FARMINGTON — Saturday marked a historic day for Navajo Prep sports.
The No. 8 Eagles football team notched its first playoff win since the school reopened in 1991, defeating No. 9 New Mexico Military Institute 63-45.
"It means a lot," said senior Mikaele Mauga of the win. "A lot of people were doubting us because we're a Native team from the north, and people said we couldn't beat them, but we proved them wrong."
Prep's Tyler Sorensen put on an aerial display for the Eagles (10-1), throwing for 441 yards and seven touchdowns on 25-of-38 in the victory.
"It gave the line, the receivers, the whole team confidence that I could go out there and lead them," said Sorensen, whose seven passing touchdowns tied for the fourth most in state history, regardless of classification, according to the New Mexico Activities Association.
The junior quarterback spread the ball out to his three primary targets -- Mauga, Isaiah Yazzie and Alex Danzuka -- as the Colts (5-6) couldn't find an answer for the explosive Eagles' passing game.
"It shows defenders that they can't just key on one player," Sorensen said. "If they do, we'll go to the others and make big plays."
Early in the game, NMMI's focus was to take Mauga out of the game. It worked as they limited the state's leading receiver to 11 yards in the first half, but it also opened up Danzuka, allowing the senior wide receiver to have a career half with six receptions for 163 yards and three touchdowns.
"They were covering Mika and Isaiah, and it left me open on the back side," Danzuka said. "Tyler just fed me the ball, and I did the rest."
Prep jumped out to a 14-0 lead in the first quarter on a 3-yard run by Izaac Eredia and a 7-yard reception by Danzuka.
The Colts got on the scoreboard 30 seconds into the second quarter on a 35-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Dante Mora to wide receiver Blade Allen.
Allen and Mora connected six times for 221 yards for NMMI in the loss.
The Eagles answered right back, though, with a 92-yard touchdown pass from Sorensen to Danzuka to take a 21-7 lead halfway through the second quarter.
"They were basically tripling Mika, so I pumped to him and everyone bit on it. They were expecting me to go to him all day, and it opened Alex right up," Sorensen said of the play.
NMMI fought back with a defensive touchdown when lineman Haden Maloney intercepted a Sorensen pass off a deflection and returned 7 yards for a score.
The Eagles responded with touchdowns by Yazzie and Danzuka in the final three minutes of the half to take a 35-13 lead into the locker room.
The Eagles picked up right where they left off to start the third quarter with Sorensen hitting Yazzie for a 51-yard touchdown on the first play of the half.
Yazzie finished with 97 yards receiving and two touchdowns for Prep.
After allowing a long Colts' touchdown on the next play, the Eagles just needed one play again as Sorensen found Mauga for a 51-yard touchdown to open up a 49-19 lead.
Mauga scored again on a screen pass from 43 yards out halfway through the third quarter, pushing the Eagles' lead to 56-19.
"No. 22 (Mauga) is a horse and No. 11 (Sorensen) can put it on the money," said NMMI head coach Randy Montoya. "It's tough. There's nothing you can do about their raw talent. Navajo Prep was ready, and their passing offense is the real deal."
Following Mauga's second score, the Colts scored three unanswered touchdowns, all on sneak plays by Mora, but they never cut Prep's lead to less than 17 points.
"We've never been a team to quit, but we had key turnovers at the wrong time," Montoya said.
The Colts struggled with turnovers all game, fumbling three times in the first quarter and finishing with five in total.
"The very first play we go out and fumble the ball," Montoya said. "That's how it went for us today."
Eredia, who had 70 yards on 13 carries, scored for a second time in the contest on a 17-yard run with just over a minute to play to seal the victory and snap Prep's seven-game playoff losing streak.
"We earned a little bit of respect," said Prep head coach Rod Denetso, whose team set a school record with its 10 victories this season. "And we hope to earn a little bit more next week against Santa Rosa."
The Eagles will face the top-ranked Lions, who have won the last three 2A state football title and are the owners of New Mexico high school football's longest active winning streak at 28 games.
Prep knows it'll be a huge underdog in the game, but the team thinks it has what it takes to pull out the surprise result. The two teams will likely square off Saturday in Santa Rosa. A time has yet to be determined.
"It's exciting we're going against the No. 1 team, and we're ready to shock people," Mauga said. "I trust our coaches to get us ready."