FARMINGTON — The Farmington and Piedra Vista football teams won’t have an easy week to start the 2016 season as the two sides meet each other Friday night at Hutchison Stadium.
Both sides come into the game with high expectations for the season after returning multiple key players from last year’s teams.
Over the last 10 years, the series is tied at five wins apiece.
Entering the opening week, the Panthers and Scorps appear to be evenly matched. According to MaxPreps’ preseason rankings for all classes, PV is ranked 10th while FHS sits at 13th, and the two squads are separated by just 2.2 points.
As evenly matched as the two teams appear entering the rivalry game, they hold very different offensive philosophies.
The Panthers have built their offense around a dominant offensive line and running game, using a physical style of play to wear down their opponents over long drives that eat up the clock and keep the defense off the field.
The Scorps prefer a faster-paced game. With multiple receivers lined up and quarterback Kody Becenti operating out of the shotgun, Farmington spreads the ball around and uses its passing game to keep opposing defenses on their heels, which opens up the running game.
Because of the construction at FHS, a shuttle service will be used to help offset the limited parking space. Buses will transport fans to and from the game with Hermosa Middle School serving as the pick-up and drop-off point. The shuttle service will begin transportation to the game starting at 6:15 p.m. Return trips will be at halftime, the end of the third quarter and at the conclusion of the game.
Los Lunas at Aztec
For Aztec, Friday’s key to victory in the battle of the Tigers may be as simple as holding Los Lunas running back and University of Michigan commit O’Maury Samuels in check. But actually containing the four-star recruit will be anything but simple.
MaxPreps.com pegs Aztec as the 10th-best football team in 5A in its preseason rankings, while Los Lunas sits one spot ahead at No. 9. So the teams appear to be evenly matched on paper, with Samuels being the x-factor.
Last season, Samuels rushed for 1,468 yards and 21 touchdowns.
Aztec’s defensive strength this year figures to be its linebacking corps featuring seniors Brady Moffett, Kyler Duggins and Brandon Trennepohl. Those three will be flying around all evening trying to keep up with the Los Lunas star rusher.
Navajo Prep at Kirtland Central
Navajo Prep might have its toughest game of the season in the first week of the 2016 season when the Eagles visit Kirtland Central on Friday night at Bronco Stadium in Kirtland.
A win over the 5A Broncos could set the Eagles up for a great season in which they won’t face another opponent above the 4A classification. But a win won’t come easily.
KC comes into the season under second-year head coach Greg Jenks, who has said the Broncos are well ahead of where they were last season. Junior Bryson Dowdy will lead the Bronco offense after serving as the team’s starting quarterback last season.
The Eagles enter the season with nearly all new facets to the game. They have a new head coach with a new offense and a new quarterback in Anthony Pioche-Lee to lead the way.
Bloomfield at Belen
Bloomfield wastes no time familiarizing itself with 5A competition on Friday when the Bobcats hit the road to face Belen.
The Eagles closed last season out with a 3-7 record, while Bloomfield went 9-2 at the 4A level.
Like the Bobcats, Belen loved to run the football last season, and it fed a lot of different ball carriers. Six running backs totaled more than 25 carries for the team last year, and only one of those players has graduated.
Bloomfield lost its top three running backs from a season ago to graduation but still plans to deploy coach Bob Allcorn’s ground-and-pound style of play. Junior quarterback Brendon Charley said he thinks he’ll be called upon to pass more often this season and is ready for an expanded role.
Shiprock at Socorro
For the second straight season, Shiprock gets its season rolling against Socorro, a fellow 4A opponent.
The Chieftains lost last year’s opener 66-30, and that was at home. Though they’ll be more than 280 miles away from Chieftain Stadium for this year’s rematch, Shiprock has reason to be optimistic.
Entering its second year under head coach Eric Stovall, Shiprock will field 19 seniors, 11 more than the team had last year.
Stovall said he expects his new 3-4 defense to find success this year, but it will be tested right off the bat against Socorro senior running back Mike Armijo, who racked up 1,896 rushing yards last season on an 8.0 yards per carry average. He found the end zone 28 times in only 10 games.
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 505-564-4648.