FARMINGTON — For the second straight season, the Bloomfield and Aztec football teams will kick off their respective seasons against each other.
The neighboring towns were once rivals on the gridiron until they recently went three years without facing off. That stretch, from 2011-2013, doused the flames of their rivalry to an extent.
But last season, Bloomfield and Aztec rekindled the rivalry. The host Bobcats played the favored Tigers tough, trailing by only seven points until late in the game when Aztec pulled away with two touchdowns.
"It goes back to when I was in high school (at Bloomfield), Aztec versus Bloomfield was always the big game," Bobcats second-year coach Bob Allcorn said. "I think the rivalry is something that still exists around here, especially for old-timers like myself."
Aztec coach Matt Steinfeldt said he thinks the teams should be in the same district.
"This is a game that should be played every year, I firmly believe that," he said. "I think both schools have a fairly similar enrollment. We're adjacent cities, I think we both have a lot of similarities and I think there's going to be a lot of people that show up to watch."
Both teams graduated more than 20 seniors last spring, and that infusion of youth could make for an even closer contest this time around. One thing both coaches agree on is that tonight's game will be a physical one.
"I thought last year was a very physical game, and I expect the same," Allcorn said. "I think that's the biggest thing for us, is coming out and playing physical and establishing the run."
Steinfeldt expressed the same sentiments and said he expects a competitive game.
"Coach Allcorn down there at Bloomfield always has a very good, well-coached football team," Steinfeldt said. "They're physical, they like to pound the ball; I think our boys will be flying around, playing physical, as well. I expect there to be a lot of contact, and it should be a great football game."
While Bloomfield will no doubt be looking to its running game to lead the way, Aztec's pass-first mentality, led by sophomore quarterback Cody Smith, should make for an interesting clash of styles.
"We have to do a good job defending the pass and recognizing multiple formations," Allcorn said. "We have to play aggressive and keep the ball out of their offense's hands by sustaining drives and moving the chains."
The game will be played at Bobcat Stadium in Bloomfield, which was not the original plan. Due to construction at Fred Cook Stadium in Aztec, the location of the game had to be changed, which obviously works in Bloomfield's favor.
Steinfeldt said he was disappointed in the turn of events, but his team has to focus on taking care of business regardless.
"It's a shame, and I feel bad for our seniors losing out on the opportunity to open the season at home," Steinfeldt said. "As a football team, we just have to show up to play football games. We don't control some of those finer details."
Tonight's game, which kicks off at 7, will be the 83rd meeting between the Bobcats and Tigers. Aztec has the upper hand with a 60-22 series record.
Navajo Prep at Laguna Acoma
Questions surround Navajo Prep as the Eagles enter their season opener on the road against Laguna Acoma.
Sophomore Dakota Halliburton takes charge of the Eagle offense, trying to fill the void left after standout signal caller Tyler Sorensen graduated in the spring.
The Eagles will also be under the direction of new head coach Storm Tallbull, who was promoted from defensive coordinator earlier this month following the resignation of Rod Denetso four weeks before the season opener.
And the Eagles will have to deal with the Hawks, who crushed the Eagles 75-34 in last season's opener. The Hawks ran for 556 yards and nine touchdowns on 33 carries in the win.
Sports editor Karl Schneider contributed to this story.