Tigers stall on offense, can't contain the Coyotes on defense in playoff loss

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FARMINGTON — No resistance on defense and the inability to finish long drives on offense cost the Aztec football team its season this afternoon in Roswell.

The sixth-seeded Coyotes scored five touchdowns on their first five possessions, which helped them cruise past No. 11 Aztec 52-14 in the first round of the 5A state playoffs.

Roswell (7-4) came into the game boasting three ball-carriers with at least 500 yards rushing on the season, so Aztec coach Matt Steinfeldt expected to face a heavy dose of talented runners. That didn’t mean his team could stop them, though.

“They’re really balanced on the ground, and we knew that going in,” Steinfeldt said. “They just hit us from one side of the field to the other, and we struggled to contain that. Then once we tried to crowd the box, they hit us over the top with the pass.”

The Coyotes did whatever they wanted offensively in the first quarter, with three rushing touchdowns on three quick drives.

Aztec quarterback Cody Smith and the passing game moved the ball down the field with 182 first-half passing yards. Smith put the Tigers in a position to respond a couple of times — they just couldn’t finish drives.

A pair of 10-play, first-quarter drives stalled out, which was the story of the game for the Tigers. Smith threw three interceptions, and Dylan Sutherland lost a fumble in the sloppy effort.

Steinfeldt said he was frustrated that Aztec (4-7) couldn’t punch the ball into the end zone when the game was still in hand.

“In many ways, I was pleased with the offensive production —  we only had one three-and-out,” Steinfeldt said. “But we turned the ball over too much and really couldn’t capitalize on a decent game plan."

Before the Tigers knew it, they were staring at a 35-6 halftime deficit.

Smith accounted for both Aztec touchdowns, throwing one to Beau Crawford in the first half and running one in from 22 yards out late in the third quarter.

To make the 2015 playoffs despite a laundry list of injuries was a major accomplishment, Steinfeldt said.

“I’m very proud of our football team, they did some amazing things given the circumstances,” he said. “No matter who went down with injury or what happened in a game the week before, the boys brought it every single week.”

Roswell will now be tasked with trying to top No. 3 Piedra Vista for a second time this season. The Coyotes beat PV 19-10 on Oct. 3 in Roswell but now have to play the well-rested Panthers at Hutchison Stadium Friday in the state quarterfinals.

Jake Newby covers sports for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4577.

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