AZTEC — Whether the Tigers were airing it out or pounding the ball up the middle, the Demons had no answers for the defending 4A state champions.
No. 6 Aztec (6-4) defeated No. 11 Santa Fe (5-6) 63-13 in the first round of the state playoffs. The Tigers wracked up 506 yards of total offense before the game ended via 50-point mercy rule with four minutes and 11 seconds remaining in the third quarter.
It was the first playoff win in Aztec for first-year head coach Matt Steinfeldt.
“He deserves it. It is hard to fill the shoes of a state-title winning coach, but Steinfeldt has done a phenomenal job with us,” said Aztec senior quarterback Adam Lucero. “He deserves a state title this year, and we are going to keep working to bring it to him.”
Lucero had one of his best games of the season, completing 16-21 passes while throwing for 321 yards and four touchdowns. He did throw a red zone interception on the team's first drive of the game, but that was the only possession in which Aztec did not score Friday night at Fred Cook Memorial Stadium.
Much of Lucero's success Friday could be attributed to the stellar play of running back Ryneal Lewis-Adams, who helped balance Aztec's offense with 179 rushing yards.
Lewis-Adams scored four touchdowns on the ground while also punching in two 2-point conversions in the game. He also caught three balls for another 69 yards.
“I have to give most of the credit to our offensive line,” Lewis-Adams said. “Without them and Brad Hardin lead blocking for me, I couldn't hit any of those holes.”
The 248 yards of total offense for Lewis-Adams looked easy Friday night, but nothing has been easy for Lewis-Adams in his high school football career.
This is his first year back with the team after tearing a hamstring clean off the bone over a year ago.
“I have to thank God for allowing me to play,” Lewis-Adams said. “Coming off that injury, this feels amazing. It is one of the best feeling I have ever had in my life to step on the field and play with the Brotherhood.”
Steinfeldt couldn't be happier with the way his junior running back has stepped up at the perfect time in the season.
“He is a great football player. We need him to step up on a regular basis and he continues to do that,” Steinfeldt said. “In my estimation, we have the best quarterback in the state, but we have to take pressure off him with the run game. When Ryneal does what he did tonight, it gives Lucero more time to sit back and relax.”
Lewis-Adams opened the scoring with a 17-yard touchdown run just two minutes into the game.
Three minutes later, Lucero hit Braden Goimarac in the end zone for a 33-yard touchdown pass to stretch the lead to 12-0.
Following an offside penalty on the ensuring kickoff, Santa Fe's Christian Gonzales returned the kick 80 yards for a Demons touchdown to make it 12-7.
That was as close as Santa Fe would get as Lucero hit Cody Rinerson on a 77-yard touchdown pass the first play of the next drive.
Three more Lewis-Adams touchdown runs and two Hardin touchdown catches as well as a touchdown run by Hardin stretched the lead even further.
Santa Fe's only other score again came on a kickoff return, this time by Zachary Marquez on the opening kickoff of the second half.
The game came to a close after Lucero found Hardin from four yards out and Lewis-Adams punched in the 2-point conversion.
Aztec's defense also forced two fumbles while allowing only 51 yards of total offense to Santa Fe.
“We took the first step and did the right things tonight,” Steinfeldt said. “I think losing to Piedra Vista gave us more motivation than anything this year. It woke us up and told us we still had a lot of work to do. We have made adjustments. Santa Fe is a good club who had a good season, but we are putting everything together at the right time of the season.”
Aztec will travel to face No. 3 Artesia in the state quarterfinals next week at the world famous Bulldog Bowl. Steinfeldt is excited to coach his first game against the storied program.
“I am not familiar with them, but I know the history and background. Artesia has always been a first-class program and that is something we want to emulate as well,” Steinfeldt said. “Going down there and getting a victory is our only goal right now.”
A more perfect matchup in the quarterfinals couldn't be possible, Lucero said.
“I am pumped to go down to the Bulldog Bowl and hopefully get some revenge for our 2010 state championship loss,” Lucero said. “I know they are talking smack, but that is football. We are going to use that as fuel and have a good week of practice. I am thrilled to play there one more time as a senior, and I wouldn't want to go play anywhere else.”