Aztec, Shiprock close out regular seasons with lopsided wins
FARMINGTON – The Navajo Prep football team locked up an automatic berth in the 3A playoffs and earned its fourth consecutive district title with a 61-6 thrashing of Crownpoint Friday night at Eagle Stadium.
“For us, it was something we really wanted to do for our fans and community,” Prep head coach Storm Tallbull said. “I have to give all the credit to my coaching staff and the boys. They played phenomenal, and they played with sportsmanship. When you have those two things, and you get the win, it’s great.”
Tallbull said the offensive explosion was the result of a well-balanced attack.
Early in the game, the Eagles (5-4, 3-0 District 1-3A) picked apart Crownpoint’s defense with their passing game. But after Crownpoint (4-6, 1-2) adjusted and began playing tighter coverage, the Eagles began pounding the ball with Ryan Tso and the run game.
Anchoring the offensive line to provide quarterback Dakota Halliburton time to throw, and open up running lanes for Tso, was Anthony Pioche-Lee.
“He led the line as the natural leader that he is,” Tallbull said of Pioche-Lee. “He works his butt off every day to do the things we ask of him.”
With the regular season behind them, the Eagles now wait to learn their seed in the playoff bracket.
“We’re very happy and very blessed to have won district, but it’s another week of football,” Tallbull said. “Our motivation is that we want to survive for another week. We need to continue to focus on the offense and defense, and keep working hard. The road doesn’t stop here.”
Aztec 70, Miyamura 21
Aztec secured a second-place finish in District 1-5A with a 70-21 win over Miyamura Friday night in Gallup.
While the final score was lopsided, it wasn’t until the second half that the Tigers (4-6, 3-1 District 1-5A) imposed their will on the Patriots (3-7, 0-4).
At the half, Aztec and Miyamura were knotted at 21, but a few defensive adjustments during the break proved to be the difference.
“They have a phenomenal football player in (running back) Alias Starkovich,” Aztec head coach Matt Steinfeldt said. “He broke some big runs on us in the first half, so we had to make some adjustments to slow him down. We felt like all game long we were able to do what we wanted to on offense. In the first half, I think we scored on all of our possessions, we just didn’t have that many because of some defensive miscues.”
With the defense holding the Patriots scoreless in the second half, Aztec had more time to allow its dangerous offense to pick apart Miyamura’s defense.
Leading the offense were sophomore quarterback Cody Smith and senior wide receiver Jake Taylor.
Aztec now waits to learn if it will receive a spot in the 5A playoffs when the bracket is revealed tonight.
Shiprock 53, Wingate 0
Shiprock’s defense was ferocious on Friday night in Wingate, forcing six turnovers and pitching a shutout as the Chieftains rolled to a 53-0 victory.
The Bears (1-10, 0-5) only managed 19 points in two weeks coming into the game, and they stalled out on Friday with only four first downs.
“I was very proud of our kids and coaches tonight,” Chieftains coach Eric Stovall said. “It was a great way to end the regular season.”
On offense, Shiprock (5-5, 3-2) was just as sharp, amassing more than 500 total yards. In what may have been his last high school football game, senior quarterback Arjay Miller tossed four touchdown passes.
Fellow senior Julian Aspaas ripped off two long touchdown runs in the game, one for 50 yards and another for 60, as the offense fired on all cylinders until the mercy rule ended the game early.
Stovall has pledged to change the culture in Shiprock, and he's certainly on his way to doing so with one regular season as head coach under his belt.
“The Chieftain Brotherhood community, including our Chieftain parents, school administration and school support, has been awesome this season," he said.
With a .500 record overall and a winning record in District 1-4A, Stovall said he thinks there’s a chance Shiprock can advance into the postseason. But, of course, it’s not in his control.
“Our playoff hopes are now in the hands of the seeding committee,” he said. ‘We’ll see how it goes.”
Karl Schneider is the sports editor for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4648.
Jake Newby covers sports for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4577.