Prep will face familiar foe in 3A playoffs

Karl Schneider
Navajo Prep's Jake Rogers breaks away from a tackle during a game against Thoreau on Oct. 2 at Eagle Stadium in Farmington.

FARMINGTON — Navajo Prep will get a shot at redemption in the first round of the 3A football playoffs.

Last season, the Eagles were bounced from the playoffs by Santa Rosa in the first round of the playoffs, suffering a 58-52 loss at home. And, in 2013, Santa Rosa eliminated the Eagles in the quarterfinals with a 54-0 blowout.

Prep (5-4) will get another shot at the Lions when the two teams meet at 1:30 p.m. Saturday in Santa Rosa.

“This is the third year in a row that we’ve played them, so we know that they’re a very good team,” Prep head coach Storm Tallbull said. “We want to compete with them, and we believe that we can. I have faith in my team.”

This season, the Eagles rolled to their fourth straight district title — going 3-0 in District 1-3A — to earn the No. 10 seed.

During district play, the Eagles kept opponents off balance with a healthy mix of running and passing.

The Lions (4-6) finished second in District 5-3A and will enter the playoffs after facing the fourth toughest schedule in 3A.

Prep’s defense will be key to stopping the run.

“Everything we’ve been working on and came up with is to have a good defensive performance to stop the run,” Tallbull said. “They’ve been doing it for years and have had a lot of success with it, so we’re going to have to stop it.”

The Lions have only attempted 49 passes all season, leaning heavily on senior running back Joaquin Lopez.

During the season, Lopez ran for 1,137 yards and nine touchdowns.

Tallbull said the most important thing the Eagles can do to come away with a win is execute.

“Execution. That’s what it’s going to come down to,” Tallbull said. “This week my staff worked really hard to get them prepared for this game. They just need to come together as a team and execute — catch the ball, make our blocks and tackle.”

Karl Schneider is the sports editor for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4648.