Top-ranked Scorpions on the road to face Highland; Broncos in search of first win of season

Steven Bortstein
Farmington Daily Times

FARMINGTON — Week three of the New Mexico prep football season finds some intriguing matchups, with Aztec heading north of the border to face Durango, while top-ranked Farmington visits Highland and Piedra Vista hosts an Atrisco Heritage team that has yet to play a game this season.

Meantime, Navajo Prep will try and stay undefeated this weekend on the road at Escalante, the Kirtland Central Broncos will seek their first win of the season when visiting Taos and Bloomfield takes an unblemished record on the road against Grants. 

Here's a look at some of the matchups involving area teams.

FARMINGTON (2-0) at Highland (0-2), Friday, 7 p.m.

According to the first coaches poll released earlier this week by the NMOTSC, the Scorpions are the number one team in Class 5A in the state of New Mexico, receiving five of eight first place votes and just ahead of Goddard in the rankings.

Still, that won't alter the game plan nor the long term agenda for Farmington head coach Jeff Dalton, who reminds his players to keep their focus ahead of a tricky road trip to Albuquerque to face the Highland Hornets.

High school football: Farmington vs. Belen live updates from Hutchison Stadium

"It's new territory for us as coaches, and really for any coach in northern New Mexico to be ranked number one this early in the season," Dalton said Wednesday afternoon before practice. "I think we've done a good job to make sure that we practice and focus one day at a time. Let's just make sure we continue to get better and if we do that, we think we can be pretty great."

The Hornets come into the game with a record of 0-2 after getting smashed by West Las Vegas 34-8 in their season opener on Aug. 18, then had to cancel their scheduled game last Friday night against Albuquerque High due to low roster numbers as a result of coronavirus. The contest against Farmington will be their home opener.

The Scorpions opened the season two weekends ago with a 42-6 win over Roswell, their first in program history over the Coyotes. Last weekend, Farmington rolled over Belen at home 53-13. In addition to the top ranking in the state coaches poll, Farmington is ranked third in Class 5A by MaxPreps.

"We have to prepare for the best and have to approach every game like it's the best one we're going to face," Dalton said.

Atrisco Heritage (2-0) at PIEDRA VISTA (1-1), Friday, 7 p.m.

Panthers head coach Jared Howell was happy with the way his team bounced back after a season-opening loss two weeks ago to Los Lunas with a much more efficient game plan last Friday night and a 16-6 rain-shortened victory on the road against Valley High.

"We were better than we were the first week, we didn't make as many execution errors," Howell said. "Our offensive production was better which is always a good sign."

The game was originally delayed by rain in the third quarter before officials called the game due to inclement weather.

Ranked ninth in Class 5A (MaxPreps) and seventh in the most recent coaches poll, Piedra Vista will face a team still looking for their first game of the season.

The Jaguars were slated to face Del Norte two weeks ago, but the game was canceled due to COVID-19 contact tracing within the Del Norte program. Last week's scheduled game at home against Rio Grande was called off due to weather concerns and an inability to reschedule the contest.

The Jaguars have a listed record of 2-0 on this season, but have struggled in recent years, compiling a 3-18 record over the course of the last three campaigns.

"Honestly, we know very little about (Atrisco)," Howell said of their opponent. "We have some film of a scrimmage they had against La Cueva, but honestly we don't have a lot to go on." 

Howell stated that the game plan against the Jaguars will be to prepare for anything.

"There are certain things on offense that we know they're going to do," Howell said. "We have the base plays that we're used to seeing, so we know where they're going to attack us."

Tatum Etsitty (11), Jack Thompson (35) and Trey Valdez (44) lead the Piedra Vista football player charge onto the field for their home opener against Los Lunas, Friday, August 20, at Hutchison Stadium

AZTEC (1-1) at Durango (1-0), Friday, 7 p.m.

In the last six quarters of football, the Tigers have outscored their opponents 50-6, scoring 24 points in the second half of a season opening loss at home against Miyamura two weekends ago before knocking off Montezuma-Cortez 26-6 last Friday.

Coach Eric Stovall hopes that trend will continue as they travel to Durango to face the defending Class 3A champs in Colorado.

"That team knows what's expected of them," Stovall said of the Demons. "They're impressive with their size and strength and speed and we've got our hands full."

Durango opened the season last weekend at home with a 58-0 thumping of Pagosa Springs, scoring four touchdowns in the opening quarter in the team's first game under new head coach Todd Casebier.

"Aztec is quite a step up from Pagosa but we did some good things in week one and that's what you're looking for," said Casebier. "We expect big things, but this weekend it's got to be better."

Casebier took over the Demons head coaching position following last year's state championship, replacing David Vogt who amassed a 59-29 record over eight seasons.

In addition, the Demons also have a new starting quarterback, as sophomore Tyler Harms steps in to replace Jordan Woolverton, who led the Demons to the state title and has since graduated and signed on with the University of Colorado.

"We're real happy with the progress (Tyler) has shown," Casebier said. "He does a real good job on and off the field and has a real knack for throwing the deep ball so we're excited by that."

BLOOMFIELD (2-0) at Grants (1-1), Friday, 7 p.m.

Ranked second in Class 4A in both the NMOT coaches poll and MaxPreps, the Bobcats are coming off an impressive 36-27 road win against Hope Christian in which they got solid efforts from offensive stars like running back Diego Snell-Martinez, as well as quarterback Ryan Sharpe who scored four times in the rain-shortened win.

Grants is coming off a 40-8 victory over Gallup last weekend. Prior to that win, the Pirates lost their home opener against Capital by a final of 55-20. 

Bloomfield High's Snell-Martinez leading the charge for team

The matchup was originally listed as a home game for the Bobcats entering this season on the home pages for both teams on Max Preps. According to Bloomfield Athletic Director Ben Tensay and head coach Mike Kovacs, that was an error and the game should have been listed as a road game. 

Bloomfield outscores Hope Christian 36-27; Kirtland Central falls to St. Pius X 41-34

KIRTLAND CENTRAL (0-2) at Taos (0-2), Friday, 7 p.m.

The Kirtland Central Broncos offense is averaging 27.5 points per game while the Taos Tigers are allowing an average of 32.5 points per game this season, so one might expect there to be more than a few points scored as both teams seek their first win.

"We're playing well offensively, but we're still making mistakes and giving up big plays defensively and on special teams," said Broncos coach Jeff Schaum, looking back at last weekend's 41-34 loss at St. Pius. "When we're scoring as many points as we're scoring, theoretically you're supposed to win those games."

The Broncos defense gave up nearly 200 rushing yards in the loss to the Sartans, most of those gained by running back Marco Ybarra, who scored four times.  

Taos opened their season with a 30-3 home loss against St. Michael's before being outscored last weekend 35-24 on the road at Los Alamos.

"They're going to line up in a 2-running back set and run it down our throats," Schaum said of the Tigers offensive game plan. "Our challenge defensively is going to be to stop the run."

NAVAJO PREP (2-0) at Escalante (1-0), Friday, 7 p.m.

The Navajo Prep Eagles have been effective on the ground in their first two games of the season, rushing for 234 yards in their 53-0 opening weekend victory over Monument Valley, Utah before picking up another 205 yards on the ground when defeating Wingate 52-0 last weekend.

The Escalante Lobos opened their fall campaign on the road last weekend, gaining more than 300 rushing yards in a 56-6 win over Tohatchi. 

The duo of Isaac Archuleta and Trey Archuleta did the bulk of the damage in the Lobos opening weekend victory, scoring a combined six touchdowns for head coach Thomas Royston.

Senior running back Kyler Clitso has four touchdowns this season for the Eagles and has rushed for nearly 200 yards while senior quarterback and team captain Dontrelle Denetso has thrown for a pair of scores while rushing for three touchdowns.

Steve Bortstein can be reached via email at SBortstein@Gannett.com, via Twitter @DTSBortstein or on the phone at (505) 635-2680