Panthers, Skyhawks register impressive nondistrict wins

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FARMINGTON — Piedra Vista and Newcomb are building stout playoff résumés as both teams brace for the second half of the prep football season.

The Skyhawks are 5-0 entering Friday’s District 1/5-2A opener at home against Questa. Newcomb doesn’t have a 500-yard player at this point, whether by air or on the ground, but it has multiple running backs with more than 200 yards rushing and at least two 100-plus-yard receivers. And that has translated into points, as the Skyhawks already have put up 227 points so far.

Newcomb also has at least nine defensive players with double-digit tackles on the season, and the special teams unit is giving the offense good field position with big punt returns.

The Skyhawks' five wins have come against Navajo Prep; Shiprock; Ignacio, Colorado, Zuni and Lordsburg.

Meanwhile, the Panthers (3-2) have taken down solid competition in 5A’s Valley and 2017 5A state runner-up Belen after giving them trouble with stellar defense.

PV is limiting space on the ground for quick tackles through the inner creases, and it is swatting away passes and cutting off points of contact for opposing receivers for key interceptions near the sidelines and straight through the middle routes.

The team's defenders are smart, speedy and instinctive, and they’ve taken a big load off those on the other side of the ball.

The Panther offense is playing with extra grit and confidence behind a balanced attack. McKay Cook and the backfield are getting decent gains bulldozing their way down the field, inside and out. That, in turn, is allowing the air game to attack the corners more aggressively and freely.

The offense still has its moments of struggling to move the chains, but those stalled drives are becoming less frequent. Much of that stems from having decent field position following key stops by the defense.

PV has given up just 26 combined points in its last four games, and the Panthers look to prolong that stingy effort entering their Week 6 game against Albuquerque High on Oct. 5 at Milne Stadium in Albuquerque.

Both the Skyhawks and Panthers have some tough games left on their regular-season schedule. Newcomb will take on 3A’s Cuba and 2A football heavyweight Escalante in October, while PV wraps up nondistrict play about 380 miles southeast at 5A power Roswell.

However, both sides are in a good place entering the second half of 2018, all because of the results they’ve generated thus far. Newcomb is still unbeaten, and PV has demonstrated it can dominate solid foes.

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

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