Commentary: Week 1 has playoff implications

Matt Hollinshead,
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FARMINGTON — It’s far from another run-of-the-mill opening week for San Juan County’s football scene, as Piedra Vista and Aztec will open 2018 in games that’ll have significant playoff implications down the road.

Here are some of the Week 1 matchups to keep tabs on Friday night:

Piedra Vista at Los Lunas

The Panthers moved back down to Class 5A, but that prior experience in 6A will help PV be more fundamentally sound and ready to better withstand tough foes. Right out of the gate, PV will travel about 225 miles south to face 5A power Los Lunas.

Los Lunas, which returns second team All-State quarterback Nick Gaerlan along with an array of targets in Cody Vocu, Andrue Garcia, Hunter Williamson and Noah Gum, will give PV’s secondary plenty to handle. 

If PV can repeatedly penetrate through the line of scrimmage and force Gaerlan to make hasty decisions from the pocket, it’ll help the Panthers in the possession battle and take some strain off of Cameron Swarts, McKay Cook and the offense.

This is a must-win game for the Panthers, and it’ll also demonstrate the pluses of playing Cleveland and Rio Rancho the previous two years.

Aztec at Miyamura

Although they’re no longer district foes, expect to see the scoreboard light up.

The Tigers, who are back in Class 4A, scored 39.4 points per game last year. They look to get off to a stronger start after dropping four of five non-district games in 2017.

The Patriots, who remain in 5A, averaged 42.6 points scored per game last fall.

Since 2011, whether it was a close battle or a lopsided victory, the two sides averaged a combined 77.4 points scored per game.

Expect those video game-like numbers to carry on.

Farmington vs. Bayfield, Colorado

The Scorpions, fresh off a 5A state semifinals appearance in 2017, will open the new year against the defending 2A Colorado state champions at Hutchison Stadium.

The Wolverines have won two state titles in the last three years.

The two sides haven’t duked it out since 1947.

FHS returns some key weapons on offense, including running back Johnny Shuttleworth, wide receiver Kale Lucas and wide receiver/return specialist Juan Medrano. The Scorpions also return three starters on the offensive line.

Bayfield returns quarterback Hayden Farmer, as well as running backs David Hawkins and Dylan Hilliker and dual-threat target Keyon Prior.

Newcomb vs. Navajo Prep

Friday marks the beginning of the Eric Stovall era for the Skyhawks. With most of its key players back for at least two more years, Newcomb looks to build on its state quarterfinals appearance in 2017.

Roderick Denetso, who served as Shiprock’s wide receivers/special teams coach under Stovall last year, is back for his second stint with the Eagles after a two-year hiatus in 2015 and 2016.

Denetso led Navajo Prep to three straight playoff berths from 2012 through 2014.

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