FARMINGTON — A down year for Aztec football ended on a high note with a victory to finish the season.
The Tigers snapped a two-game losing skid with a 32-20 win against Kirtland Central on Friday night in Kirtland.
"I think when we look back on the season, it's certainly a disappointment to not have a better record," said Aztec head coach Matt Steinfeldt. "I preached all week to the players that we want to do the right things every day, whether or not the result on the scoreboard is positive. We want to compete to the finish and do what we know we can."
The No. 14 Tigers (4-6 overall, 1-2 District 1-4A) jumped out to a 32-6 lead in the first half led by Ryneal Lewis-Adams, who scored three touchdowns -- one on a kickoff return, one rushing and one receiving -- and Brody Crawford, who caught two scores from Marcus Crawford.
No. 12 KCHS (6-4, 0-3) battled back in the second half with a 16-yard touchdown pass from Jacob Flack to Rashad Jones and a 1-yard touchdown run by Jacob Belin, but the deficit proved to be too large to overcome.
"The second half we played Broncos football. I don't want to take anything away from Aztec. They played great," said KCHS head coach Kevin Graham. "In the first half, I just didn't have them ready. They took advantage of our mistakes and cashed in. Aztec is well coached, and we gave them a little help."
Playoff seedings will be announced today, and with the Tigers finishing under .500, it's likely they'll miss the postseason for the first time since 2002.
Despite that, Steinfeldt thought his team grew a lot throughout the season. Thanks to leadership from the seniors and a good group of returning players, he expects Aztec to be stronger next year.
"Certainly Ryneal is a special talent, and it will be hard to replace him. We're really going to miss Brett Donaldson -- phenomenal work ethic and comes to practice each and every day and gives the exact effort you get on Friday nights. We'll miss all of the seniors and their contributions the last four years," Steinfeldt said.
Steinfeldt was also happy to see senior center Matt Stalcup play his final high school game after he was carted off the field in an ambulance three weeks ago against Farmington.
"Matt Stalcup played and was injured three weeks ago, but for the first time in my career here, we're returning some starters," Steinfeldt said. "The first year, I got here, we returned three starters. This season, we returned maybe five starters combined. Next year, we'll be returning 18 starters, so as a coach, it's a payoff to have the young guys getting a year older with 10 games under their belts. It's a confidence booster, and we should be a very good team."
KCHS was unable to win a district game but finished with a winning record for the first time since 2008.
Graham thinks that success will be key into trying to compete for a playoff spot next year.
"We do feel like we're heading in the right direction," he said. "We got to get in the weight room and push ourselves harder than ever. That's where we're the furthest behind these other schools."
Navajo Prep 76, Dulce 0
The Eagles made one final statement to the selection committee about their desire to host a playoff game by blowing out Dulce in the last game of the regular season.
"We really want a home (playoff) game," said Prep head coach Rod Denetso. "The kids went out there and played well. A lot of our young kids got to play, and we didn't get anybody hurt, which was important."
No. 12 Prep (9-1, 4-0 District 1-2A) finished off the Hawks (0-8, 0-4) 76-0 in a game that ended at halftime.
"Everything we ran was working, and they didn't make any adjustments," Denetso said. "Their young kids were just overmatched by our speed. Those kids from Dulce played their hearts out, though."
Quarterback Tyler Sorensen led the way with 320 yards and seven touchdowns on 10-of-13 passing.
Mikaele Mauga also had four touchdowns for Prep -- two receiving, one rushing and one on an interception return.
The Eagles clinched the District 1-2A title last week, guaranteeing themselves a playoff spot, and they will find out their seeding today when the postseason brackets are unveiled.