Playoffs begin with Aztec, Kirtland Central, Piedra Vista and Navajo Prep on road
Farmington High earns top seed in Class 5A after finishing regular season undefeated while Bloomfield earns a 2-seed with regular season mark of 9-1.
FARMINGTON — Nearly three months after the 2021 high school football season started, six teams from San Juan County find themselves in the New Mexico Activities Association State Football Championships, which begin this Friday night.
Farmington, the top overall seed in Class 5A will have a bye this week, as will Class 4A second-seed Bloomfield, by virtue of strong overall records and winning their respective districts.
Kirtland Central and Aztec, second and third-place finishers in District 1-4A behind Bloomfield, also made the playoffs and will be on the road this weekend.
Piedra Vista, second place finishers in District 1-2/5A will be on the road this weekend for a first round game.
And Navajo Prep, winners of District 1-3A, hit the road to this weekend to face Hope Christian.
For Farmington, looking to extend their 15-game win streak which dates back to last season and bring home a state title, the task takes on greater importance.
"It's a new season for us," said Scorpions head coach Jeff Dalton after earning the top seed in Class 5A. "Now that the bracket is set, we just have to get back to work."
Farmington will face the winner of this weekend's game between eighth seeded Santa Teresa and ninth seeded Piedra Vista.
The Desert Warriors finished the regular season with a record of 8-2, and went 2-1 in District 3-5A, finishing second in the district behind Mayfield. Santa Teresa is led by senior Julian Cobos, with more than 1200 rushing yards and senior Adrian Rodriguez, with nearly 700 rushing yards. The two have combined for 27 touchdowns on the season.
Piedra Vista will make the nearly 450-mile road trip to face Santa Teresa, with the winner set to face top seed Farmington in the quarterfinals.
"It's a long way to go but we're excited to play," said Panthers coach Jared Howell. "There's a lot of work to do."
In Class 4A, the Bloomfield Bobcats earned the 2-seed and a bye week before facing the winner of a first-round clash between the 6th seeded Valencia Jaguars and 10th seeded Taos Tigers.
The Valencia Jaguars wrapped up the regular season with a 6-4 overall record and 2-2 in District 5-6/4A, which was good for third place in the standings. Valencia had been one of the top-ranked teams in the classification earlier this month before back-to-back losses to Albuquerque Academy and St. Pius. They wrapped up the regular season with a 6-0 win on the road over Bernalillo, who enters the tournament as the 12-seed.
The Tigers finished the season with a 5-5 record overall and 2-1 in District 2-4A, behind Moriarty, who defeated Taos 37-14 in the regular season finale. That loss snapped a five-game win streak which included victories over 8th-seeded Silver and Bernalillo.
Bloomfield will head into the postseason hoping to win the state championship which has eluded them in most recent years. The Bobcats were state runner-ups in 2019 after losing the championship game to Portales 23-0. In 2018, they came up just short, losing the state title game to Taos by a final of 14-7.
Meantime, ninth seeded Kirtland Central hits the road to face Silver while 11th seeded Aztec visits Ruidoso this weekend.
Silver (6-4 overall, 1-2 District 3-4/4A) is led by junior Aidan Granado, with more than 1500 combined rushing and receiving yards. The Fighting Colts come into the game against the Broncos having lost four of their last five games, most recently to Ruidoso by a final of 22-12.
The Broncos will travel nearly 365 miles for the first round matchup, but head coach Jeff Schaum was optimistic about the playoff bracket as a whole.
"All the work we've done to this point, to have a chance in the playoffs is all we could ask for," said Schaum last weekend. "We're fired up. It's a great opportunity."
The winner of the Kirtland Central game against Silver will face 2nd seeded Lovington in the quarterfinals.
The Aztec Tigers have a long roadtrip ahead of them as well, as they prepare to face 6th seeded Ruidoso on Saturday at 2 p.m.
The 5-5 Warriors (2-1 district) finished second in District 3-4/4A and have won two of their last three games. They're led by senior quarterback Griffin Hooker (13 TDs, 10 INTs) as well as Braxton Hall, who has eight touchdowns and nearly 1,000 rushing yards.
"(Ruidoso) is well-coached and they're a good football team," said Aztec head coach Eric Stovall. "I'm really proud of our team and looking forward to the opportunity."
The winner of the Ruidoso vs. Aztec matchup will face 3rd-seeded St. Pius in the quarterfinals.
In Class 3A, Navajo Prep will be on the road to Albuquerque this weekend to face Hope Christian on Friday night.
The ninth-seeded Eagles, winners of District 1-3A and coached by Roderick Denetso, will be led by a trio of versatile playmakers like Kyler Clitso, Kyun Tate and quarterback Dontrelle Denetso.
The Huskies, with a regular season record of 6-4, will be led by senior James Jenkins, who has rushed for more than 1,000 yards and scored 20 touchdowns on the ground.
The winner of the Navajo Prep game against Hope Christian will move on to the quarterfinals to face top seeded Raton.
For more information on the NMAA State Football Championships, check out the official website.
Steve Bortstein can be reached via email at SBortstein@Gannett.com, via Twitter @DTSBortstein or on the phone at (505) 635-2680.