BLOOMFIELD — The three-time defending 3A state champions aren’t ready for their reign to come to an end just yet.
No. 5 Lovington knocked off No. 4 Bloomfield 21-8 Saturday to move on to the 3A semifinals.
“We knew we couldn’t get behind,” said Lovington head coach Jaime Quinones. “When you are on the road playing a quality team, you have to play good defense and have the offense control the ball. There are no style points at this time of year. If you win, you move on.”
Wildcat quarterback Zach Molinar threw a pair of fourth quarter touchdowns, guiding Lovington to the road victory.
Neither team could gather any momentum in the first half with penalties and strong defensive play stifling both offenses.
“They are a good team,” said Bloomfield head coach Bruce Hatch. “We’d get a drive going, then have a penalty, or get them in third and long, and they’d make a play. But our kids played hard. They played all the way until the end. We got better as the year went on, no mistake about it, but we just came up short in the final game.”
Lovington (6-6) finally broke through with just over three minutes left in the first half on a five-yard touchdown run from Justin Bromley.
Bromley ended the game with 75 yards on 24 carries as the Bobcats held the Wildcats’ star runner in check for most of the contest.
The Wildcats were the beneficiaries of an inadvertent whistle right before the conclusion of the first half.
Lovington drove the ball into field-goal range with five seconds left until halftime.
The Bobcats (6-5) blocked the 43-yard field goal try, but while the ball was rolling around live on the field about two yards behind the line of scrimmage, one of the officials blew the play dead before either team had a chance to recover the ball.
Lovington wouldn’t have been able to advance the blocked kick, but Bloomfield missed the opportunity to return the kick for a score.
“We had guys right there ready to return it,” Hatch said. “The ref even said after that he was sorry and he messed up. I really felt like we could have returned it.”
The second half began in similar fashion as the first with neither team doing much on offense.
Lovington finally gained control early in the fourth quarter when Molinar hit senior Jason Hare for a five-yard touchdown on fourth-and-goal to push the Wildcat lead to 14-0 with 10:40 left in the game.
Bloomfield looked like it would respond immediately.
On the first play of the ensuing drive, junior quarterback Bobby Lyon completed a pass to Tyrel Williams for 46 yards down to the Lovington 34-yard line.
The Bobcat drive stalled from there, however, and Bloomfield turned the ball over on downs.
The Wildcats were able to milk the clock down before scoring for a third time when Molinar completed a 25-yard touchdown pass to Laden Blythe with 2:35 to play in the game.
The junior quarterback completed 9-12 passes for 108 yards in the win.
The Bobcats avoided the shut out on their final drive when Josh Archibeque threw a halfback pass to Williams for a five-yard score. Bloomfield converted the two-point conversion on a Lyon pass to Archibeque.
Lyon completed 13-20 passes for 145 yards in the game while Archibeque finished with 55 yards on 14 carries in his final game.
Lovington outgained the Bobcats 257-227 in the game.
Penalties hindered both teams with seven called on Bloomfield for 55 yards, and six for the Wildcats for 45 yards.
The Bloomfield season ends with a District 1-3A title and the team’s first playoff appearance in three years. Now the Bobcats will try to build off this performance into next year.
“It was a great season, and we won’t let this loss take away from what we’ve accomplished this year,” Hatch said. “We lose some good kids, but you lose good kids every year. We’ll get the young kids ready. We have some good freshmen and sophomores that are coming up, and we feel they’ll be able to help out.”
Lyon is setting the goal high for next season for his senior year.
“Hopefully, we take state,” he said. “I’ll keep improving, and our line will keep going. We’ll take it down next year.”
Lovington advances to host No. 1 St. Michael’s next weekend.