Ruidoso runs past Bloomfield 35-22 in Class 4A semifinal

Steven Bortstein
Farmington Daily Times

BLOOMFIELD — Led by a powerful running game and a stingy defense, the Ruidoso Warriors football team advanced to the Class 4A championship game with a convincing 35-22 win over Bloomfield at Bobcat Stadium Saturday afternoon.

Winning on the road for the second weekend in a row during the playoffs, the Warriors were led by quarterbacks Griffin Hooker and Cooper Pritchett, as well as running back Braxton Hall, accounting for more than 220 rushing yards in the victory. 

With the win, the Warriors (8-5) will be on the road yet again, facing top-seeded Lovington (9-3) in the Class 4A state championship game next weekend.

Hall scored a pair of touchdowns, leading the Ruidoso offense with more than 100 yards on the ground.

Pritchett, Hooker and Kaden Sago also scored for the Warriors who put up 28 unanswered points before Bloomfield finally trimmed the final margin with a touchdown in the game's final minutes.

"We just try and get them the ball as often as possible and let the offensive line do their thing," said Warriors head coach Kief Johnson on his talented backfield performers. "They made great adjustments getting around Bloomfield's stacked up defense."

Ruidoso running back Braxton Hall gets into the end zone, scoring the team's first touchdown in first quarter of their Class 4A semifinal game against Bloomfield, Saturday, Nov. 20, 2021 at Bobcat Stadium.

The Warriors ability to move the ball effectively on the ground also opened up opportunities in the passing game. Hooker and Pritchett found receivers Jeremy Biscaino, Logan Sandoval and Mikey Sandoval several times throughout the contest, extending drives and taking valuable time off the clock, particularly in the second half when the Warriors opened up a double-digit lead.

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"We have to be able to pass the ball a little more than we do, but we know we can run the ball," Johnson said. "We made some plays down the field and got great help up front."

The Warriors got on the board on their opening drive, taking the kickoff and marching down the field, ending with a Hall touchdown run from five yards out in the game's opening minutes.

Bloomfield responded on their first offensive possession, with a balanced attack of running and passing plays. Quarterback Ryan Sharpe found receiver Marc Armenta for a big gain across midfield while Jesse Seitzinger put the Bobcats inside the red zone. Diego Snell-Martinez capped off the drive with a 15-yard score but trailed 7-6 after a missed extra point attempt. 

Bloomfield took the lead early in the second quarter after George Rascon picked off an ill-advised pass from Hooker, leading two plays later to a 25-yard touchdown pass from Sharpe to a wide open Andrew Blair wide in the near corner of the end zone. Jeremiah Sandoval ran for the two-point conversion and Bloomfield appeared to have momentum on their side.

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The Warriors running game began to take charge on their next drive, and the Bobcats began making key mistakes defensively. Hooker and Pritchett had multiple carries resulting in first downs and the Bobcats committed a personal foul penalty that prevented them from being able to get off the field.

The drive ended with Hall's second touchdown of the game, a one-yard score that tied the game at 14 with more than six minutes to play in the half.

Bloomfield's Jesse Seitzinger fights for extra yards against Ruidoso's Xander Ahidly during their Class 4A semifinal game, Saturday, Nov. 20, 2021 at Bobcat Stadium.

The Warriors took the lead for good later in the quarter, capping off a 56-yard, 13-play drive with a touchdown run by Pritchett from a yard out inside the final minute of the first half. The drive was punctuated by a pair of procedural penalties against the Bobcats as well as big running plays from Hooker and Hall that took valuable time off the clock.

"We were playing on our heels a lot today," said Bobcats head coach Mike Kovacs. "They had a good game plan on how to run at us."

Trailing by a touchdown to start the second half, the Bobcats went backwards on their opening drive. Penalties and negative plays forced a fourth and long situation, leading to a fake punt attempt by Jeremiah Sandoval that failed, giving the ball back to Ruidoso at the Bobcat 32 yard line.

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From there, the combination of Hall and Hooker took over. An eight-play drive culminated with a seven-yard score on a keeper route by Hooker, extending the Warriors lead to two touchdowns midway through the third quarter.

Ruidoso's defense came up big, stalling a Bloomfield drive and getting significant pressure on Sharpe, who once again played while battling a knee injury that limited his mobility. After the Bobcats moved the ball to Ruidoso's 30 yard line, Sharpe had to be helped off the field after getting hit on an incomplete fourth down pass attempt.

Once again, the Warriors offense bled the clock and turned a 13-play, 77-yard drive into a touchdown run by Sago early in the fourth quarter. The drive was aided by two costly Bobcat penalties, a pass-interference call and a face mask penalty which allowed Ruidoso's offense to stay on the field. 

"We made mistakes tonight, that's for sure," Kovacs said. "We'd get them in third and long and get a flag against us. We gave up yards on the outside when we had them in a press situation and we just didn't execute."

With the game out of reach, Bloomfield did tack on a score in the waning minutes as Seitzinger scored both a touchdown and 2-point conversion with under 2 minutes to play. The following onside kick attempt was recovered by Ruidoso before the clock expired on the Bobcats season.

"These kids played their hearts out," Kovacs said. "I can't say enough about how proud I am of their effort and their heart."

Ruidoso has won four straight leading into Saturday's clash with Lovington and are looking for their first state title since 2017. They opened the postseason earlier this month at home beating Aztec before going on the road to beat St. Pius last weekend. Earlier this season, the Warriors lost to Lovington 46-14.

The Lovington Wildcats have won 18 state titles, second only to Artesia's 30 championships. They last won the title in 2011.

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