Tigers primed for big run after addressing penalties

Aztec football team ready to forget 1-4 start to season

Matt Hollinshead,
Aztec's Logan Thorpe grabs a blocking pad during pursuit tackling drills at Wednesday's practice.
  • The Tigers opened with losses to Los Lunas, Durango and Bayfield, Colo., and Piedra Vista.
  • They rebounded for their first win last week, a 54-12 victory over Espanola Valley.
  • Aztec opens District 1-5A play Friday night at Kirtland Central.

AZTEC — Penalties were largely behind the Aztec football team’s rough start to the season, which took a toll on the players’ psyches.

“We’re a rhythm-based team. When we’re out of sync and everything, that’s when we start screwing up,” Tigers wide receiver Justin Black said.

Numerous holding, offside and false start calls added up and often put the Tigers in an unfavorable position on either side of the ball.

But the Tigers (1-4) have addressed that issue over the last few weeks, and now they think they're primed for a late-season run.

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“Early on, the bumps and bruises come to the ego, more so than they do to the body. Those bumps and bruises heal,” Aztec coach Matthew Steinfeldt said. “Here at Aztec, I feel like we’re a great late-season ball club. I think our kids are in it for the long haul.”

Aztec took its lumps dealing with penalties, all while opening the year against Los Lunas, Durango and Bayfield, Colo., and Piedra Vista, respectively. All four games were losses, but the game against PV marked a turning point for the Tigers.

The penalty calls have decreased since the PV game, which renewed Aztec’s confidence.

“For, say, our route running, we haven’t been dealing with penalties. It’s all crisp, clean,” Black said. “You just have to watch the ball. The ball moves, you move.”

Aztec's Aaron Jones, in a white practice jersey, works on reading and reacting to offensive screens on Wednesday. The Tigers open District 1-5A play this weekend at Kirtland Central.

Players are trying to get their hands and feet in the correct positions and move around with better timing, which is helping them play more cleanly on the field.

“When you feel yourself moving back, that sets you in a bad motion. You know that you’re moving behind the sticks, and no one ever wants to be there. Just fixing that is putting them in a better spot, and they’re adjusting to that extremely well,” Steinfeldt said.

Aztec lost 43-40 to PV before entering its bye week. The Tigers then crushed Española Valley 54-12 during their homecoming contest last week.

The Tigers look to prolong their positive trend in their District 1-5A opener 7 p.m. Friday at Kirtland Central.

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