FARMINGTON — The biggest game since 1962 has arrived for the Farmington High School Scorpions.
No. 2-ranked Farmington (11-1) hosts No. 1 Goddard High (9-2) of Roswell at Hutchison Stadium in Farmington at 1 p.m. today in the Class 4A State Football Championship game. It is the first state title game appearance for the Scorpions in 51 years.
The Goddard Rockets are the defending state champions and have claimed eight titles since 1967. The Scorpions have appeared in just two state title games -- 1960 and 1962 -- and have yet to win a title game. Farmington's lone state title came in 1952, one year before the state playoff system was created.
Although the Scorpions enter the game as underdogs for most people in the state, the Farmington players believe they can defeat anybody.
"The whole year we have been working together as a team, and that is all it's about: team," said Farmington senior captain Brian Farley. "As long as we stay together as a team and have each other's backs, we can take anybody. I believe that."
The Scorpions enter the game 10-0 against New Mexico Class 4A opponents. The Rockets are 5-0 against 4A competition, with their two losses coming to Class 5A's Rio Rancho and Clovis in close games separated by a combined 10 points.
Goddard averages just less than 30 points per game while Farmington is scoring an average of more than 32 points per contest. The Rockets' defense has given up an average of 14 points per game, while the Scorpions have held opponents to just more than seven points a game.
Goddard head coach Sam Jernigan said the Farmington defense does a good job of bending and not breaking.
"They also seem to make that play right whenever they need to, whether it's a third down and (they) get you to punt, or it's a fourth-and-1 and they stop the offense," Jernigan said. "You can move the ball on them some, but they tend to do a pretty good job of keeping people out of the end zone."
Farmington's defense will have the tough task of slowing down NMPreps.com Mr. Football finalist Cody French when he has the ball for Goddard. French, a senior tailback who can also line up at quarterback in critical conditions, has more than 2,000 all-purpose yards this season and has accounted for more than 25 Goddard touchdowns.
"He is an all-around athlete, but he is definitely not a one-man show," said FHS head coach Gary Bradley. "There is usually one or two guys you know you have to stop, and I think him and their quarterback (Cameron Neff) are pretty key to their offense."
For Farmington, the health of Farley will be key as he has led the Scorpions all season with more than 1,100 rushing yards on offense and more than 120 tackles on defense. Farley sprained his right knee in the semifinal game against Belen Nov. 30, but he has said it won't keep him out of the title game.
Both teams love to run the option. Neff and Farmington senior quarterback Jacob Lucas both have the ability to break big runs or carry the ball between the tackles for necessary yards.
Bradley said the Rockets' defense doesn't make many mistakes.
"If anybody is probably scoring on 'em or getting big plays on 'em, it is because they may be a little overly aggressive," Bradley said. "We are always confident in what we are doing, and we have a plan, that's for sure."
Logan Welling leads a strong and experienced offensive and defensive line for Farmington High. Eathyn Griffin plays that role for the Rockets.
Goddard senior captain Kelsey Cunningham can line up at tight end or fullback for the Rockets. He is classified as a bruiser who also leads the team defensively in sacks.
The Rockets will have wing back Dean McDaniel back this week after he missed the last two games. McDaniel adds to the already explosive Goddard running attack.
Farmington will need big plays out of running backs Austin Foutz and Tyler Blades, as well as wide receiver and top defensive back Kyle Reynolds. Reynolds has made the most of every opportunity this season, returning kicks and interceptions for touchdowns.
"We always talk about opportunity, and any time I get the chance, I take it," Reynolds said in an interview Monday. "We all know we'll get our chances to make plays, and nobody on this team is selfish. Everybody does their jobs."
Being unselfish is what Bradley believes has carried the team this far.
"There is a reason they are here. It is not because they are the biggest, fastest team in the state. One of the biggest reasons is they have a great attitude," Bradley said. "They enjoy and commit to practice. They are trying to get better with each other. When there is that individualistic attitude, that is when practice really stinks. When you don't have a good game and aren't feeling good, things snowball on top of you. That hasn't happened with these guys because everybody has each other's backs. It has been fun."
The National Weather Service forecasts a 10 percent chance of snow in the afternoon with partly sunny skies and a high around 33 degrees. The wind is expected to blow 10 to 15 miles per hour out of the southwest, with wind chill values as low as -4 degrees.
That will likely be an advantage for Farmington High, which is accustomed to the cold, but Jernigan said it shouldn't affect his team.
"Fortunately, we don't have to throw the football. While we can do that ... we're not dependent on that," Jernigan said. "The weather really doesn't affect us a great deal. We're a pretty straight up offense, and it works pretty good in all kinds of weather."
While reaching state title games has become habit for the Goddard Rockets, for FHS players and many of their parents, this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity They are determined to make the most of it.
"We've dreamed about this since our freshman year. Every year that I've been playing we've made the playoffs, but when we beat Belen there was just a wave of emotion that came over the seniors," Reynolds said. "We still have that one more game, and we're not stopping here. I was very impressed when I came in Monday. No one is satisfied with second place. We're not just happy to be here. We're here to take it."John Livingston can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org; 505-564-4648. Follow him on Twitter @jlivi2.