
The Chieftains hope to have a similar result in Thoreau against a 2-5 Eagles squad that is 1-1 in District 1-3A.
A big win will be necessary for the Chieftains confidence after Bloomfield downed Thoreau 54-0 in just over 27 minutes of play last week.
Thoreau will be a tougher test than Wingate, and the Chieftains will have to get the offense rolling early to avoid being upset.
As a team, Shiprock has run for over 1900 yards in eight games, and that will be the key to Shiprock putting away Thoreau.
But Alex Benally can also throw the ball with 572 of the Chieftains’ 899 passing yards this season.
Most of those receiving yards go to Hiram Gleason, who leads the team with 639 yards on just 25 receptions.
Shiprock’s defense also averages three sacks per game as the line typically wins its battles up front.
Navajo Prep at Navajo Pine
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Navajo Pine
What to watch: Ready to get back over .500, Rod Denetso’s Fighting Eagles look to take command of their district.
Navajo Prep (4-4 overall, 2-0 District 1-2A) faces a big road test tonight against rival Navajo Pine (3-5, 2-1).
It is the final regular season game of the year for the Warriors, who own wins over Newcomb and Cuba in district while losing to Dulce 44-30 last week.
Dulce (3-5, 2-0) is the district favorite and should pick up an easy home win against Newcomb tonight.
If Navajo Prep wants to host a District 1-2A title game next week, it has to take care of business on the road tonight at Navajo Pine.
That may be difficult, as the Fighting Eagles are 0-3 in road games this year.
But the team has turned a corner and Mike Mauga is finding the end zone with ease.
The Eagles are averaging over 210 passing yards per game while rushing for over 100.
Denetso needs to get quarterback Tyler Sorensen going early and find a way to get Mauga into open space to get the Eagles some early confidence.