What: Kirtland Central at Bloomfield
When: 7 p.m. Today
Where: Bobcat Stadium, 520 North 1st St., Bloomfield
Listen Live: FOX 1340 AM/93.9 FM and KNMI-FM 88.9
FARMINGTON — It is the final week of non-district football games, but there is one local clash San Juan County fans should keep their eyes on.
Riding a four-game winning streak, 4A Kirtland Central rolls into Bloomfield for a game with the 3A Bobcats, whose four-game winning streak was snapped a week ago at Farmington High.
"It doesn't matter if we are in a district together anymore or not, Bloomfield and Kirtland is a big rivalry game, and our kids know that," said Bloomfield head coach Bruce Hatch. "Both teams badly want to win the game, and both teams need to win the game to go into the district season on a strong note."
Players from both teams are very familiar with each other after playing against one other through YAFL and middle school football. And Kirtland Central head coach Kevin Graham said emotions will run high with a lot of pride on the line.
"This game is special to the kids. It is very important we perform well," Graham said. "What we have done so far this year has been good, but we have reached the part of our schedule that really counts."
Kirtland Central enters the game ranked No. 7 by MaxPreps but No. 14 by NMPreps due to a weak non-conference schedule. The Bobcats are still No. 2 in 3A in the MaxPreps poll and No. 4 in NMPreps.
Bloomfield will be without star junior running back Adrian Vigil, who amassed 18 touchdowns in just five games to start the season. Vigil sprained a knee on his first carry against Farmington High last week, and the Bobcats eventually fell 59-7 as their offense struggled to replace Vigil's production. The Bobcats will now rely on AJ Vigil and Joshua Stowell to pick up a lot of the work in the backfield.
"Adrian is going to have to sit for a few weeks. Luckily, it is nothing too major, and we will get him back at some point," Hatch said. "It won't really change our game plan. We have several good running backs we will use. Losing Adrian puts pressure on everybody, and everyone feels like they have to step up and make plays."
With Adrian Vigil sidelined, the Kirtland Central defense will be able to turn more focus to Bloomfield quarterback Robert Lyon.
"We feel good about our defense running to the ball and trying not to get beat deep over the top. Our focus is to not let any deep passes beat us," Graham said. "Our defensive ends have to contain (Lyon) in the pocket. He runs around pretty good and throws a really good ball."
Defensively, Bloomfield is preparing for Kirtland Central's personnel on offense. The Broncos use two quarterbacks, Rashaan Sorrelhorse and Jacob Flack, and three running backs in Keishaun Aspaas, Jacob Belin and Bryceson Arthur. Reese Foutz has also been a weapon in the passing game, along with tight end Christian Mackey. The Broncos are passing for more than 155 yards per game this season while rushing for more than 180.
"We have to know who is in at quarterback and running back because they all do things a bit different," Hatch said. "They all have different strengths. We are cognizant of that. When switches are made, we will try to do different things."
The biggest battle will come on the offensive and defensive lines. Kirtland Central has a big team, but the Bobcats also have size and strength on the line.
Adding to the story on the line is Bloomfield's coaching. Longtime Kirtland Central head coach Tom Adair is now the line coach for the Bobcats.
"It is a big game. We want to win it for our assistant coach (Tom) Adair. He was the coach there for a long time, and we really want to pull away with a win in that game," Lyon said after the Farmington game.
Bloomfield has also added former Kirtland Central varsity baseball head coach Jim Belveal to the staff as a freshman coach.
"We are glad we got both of those guys. They do a tremendous job for us everywhere. All of our kids want to play hard for (Adair)," Hatch said.
The Broncos are keeping their focus on picking up what would be the biggest win of their 2013 campaign so far.
"Bloomfield is a very quality program. If you can get a win over a club like that, it is very big," Graham said. "We expect nothing but the best from them, and it should be an outstanding game. We have to go in there with mental toughness. It is a bonus for them to be playing at home, but we expect to have a big crowd there to support us, too."
Piedra Vista (4-2) at St. Pius X (3-4)
Fresh off a bye week, the well-rested Piedra Vista Panthers travel to Albuquerque for a unique game at the University of New Mexico Stadium.
The Panthers face a key game against the St. Pius X Sartans. PV enters the contest ranked No. 14 in the MaxPreps poll. The Sartans are No. 15.
St. Pius X hosted No. 9 Aztec at UNM Stadium a week ago. The Sartans were nearly shut out in a 42-6 loss to the Tigers. Aztec had success throwing and running the ball up and down the field following a few Sartan turnovers, and the Panthers will look to force more Sartan mistakes this week.
PV is just 1-2 on the road this season but picked up a road win in its most recent game against Bernalillo. Quarterback Isaiah Valdez and dual-threat Beau Clafton will aim to start fast and fluster St. Pius X early.
PV enters the game averaging more than 32 points per game. The Sartans are scoring an average of 16 points.
It is a must-win for PV before the tough District 1-4A schedule begins.
Radio: Pirate 107.9 FM
1A Escalante (5-2) at 3A Shiprock (2-4)
It is homecoming night in Shiprock, but the football game may not be a celebratory affair for the Chieftains.
Shiprock welcomes 1A powerhouse Escalante to Chieftain Stadium. Escalante ranks No. 3 in 1A in both major polls. Shiprock enters the contest at No. 17 in NMPreps and No. 15 in MaxPreps out of 18 3A teams.
Shiprock is coming off a tough 34-18 loss to Navajo Prep. Navajo Prep’s lone loss of the season came at Escalante in a 48-44 contest.
Shiprock has relied on passing the football a lot this season with quarterbacks Ryan Nez and Irwin Holiday. Both completed just around 30 percent of their passes at Navajo Prep.
The Lobos enter the game averaging 38 points and nearly 250 rushing yards per game. They also pass for nearly 150 yards per game. Shiprock is averaging 28 points per game.
The Chieftains would like a strong showing as they prepare for the District 1-3A season in which they would like to earn wins against both Wingate and Thoreau before facing Bloomfield.
Navajo Prep (5-1) at Newcomb (1-4)
The high-flying Navajo Prep Eagles’ offense soars into its first district game of the season with a 5-1 record.
The Eagles open the District 1-2A schedule on the road at Newcomb (1-4).
Navajo Prep enters the game averaging more than 47 points per game while the Skyhawks have scored just six points all season. Those points came last week in Newcomb’s lone win of the season when the team won 6-0 against Navajo Pine.
Newcomb will have a hard time stopping the Eagles, who average nearly 420 yards per game on offense. Tyler Sorensen has thrown for nearly 340 yards per game. He has 24 touchdown passes and just four interceptions this season.
Both teams have already played Crownpoint and Thoreau this year. Navajo Prep blasted Thoreau 50-0 and Crownpoint 53-0. Newcomb lost to Crownpoint 14-0 and to Thoreau 28-0.
Expect Navajo Prep to finish the game early as the Eagles aim for a perfect district season.John Livingston can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org; 505-564-4648. Follow him on Twitter @jlivi2.