BLOOMFIELD — Cody Smith and the Aztec football team shook off three turnovers in the middle two quarters to turn a late 19-16 deficit into a 30-25 win over Bloomfield at Bobcat Stadium tonight.
After Smith threw two touchdowns in the first quarter to Justin Black, the Aztec (4-3, 2-0 District 1-5A) offense sputtered, as Smith threw two interceptions and lost a fumble. But those TOs didn't burn the visitors, as Bloomfield (3-4, 0-2) netted no points off those turnovers.
Smith said he forced the issue at times.
"I just wasn't being patient or trusting myself," Smith said. "Came out in the second half on a better note. Just moving the ball, doing what we do."
Down by three entering the fourth quarter, Aztec scored two touchdowns in the fourth and was able to hold on from there.
The longtime enemies, whose rivalry was rekindled by the recent district reclassification, dueled to a 13-13 first-half score.
Aztec started the game with a bang when Smith threw a 97-yard touchdown to Black, who was wide open up the right sideline. That came on Aztec's first play from scrimmage.
"They've shown that on film before," Bobcats coach Bob Allcorn said. "The problem for us is, they did some trickery with their guards showing run, and it ended up being a pass."
Bobcats quarterback Brendon Charley got off to a 0-for-4 start through the air, so Bloomfield resorted to its bread and butter — the running game — to respond to Aztec's explosive play on the previous drive. Drew Smith and Rudy Vigil combined for 31 rushing yards on the drive before Bloomfield hit the Tigers with a long pass play to Smith for a 27-yard score. The Bobcats missed the extra point, so that made it 7-6.
The Tigers regained the lead on their second possession, courtesy of a 30-yard touchdown pass from Smith to Black, but Aztec's offense looked out of wack for the duration of the half.
Smith threw for an impressive 203 yards in the first half alone, but 127 of those came in the opening quarter. In the second, he was picked off twice. Smith was rushed out of the pocket on both interceptions, which came late in the second quarter.
Also late in that second, Vigil punctuated another long, run-based Bloomfield drive with a 2-yard touchdown rush to tie it up.
Aztec's offense looked decent on the opening drive of the second half, but penalties hindered the Tigers in the red zone. A holding call and a false start pushed Smith & Co. back after they twice got inside the Bobcat 5-yard line. Aztec still took the 3-point lead by settling for a 30-yard Riley Barber field goal.
Bloomfield took its first lead of the night on the ensuing drive. After Vigil exploded for 61 yards on six carries, Charley sneaked the ball in from a yard out. The extra point gave the hosts a 19-16 lead.
Aztec coach Matt Steinfeldt said his team should have dictated the pace better.
"We rode the flow of the game a little too much," Steinfeldt said. "If you look at time of possession, we got slaughtered tonight. But the kids still showed heart offensively and defensively. Bloomfield moved the ball, but we still kept them to a relatively low point total."
Charley's score should have been followed by another Bloomfield TD, according to Allcorn, who thought his team blew a golden opportunity to capitalize on Smith's third turnover.
After the fumble, recovered by Michael DeHerrera, Aztec's defense didn't allow the Bobcats to do much of anything. Charley was sacked on third and 7 to bring up a punting situation.
"That, to me, was the difference in the game, not scoring off that turnover," Allcorn said. "We didn't execute well. I've got to go back and look at my play calls and see what I called in those scenarios and see why it didn't work."
Smith, who has orchestrated a handful of quick and long drives this year, conducted a 99-yard touchdown drive after Bloomfield's punt rolled all the way down to Aztec's 1-yard line. Brandon Trennepohl caught three passes for 63 yards on that drive, which culminated in a Smith-to-Black hookup for a 35-yard score, Black's third TD reception of the night.
In an offense that likes to spread the ball around, it was Trennepohl's drive for a reason, according to Smith.
"(Bloomfield's defense) was baiting Justin Seabass a lot on the corner, so I just had better match-ups over on Trennepohl's side," Smith said.
Up 23-19, Aztec's defense did its job in forcing a three and out on the next drive, and Smith was able to score on a 13-yard keeper to give his team the two-score lead.
Bloomfield showed heart with a 65-yard drive that ended in a short Drew Smith touchdown run, but Smith's onside kick attempt fluttered right into an Aztec players' hands with less than two minutes to go.
Next up for Aztec is another showdown next week, at Farmington (2-4-1, 2-0). The Bobcats try to bounce back against Gallup (2-5, 0-2).
Jake Newby covers sports for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4577.