Opening of high school fall sports season provides optimism and hope

Steven Bortstein
Farmington Daily Times

FARMINGTON − Whether it's indoors at the local high school gymnasiums, or outdoors on the football and soccer fields or cross-country courses, the fall prep sports season gets underway this weekend across the state of New Mexico.

All but one of San Juan County's high school football teams will open their 2022 campaigns this weekend, including a renewal of a crosstown rivalry Friday night at Hutchison Stadium between Farmington and Piedra Vista.

At the Tiger Sports Complex, several of the region's local boys and girls soccer teams will open their seasons when they take part in the Aztec Tiger Shootout this weekend.

More: Farmington High, Piedra Vista volleyball teams ready for action

And with cross-country and volleyball seasons getting underway this week and next, there will be plenty of action for both fans and participants.

Here's a look at some of the highlights on this week's prep sports calendar.

Soccer

The opening game of the prep soccer season features a matchup between the Shiprock Lady Chieftains on the road against Pojoaque Valley, Tuesday at 4 p.m.

Friday marks the opening day of the Tiger Shootout at the Tiger Sports Complex, featuring boys and girls soccer teams from Aztec, Bloomfield, Kirtland Central and Farmington High Schools. The opening day matches begin at 8 a.m. with Aztec's girls team facing Grants while Kirtland Central's girls squad faces off with Los Lunas.

At 10 a.m., first round matches for the boys take place with Aztec squaring off with Grants while Bloomfield tackles Farmington. Girls matches resume at noon on Friday with the Lady Scorpions challenging Miyamura while Bloomfield challenges Hobbs.

The final boys matches on the opening day of the tournament are scheduled for 2 p.m. with Piedra Vista facing Miyamura while Kirtland Central will meet Bosque.

Kirtland Central's Kyler Joe (9) attempts a pass to teammate Nick Foutz (17) during a boys soccer match against Gallup, Tuesday, Oct. 12 at Kirtland Central High School.

The tournament will continue Saturday morning and will wrap up with the boys and girls championship games to be played at 6 p.m.

Also on Friday, the Navajo Prep girls soccer team will open their season as part of the Sangre de Cristo Classic in Taos when they face the host team at noon.

Football

Farmington vs. Piedra Vista, Friday, 7 p.m. at Hutchison Stadium

The local high school football season kicks off Friday night with the renewal of the crosstown rivalry between Farmington and Piedra Vista, scheduled for 7 p.m. at Hutchison Stadium.

The game, which has been scheduled for the late part of the regular season in recent years, will serve as a chance for both teams to determine their path going forward. The Panthers are considered one of the favorites in District 1/5-5A, while the Scorpions will play the next two seasons in District 2/5-6A after being reclassified by the New Mexico Activities Association last spring.

More: Tigers soccer programs ready to compete again in tight district race

And while Farmington and Piedra Vista no longer compete in the same district, let alone the same classification, the game always attracts added attention, if for no other reason than the unofficial Milk Jug trophy presentation that goes to the winner of the game.

Piedra Vista quarterback Logan Howell (2) is chased out of the pocket by Farmington defensive lineman Christian Baca (4) during a game, Friday, Oct. 29, 2021 at Hutchison Stadium.

"It's a game that has a lot of emotion tied to it, and for that reason alone, it's a very big deal," said Scorpions coach Jeff Dalton. "And it's a good opportunity for both teams to get a look at where they're at and what needs to be worked on."

Last season, Farmington defeated Piedra Vista 33-9 in the final game of the regular season for both teams.

The Scorpions vs. Panthers game will be our featured Daily-Times Game of the Week, featuring live in-game updates and more. Check out our live coverage on our website throughout the game beginning Friday night.

Aztec at Miyamura, Friday, 7 p.m.

The Tigers will play their first game of the season under head coach Hank Strauss on the road when they visit the Miyamura Patriots.

Miyamura went 2-7 overall (0-4 District 1-2/5A) last season, but one of those victories came against Aztec, when they beat the Tigers in the opening game of the season at Fred Cook Memorial Stadium by a final of 28-24. That was the first victory for Miyamura over the Tigers in more than a decade.

Strauss, an Aztec High School graduate in 2010, racked up more than 270 tackles and 11 sacks in his high school career, which included state championship bids against Goddard in 2008 and Artesia in 2010. The Tigers finished last season with a record of 3-8 and were knocked out of the state Class 4A football playoffs when they lost at Ruidoso by a final of 35-7. Shortly after the season ended, head coach Eric Stovall stepped down from that position, which led to the hiring of Strauss.

Kirtland Central at Silver, Friday, 7 p.m.

The Broncos will be hoping to erase memories of their last road trip to Silver City when they face the Fighting Colts on Friday night.

In the opening round of the Class 4A state tournament last November, the Broncos were manhandled by Silver by a final score of 40-9 in what proved to be the final game under head coach Jeff Schaum. Since that time, Kirtland Central has hired longtime assistant coach Travis Clary to man the sidelines and hopefully turn the page from last season's early exit from the postseason.

"The kids who were here for that last year, that one hurt," Clary said. "So yeah, this opening game does have some real meaning to them."

Kirtland Central opened the season last year at home against Silver, losing that game by a final of 28-21. The Broncos have lost each of their last three games against Silver dating back to 2019.

The Broncos will be tasked with slowing down senior running back Aiden Granado, who led the Colts last year with more than 1600 yards and 10 touchdowns. Granado ran for more than 350 yards in the two meetings with the Broncos last year.

Shiprock at Tohatchi, Friday, 7 p.m.

The Chieftains will be looking for their first win in more than a year when they open their 2022 campaign on the road against Tohatchi.

Silver High School running back Aaron Granado (2) looks downfield as he attempts to get past Ruidoso's Cooper Pritchett (12) during a football game Friday, Oct. 29, 2021 at Silver High School.

The Cougars finished last season with a record with a record of 6-4, just one game behind Navajo Prep in the District 1-3A standings. In their last meeting, during the spring season in 2021, Tohatchi edged Shiprock by a final of 22-18.

Shiprock will play as an independent in Class 4A this season, much like they did in 2019 when the team finished with a record of 5-5. While the Chieftains will still face off with teams like Kirtland Central, Bloomfield and others associated with District 1-4A, those games will be treated as non-district contests.

Bloomfield at St. Pius, Saturday, 1 p.m.

The Bobcats open their quest for a third straight District 1-4A title when they visit St. Pius on Saturday at Milne Stadium in Albuquerque.

Bloomfield has won each of their last pair of meetings with the Sartans, most recently winning the season opener for both teams last year by a final of 29-26.

"I think it's a great new rivalry for both teams," said Bloomfield head coach Mike Kovacs. "It's a good test for two quality programs and it'll give us a chance to find out where we are and where we need to be this season."

Bloomfield will be led on the field by senior quarterback Ryan Sharpe, who battled through injuries in the second half of the season last year. He will have a talented squad of playmakers joining him on the field, including senior running back Andres Gordo and junior wideout Drew Perez.

The Sartans finished last season with an overall record of 8-3 including a perfect 4-0 mark in District 5-6/4A before being eliminated in the playoffs by Ruidoso.