FARMINGTON — Belen and Farmington are set to clash with a berth in the Class 4A state championship game on the line.
No. 2 Farmington (10-1) hosts No. 3 Belen (10-2) Saturday at 1 p.m. at Hutchison Stadium.
In a game between two of the top rushing attacks in 4A, the focus will be on both defenses.
"When you get deep in the playoffs like this, defenses do shine a little bit more than flashy offenses," said Farmington High head coach Gary Bradley. "Not to say we wouldn't like to score 40 points, but the really good defenses go deep in the playoffs, where we are right now."
Farmington enters the game with an impressive defense that has yielded few yards of total offense in the majority of contests this season. The Belen Eagles come in allowing fewer than 16 points per game, and Farmington has yielded just more than seven points per game.
"I don't expect our defense to give up more than two (touchdowns), but even then I don't want anything up there. I want a goose egg up there," said Farmington senior linebacker and running back Brian Farley.
Both teams focus on running the ball. Belen's triple option game had the Eagles running for an average of 273.8 yards per game in the regular season. The Eagles spread around the workload between running backs and quarterback Chris Peralta, who is rushed for an average of 55.9 yards in the regular season. Trenton Barba led the Eagles, leading with 973 yards in the regular season.
Farmington High does not update its stats online, but the Scorpions are rushing for about 250 yards per game.
"We have watched a lot of film on them, and we see a lot of similarities between us," Bradley said of Belen's and Farmington's teams.
Those similarities have helped the Scorpions this week in practice, Farley said.
"Our scout team knows what they are doing, and we are a lot more familiar with that kind of offense," Farley said. "Having that knowledge already pumps us up."
With such an emphasis on the running game, the battle between lines will be a major focus.
Farmington senior lineman Logan Welling said Belen doesn't have overwhelming size, but he called their linemen good all-around athletes.
"We have studied them and know their plan and what they will do. We just have to take care of our assignments," Welling said. "They are not huge, but they have decent linemen. It will be a good challenge going against some other disciplined linemen."
Welling said it is important to keep perspective and not let the stage of the semifinals get too big.
"We won't place Belen on a pedestal. We have to take them like anyone else we have faced this season," Welling said.
Farmington running backs Farley, Austin Foutz and Tyler Blades, along with quarterback Jacob Lucas, will have to avoid the tackles of Belen defenders such as Jonathan Madrid and Tristan Baca, who leads the Eagles with seven sacks this season.
Because two teams have never met in the state playoffs dating back to 1953, Farmington earned the home game via coin toss. The two teams did play in 1952 in the final game of the season when the Scorpions won 27-14 to finish the season undefeated and claim the Class A state championship. It is the only state title in Farmington football history.
The next season, New Mexico adapted a playoff system. The Scorpions haven't played in a championship game since 1962, which ended in a 34-20 loss to Carlsbad. Farmington's only other appearance in a state title game came in 1960 when the Scorps fell 20-13 to Clovis.
"Every year, we always talk about getting to the next level. On the front of our helmet, it says 'Next' to motivate us to get there. We are striving to get to the top and become the very best," Farley said. "We are practicing our hardest and doing it for our whole team, the coaches and the big senior class. We are doing it for each other."
What: Belen at Farmington
When: 1 p.m. Saturday
Where: Hutchison Stadium, 2200 N. Sunset Ave., Farmington
Cost: $8 for adults, $5 for students and seniors
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