Turnovers doom Navajo Prep in 3A playoffs

Eagles let a late-game lead slip away against Santa Rosa

Jake Newby

FARMINGTON — Every time it looked like the Navajo Prep football team was in the driver’s seat today, an untimely turnover set it back.

Three second-half interceptions were too much for No. 10 Navajo Prep to overcome as the Eagles fell 30-22 to No. 7 Santa Rosa on the road.

The Lions (5-6) have now knocked Navajo Prep (5-5) out of the playoffs for three straight years.

“I thought our boys played a great game all the way around, but the turnovers did hurt us,” Eagles coach Storm Tallbull said. “My hat goes off to Santa Rosa. This is becoming a rivalry at this point.”

Down 15-14 and in danger of falling behind by two scores, the Eagles forced and recovered a fumble on their own 18-yard line early in the fourth quarter.

Prep then put together a masterful drive in which quarterback Dakota Halliburton completed a pass to Jake Rogers on 4th and 15, before throwing a 21-yard touchdown strike to Jonathon Slim.

“I wasn’t panicked on that drive, and neither was the offense,” Tallbull said. “My offensive coordinator and I knew what the boys were capable of, and they were able to come through.”

But the Lions came up clutch on the next drive by getting into the end zone on a 30-yard screen pass on 3rd and long. They also converted the 2-point attempt to take the lead back from Prep, 23-22.

On the Eagles’ next offensive possession, Halliburton threw an interception, which the Lions took advantage of by scoring again to go up by eight points.

Prep managed to force a Lions punt in the game’s final minute, but with no timeouts remaining, Halliburton forced a pass as time wound down and it was intercepted again.

While Halliburton didn't do a great job of taking care of the ball, he did move the offense effectively for most of the day. Tallbull said he saw more positives than negatives out of his sophomore quarterback.

“As far as showing leadership out on the field, that was Dakota’s best game,” Tallbull said. “He focused and really helped his teammates out. That was also our offensive line’s best performance of the year. So I couldn’t be prouder of the boys.”

Jake Newby covers sports for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4577.