FARMINGTON – The Navajo Prep football team couldn’t find a way to slow down Dexter’s heavy running game and suffered a 64-14 loss this afternoon at Eagle Stadium.
“Defensively, we needed to be aggressive against their running game,” Prep head coach Storm Tallbull said. “We knew they have a great running game, and (Dexter head coach Kevin) Graham has been running that same heavy-run offense for a while.”
Dexter (5-2) crossed the goal line 10 times in the win, with every score coming on the ground. The only time the Demons didn’t score was on their second possession, when Prep (2-4) stripped the ball and recovered the fumble.
“We came out and struggled early on," Dexter head coach Kevin Graham said. "We put the ball on the ground three times, and that’s really uncharacteristic. We’ve been really fortunate all season to take care of the ball. We knew they (the Eagles) weren’t going to lay down, and we’d have to come in here ready to play.”
The Eagles got their offense going on their third possession of the game. After Prep quarterback Dakota Halliburton hit Jake Rogers for a 46-yard pass and catch, Justin Cleveland barreled his way into the end zone, carrying multiple defenders with him.
Prep scored again midway through the second quarter, thanks in part to some mistakes by the Demons. Dexter was hit with two roughing the passer penalties inside the 15-yard line to keep Prep's drive alive, and Halliburton got the Eagles in the end zone on a 1-yard run. But that was all damage the Eagles were able to do, as the Demons switched up their defensive game plan.
During the first half, the Eagles found success against Dexter’s soft coverage on Prep’s receivers. After Prep’s second score, the Demons began pressing the Prep receivers.
“They hurt us with their slants inside, so we started pressing them and forced them to throw the fade, and they didn’t have as much success,” Graham said.
The tough coverage also kept Halliburton from getting rid of the ball quickly and allowed the Dexter pass rush to put some pressure on the quarterback.
If the lopsided win wasn’t enough to make Graham’s day, the coach was greeted by some of his former players on his return to the Four Corners.
Graham, who coached Kirtland Central from 2012-14, was rushed by multiple former and current KC players following the game.
“That was thrilling. I’ll always love those kids to death. They mean the world to me," Graham said. "It was special to have them here, and I appreciate it. Kirtland was a special place for me, and it will always have a special place in my heart.”
Prep will begin play in District 1-3A on Friday when the Eagles travel to Tohatchi to take on the Cougars (5-2).
“The biggest thing we have to do is keep working hard,” Tallbull said. “Our goal is to win a district title and make the playoffs. We can still make the playoffs by winning district, but we have to take care of the other teams. We cannot say that any of these teams are going to be easy.”
Karl Schneider is the sports editor for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4648.