Tigers win 34-27, will play at Roswell in 5A quarterfinals. Matt Hollinshead/The Daily Times

Aztec hangs on for 34-27 win, advances to quarterfinals


AZTEC — Aztec and Goddard traded blows throughout today’s 5A state playoff opener, but the slightest things landed in the Tigers’ favor in their 34-27 victory over Goddard at Fred Cook Memorial Stadium.

Aztec’s backfield fought and scrapped for extra rushing yardage and saw its efforts rewarded on several plays. That not only allowed the sixth-seeded Tigers to draw first blood, but also to open things up with the passing game. Aztec wound up scoring on a couple of deep passes.

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“It’s great because first downs run the time out. We just kept powering through, trusted our line,” said Tigers running back Brian Tapia, who muscled in the first touchdown of regulation on a 3-yard score.

Meanwhile, the Aztec defense forced multiple off-target throws down the sidelines, broke up some passes and got plenty of stops up front. Cody Smith secured the win by intercepting a pass at the Tiger with one second left on Goddard’s final play.

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“We did enough to win the ball game, and that’s what we’re really excited about,” Tigers coach Matthew Steinfeldt said. “We wanted to establish the run and control the clock. When you play a team like Goddard that runs the ball as much as they do, they tend to control the clock. So we wanted to flip that on them and control the tempo ourselves.”

The 11th-seeded Rockets hung in there the entire time, though.

They moved the chains running and throwing the ball down near the sidelines, keeping the deficit within seven points.

But the Rockets had a handful of important plays work against them.

For example, the Goddard offense was looking for a pass interference call on Aztec on a crucial third-down play, but it was ruled an incomplete pass. Later, the Rockets claimed they recovered a fumble near the Tiger sideline, but the Aztec runner was ruled down by contact.

Goddard’s season ended at 4-7.

Aztec (6-5) will play at No. 3 Roswell in Saturday’s 5A state quarterfinals.

Matt Hollinshead covers sports for the Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4577.