FARMINGTON — The Navajo Prep football team shook off a slow start to win its third straight game tonight, and now the Eagles will play for the District 1-4A title.
Up by just 6 points at halftime, the Eagles (4-5, 2-0) scored in a multitude of ways en route to a 34-6 victory over Wingate (3-6, 0-2) at Eagle Stadium in Farmington.
Prep coach Victor Crawford said his team has made a habit of starting fast and then slowing down in the second quarter before finding a second wind after halftime. That was exactly the case tonight, as rushing touchdowns from Alijah Uentille and Kemahya Curley, as well as a TD thrown by quarterback Kasey James, lifted the hosts to a 22-0 run after the half.
Curley, who plays linebacker on defense, also intercepted a pass and returned it for a score in the game. Crawford said the center-turned-running back has been a great find this year.
"I wish we went with him sooner in the year at running back," Crawford said. "Our running game has evolved over the course of the year, and he's been a big part of the evolution."
With Wingate in its rear-view mirror, Prep gets ready for a huge test next week on the road at Shiprock (6-3, 2-0), with the district championship on the line.
"We know we're going into a hostile environment. Coach Stovall, man, he's got the Chieftains rolling right now," Crawford said. "They got a good passing game, they've got a good running back, and we're going to have to play some fundamental football and stay in the rushing lanes to stop their running game. Stovall's gonna have his guys ready to go, and I think so will we."
Shiprock 45, Thoreau 0
The Chieftains took care of their end of the bargain by winning big once again.
Shiprock, winner of four straight, pounded Thoreau 45-0 on the road, and has now outscored its last four opponents by a total of 179-26.
According to coach Eric Stovall, the Chieftains beat the Hawks (1-9, 0-2) by doing what they always do — establishing the run.
"We got good performances out of Quaid (Shorty), Darren Harrison and also Steve Lara on the ground, and that really opened up the passing game," Stovall said. "I'm proud of the offensive line and our defense for stepping up, and also our coaches for getting them prepared to win today."
Shiprock's defense was on top of its game in forcing four turnovers and collecting five sacks. The Chieftains only gave up 92 yards of total offense.
On the other side of the ball for Shiprock, Harrison led the team in rushing with 125 yards, while Lara and Shorty combined for another 145 yards on the ground. Quarterback Rhakeem Anagale threw a pair of touchdowns to tight end Tirus Newton.
Stovall said he'll keep going to the running game next week versus Prep, as it has brought the team loads of success during the second half of the season.
"Going to the run, establishing the pass, that's what we like to do," Stovall said. "We're looking forward to having a great crowd out there next week. I was proud of our parents tonight. So many of them came out to support us. And I'm sure Navajo Prep will bring a lot of fans, too, so we're absolutely looking forward to it."
Jake Newby covers sports for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4577.