Aztec football team blows out Piedra Vista
FARMINGTON — The Aztec football team's top priority is a District 1-5A championship, and that goal is one win away.
The No. 9 Tigers throttled No. 7 Piedra Vista 49-14 to remain perfect in district play on Friday night at Hutchison Stadium.
The victory sets up Aztec (6-2, 3-0) with a chance to clinch the title in two weeks when it hosts No. 5 Miyamura.
"I think it just came down to who wanted it more, and in the end, it was us," said Aztec quarterback Marcus Crawford. "I think we really deserve this, and it's a good win for us."
The Tigers used a pair of big plays on both sides of the halftime break to blow open what had been a tight game.
Facing third and 25 at their own 20, Crawford found Josh Harris streaking over the middle of the field on a post route for an 80-yard touchdown to give Aztec a 14-0 lead with 45 seconds left in the second quarter.
The Tigers' defense then put the Panthers away two plays into the second half, when Brody Crawford intercepted a halfback pass from Elijah Gamboa and returned it 60 yards for a score 43 seconds into the third quarter.
"That one before the half and that one after the half were big," Marcus Crawford said. "Sometimes, when you do that to a team, it can be a real spirit breaker. Those were big-time plays."
PV (5-4, 1-2) tried to battle back throughout the second half, but Aztec had too much fire power on offense as Marcus Crawford finished with five touchdown passes to four different receivers.
Marcus Crawford's primary target again was Harris, who caught five balls for 132 yards and two scores. Harris sits at 22 receiving touchdowns for the season, just one away from tying the state record of 23 set by 2011 Aztec graduate Ty Atencio.
Crawford said the Panthers' defense was focused on Harris throughout the game, and that helped him find his other receivers.
"They put a safety over the top to help on Josh since we hit a few to him, and that opened everybody else up," the Aztec signal caller said.
Aztec opened the scoring with a touchdown from the Crawford-to-Crawford connection as Marcus hit Brody from 29 yards out to give the Tigers a 7-0 lead four minutes into the first quarter.
Both teams struggled the rest of the half to generate much on offense before the 80-yard strike to Harris gave the Tigers the momentum heading into the locker room.
PV head coach Jared Howell said the long touchdown pass, coupled with the interception return, took some of the life out of his squad.
"It was tough. We had matchup problems that we knew about coming in," Howell said. "I think we just wore down. Each score just kind of takes the wind out of you."
The Panthers managed a couple of big plays of their own in the second half to get on the scoreboard when quarterback Ryan Montoya hit Casey Simmons for a 77-yard score in the third quarter and Jacob Brown from 39 yards away in the fourth quarter.
Both touchdowns were answered quickly by the Tigers, with Marcus Crawford finding Justis Francisco and Jaden Day for touchdowns in the final quarter.
Aztec will have a bye next week and use that extra time to prepare for Miyamura (8-0, 2-0). The Patriots remained undefeated on the season with a 38-0 win against Gallup on Friday. But they won't get the luxury of focusing on Aztec just yet because they will have their hands full with Farmington High next week as the Scorpions try to fight their way into the playoffs.
"We'll take the time to recover and get ready for Miyamura," Marcus Crawford said. "Two weeks will give us time to heal up and prepare. Since they don't have a bye week, hopefully we'll be a step ahead of them."
PV will close out its regular season with winless Gallup High at home, where a victory would likely lock up a playoff bid for the Panthers.
"We'll find out how resilient we are," Howell said. "The good thing about youth is they forget things a lot faster than the older people do. Hopefully, that will work as a blessing our favor."