FARMINGTON — It is the biggest night for Farmington football since six years, and crosstown rivals Farmington and Piedra Vista don't figure to disappoint local fans.
No. 4 Piedra Vista (8-1 overall, 2-0 District 1-4A) visits No. 10 Farmington (6-3, 1-1) in an epic clash with the District 1-4A title on the line for PV.
“It is a very important game. We have to win our crosstown rivalry before we move on to any other thing,” said PV's Beau Clafton, who hit the game-winning field goal to beat Aztec a week ago.
But the Scorps hope to spoil the night for the Panthers with a win that could send the 1-4A title to Aztec once again.
“Playing PV is a big game for the city,” said FHS head coach Gary Bradley after his team won at Kirtland Central last Friday. “But, for our small team, we're going to try and take care of ourselves. We play our best when we take care of ourselves and don't worry about who's on the other side.”
Farmington owns victories in the last three games against Piedra Vista, dominating the Panthers 42-24 in 2011 and 37-14.
“It is a new year and fairly different teams, so there is no mental edge for either side,” said Farmington running back Austin Foutz.
The Scorpion defense has shown the ability to limit any offense, and the key for Farmington is to minimize turnovers on offense.
If the Scorpions don't turn the ball over, this game is a coin toss.
“It comes down to being in attack mode all night and just believing in the system,” Foutz. “If we do that, I think we can execute. Holding on to the ball is goanna be huge. The turnover battle is definitely the key.”
Generating takeaways has been one of PV's biggest strengths this season, and you can bet hard-hitting linebackers such as Aaron Rino, Kolt Munoz, Nick Varley and Kason Wilkinson will be looking to rip the ball away from Austin Foutz and Essiel Carrasco when the Scorps run the ball.
However, St. Pius X exposed PV in the Panthers' only loss of the season when the Panthers got caught going for a strip instead of sure tackles earlier in the year, allowing the Sartans to rip off big runs.
“It all comes down to fundamentals. The great teams execute fundamentals better than anyone else,” said PV senior Bryson Martinez. “We just have to wrap up and gang tackle and we will be fine.”
PV must be alert against Kyle Reynolds and bruising full back Brian Farley when they get involved in the running game.
The Panthers will also have to be aware of Reynolds in the defensive backfield when junior quarterback Isaiah Valdez goes to the air to his stable of receivers led by Martinez.
“Their defense is very tough and disciplined but I still don't feel as though any team can stop us but us,” Martinez said. “Reynolds is exceptionally athletic but I don't feel he is as tough of a matchup as Brad Hardin was for Aztec. We are very prepared and I feel every aspect of our team is ready for this game.”
At the end of the day, the Panthers are just happy to play another game against a top 10 team before the playoffs.
“We like to think of ourselves as a top-tier team. We like to compete and we want to try to be the best,” Clafton said.
Not only is PV playing for a district title, but the Panther will also likely earn a bye in the first round of the state playoffs with a victory.
“This is very important. PV hasn't won district since 2006 and we are looking to bring that back,” Valdez said. “The team has worked all offseason and now we have pushed it this season to get this opportunity. We need to just get the job done by playing our best game.”
This is a game the whole town can get behind, and both teams want to see the stands filled with black and blue or green.
“It will be a great experience to be able to play for a district championship here (at Hutchison Stadium) against our crosstown rival,” said PV head coach Jared Howell. “it will be a great thing.”
Of course, nothing would be sweeter for the Scorps then ruining a story-book regular season for PV.
“Considering there is so much riding on this game, it would mean a lot,” Foutz said of the prospect of beating the Panthers.
Kirtland Central at No. 6 Aztec
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Fred Cook Memorial
What to watch: Aztec can establish positive momentum with a big home win in the season finale tonight.
Kirtland Central has suffered growing pains most of the season and the Broncos will see their season come to an end tonight in Aztec.
But the Tigers (5-4 overall, 1-1 District 1-4A) are looking to fine tune before making a return to the 4A state playoffs.
Expect Aztec to come out firing and show no mercy to the Broncos (3-6, 0-2), who will have a hard time stopping Aztec senior quarterback Adam Lucero and senior slash player Brad Hardin.
Aztec’s defense can also gain some confidence stopping the run against Kirtland Central. The strong secondary of the Tigers won’t be tested much by the Broncos, and you can expect turnovers if Kirtland is forced to the air early.
Aztec needs to impress one final time before the state seedings are announced Sunday.
Plus, the Tigers are still in line for the district championship with a win and a Farmington win over Piedra Vista.
A bye is likely out of the question for Aztec, but earning a high seed to earn at least one home game will be important for the Tigers.
No. 15 Shiprock at No. 5 Bloomfield
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Bobcat Stadium
What to watch: The Bobcats and Chieftains have each blown out their two other district opponents — Wingate and Thoreau — to set up a game for the District 1-3A championship.
Bloomfield (5-4, 2-0 District 1-3A) hasn’t allowed a point in district play, winning the two games by a combined score of 105-0.
Shiprock (5-4, 2-0) has been nearly as dominate, outscoring its two district foes 87-12.
Running back Josh Archibeque and quarterback Bobby Lyon will head a balanced Bobcat attack as Bloomfield tries to not only lock up the district title, but also fight their way into top-four seed and the first-round bye that goes with it.
This game is a must win for the Chieftains if they want to earn a place in the playoffs for the third consecutive season.
Injuries have decimated the Shiprock offensive line, but the Chieftain offense hasn’t missed a beat with wide receiver Hiram Gleason being a big-play threat.
Shiprock will fight with all of its might, but expect Bloomfield to come out and try to send a statement to the rest of the state in an effort to earn the bye.
Dulce at No. 17 Navajo Prep
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Navajo Prep
What to watch: The Eagles are a win away from a district title and a 2A state playoff spot.
Mika Mauga has dominated in the three district wins for Navajo Prep, scoring 11 touchdowns as the Eagles (5-4, 3-0 District 1-2A) have outscored their three opponents 156-12.
Dulce (3-6, 2-1) was upset last week at home against Newcomb 35-32 and sits with a 2-1 record in district play. Despite the loss, the Hawks still control their own destiny and a win over Navajo Prep would give them the district title.
For the Eagles to avoid the upset, they will need a balanced attack with quarterback Tyler Sorenson finding Mauga on screen passes and Izaac and Jesse Eredia pounding the ball on the ground.
When the Eagles made a coaching change at the beginning of the 2011 season, and built stadium lights to allow for Friday night games, this is exactly what they wanted.
Navajo Prep only hopes this is the beginning of a long-lasting winning program and that many more 1-2A district championship games will be played under the lights on the Eagles’ home field.
Sports reporter Joshua Perry contributed to this report.