BLOOMFIELD — The Aztec Tigers proved to be too much for Bloomfield in the team's 2014 season opener Friday night at Bobcat Stadium.
Bloomfield controlled the time of possession in the first half with their running attack and twice held the Tigers in the red zone, but the bigger Aztec squad began to wear down the Bobcats in the second half, eventually emerging with a 20-0 victory.
"For the first time in a long time we demonstrated some great defense," said Aztec head coach Matthew Steinfeldt. "The defense played really well to not allow any points on the board."
After limiting the Bobcats to one first down in the game's first possession and forcing a punt, Aztec took over at their own 48.
Moving the ball down the field with a mix of run and pass plays out of the spread attack, the Tigers had it inside the 25-yard line with a first and 10.
On second and seven at the Bloomfield 22, Aztec quarterback Marcus Crawford took a shot to the back left pylon, but defensive back Brendan Ramsey got his hand on the ball to break up the play, forcing third and seven for the Tigers.
Aztec went to the air again, but with confusion on the route, the ball sailed into the end zone where Ray Sanchez was waiting for the pick.
But the Bloomfield attack stalled again, giving possession back to the Tigers at the Bloomfield 40.
After picking up 18 yards on a quarterback scramble, Crawford connected with wide receiver Josh Harris on a screen where Harris bounced it to the outside and broke a tackle to get in the end zone for the game's first score.
On the ensuing possession, the Bobcats were forced to punt it away, giving the Tigers excellent field position at the Bloomfield 40 with 1:36 left in the half. But three straight incomplete passes, including a drop by wide receiver Justis Francisco that would have been an easy six, forced fourth and 10 for the Tigers, whose offense stayed on the field.
Facing fourth and 15 after a Tigers false start, Bloomfield came with a blitz hitting Crawford as he threw to force the incompletion and send the two sides to the locker room with the Tigers out front 7-0.
"We had four drops that would have gone for touchdowns and the offense isn't really firing on all cylinders yet," Steinfeldt said.
The second half saw more of the same from both teams.
On Aztec's second possession of the half, the Tigers worked their way deep into Bobcat territory, setting up a first and 10 at the 11-yard line. After a false start penalty moved the Tigers back to the 16, Crawford fired for the end zone where Vigil was waiting, picking off the pass and returning it to the Bloomfield 38-yard line.
But like so many times in the first half, the Aztec defense stymied the Bobcats offense and took over on downs at their own 34.
Taking over in their own territory, the Tigers made their way down the field before handing the ball off at the one-yard line to running back Jake Harris who put his head down and plowed into the end zone. After a failed extra point attempt the Tigers held a 13-0 advantage.
The Tigers added another score in the fourth when Crawford found Josh Harris on a back-shoulder throw in the end zone for the pair's second touchdown hookup of the night, putting the game out of reach.
"Josh is no doubt going to be one of our best players," Steinfeldt said. "He demonstrated that last year and unfortunately got hurt last season, but he's back in very good form this season."
Harris said he thought it was a "decent" performance, admitting the team still has work to do.
"The defense stepped up," he said. "On offense I think we still need a little work with our line and penalties. But it feels pretty good to get our first win."
Both the Tigers and Bobcats are back in action next week when Aztec hosts Durango and Bloomfield welcomes Pojoaque Valley.