Tigers were outscored 35-16 in second half as visitors ran wild
AZTEC — The Valley football team spoiled Aztec’s homecoming game Friday night by trouncing the Tigers 62-40 at Fred Cook Memorial Stadium.
The 6A Vikings (2-4) did whatever they pleased in the running game, rushing for a little more than 450 yards to go along with seven touchdowns on the ground.
“We struggle a little bit on the (defensive) front line; we’re trying to find the right combination of guys to get the job done,” Aztec coach Matt Steinfeldt said. “At times we look great, but we weren’t able to sustain that on the defensive front.”
Ahead by only three points at halftime, the visitors forced a couple of turnovers and outplayed the Tigers in the second half, outscoring them 35-16 after the break.
Aztec (1-5) was actually in a position to go ahead by two touchdowns in the second quarter, but one of two Derek Baca fumbles turned the game around.
With his team up 21-13, Baca coughed the ball up near midfield.
Vikings running back Michael Barboa would then begin to shine on the ground.
The Valley senior used his size and speed to rush for 162 yards and two scores on just 11 carries before halftime. He finished the game with 202 yards on the ground and four rushing touchdowns.
Inside the final six minutes of the second quarter, a 13-yard Barboa TD blast followed by a 2-point conversion was answered when Jarrett Hathock kicked a 45-yard field goal for Aztec to break a tie a 21-21 tie.
But Valley would take its first lead since going up 7-0 when a 75-yard Barboa TD run made it 27-24. On the run, Barboa made a cut that fooled the entire Tiger defensive backfield before he hustled to the end zone untouched.
Steinfeldt said he thinks Barboa has been very good all season.
“I think he’s a great athlete,” he said. “Even in those games they lost to great opponents like Rio Rancho and Sandia, he had explosive games. He’s going to be one of the better backs we see this year.”
With only one second on the clock in the second quarter, Baca roused the crowd when he took a handoff and raced 79 yards downfield before being brought down about 10 yards short of a touchdown as time expired.
The visitors took a 27-24 lead into the locker room, a lead they would never relinquish.
Valley had the game’s first two-score lead of the night as Barboa scored on a 44-yard touchdown run on the first drive after the half.
Aztec then marched downfield behind quarterback Cody Smith, who went 4 for 4 for 40 yards on the drive. The Tigers got all the way to the goal line, where Baca fumbled the ball away for the second time.
Baca rushed for 181 yards and a touchdown before halftime but was bottled up in the second half, picking up only 9 yards on four carries. He did add an 84-yard kick return touchdown early in the fourth.
Steinfeldt said fumbling has not been an issue for Baca this year.
“The teams in Albuquerque are always really physical,” Steinfeldt said. “So sometimes that’s going to happen when you get hit real hard, and they got him a couple different times tonight.”
The goal line fumble would prove to be crucial as Valley paraded downfield for a 97-yard drive capped by a 10-yard Barboa TD run, his fourth of the evening.
Aztec’s next three drives would consist of the Baca kick return TD, an interception and a three-and-out series, while Valley’s next three drives would all result in rushing touchdowns.
Late in the fourth quarter, Baca had to be helped off the field with a left leg injury. He couldn’t put any weight on the leg.
“We’re going to have to get the X-rays and all that, but I believe he broke his leg,” Steinfeldt said.
Like the rest of the Tigers, Smith struggled after halftime. He threw for 213 yards for the game, but only 68 of those came after the break.
Aztec, which visits Gallup next week, will benefit from the tough competition it faced in Friday night’s game, according to Steinfeldt.
“Unfortunately, our record is what is is, but we’re going to keep working hard,” he said. “This game was good with district starting next week. If we can find a way to put a streak together during district, that’s going to be a big thing for us.”
Jake Newby covers sports for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4577.