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RUIDOSO – Between its third-quarter outburst and Ruidoso’s mounting injuries, Aztec quickly pulled away to win today’s 4A playoff opener 40-19.

“I think we just got a few great plays that went our way. Our guys stayed focused today,” Aztec coach Matthew Steinfeldt said.

The Tigers’ offense held strong and was able to hold the Warriors back from scoring any major points.

Although Ruidoso cut Aztec’s lead to 20-19 in the third quarter, courtesy of Grant Oberheu’s 20-yard score, the outcome soon grew out of control.

Tigers quarterback Zach Taylor found his targets multiple times, and things grew even worse for the Warriors, who endured several injuries in the game.

“We got a little banged up toward the end of the game. The kids played hard. They played through some adversaries and some pain. We were just a little short-handed,” Ruidoso coach Kief Johnson said. “The kids stepped up and gave it their all. We were playing tough and we are very proud of how these kids stepped up today for Warriors football today.”

Ruidoso’s season ended at 6-5, whereas Aztec (6-5) will play at top-seeded St. Pius in the 4A quarterfinals.

The Tigers won their previous matchup against the Sartans, 28-24, back on Sept. 28.

“When we first saw them early in the season, probably six or seven weeks ago, each of us have evolved since then,” Steinfeldt said. Being familiar with them does help. It is always tough to defeat an opponent for the second time. I know they are a well-coached team. I think as long as we lock into the fourth quarter mentally we will be fine.”

Pamela L. Bonner covers sports for the Ruidoso News. She can be reached at 575-257-4001, Ext. 4102, or at pbonner@ruidosonews.com.

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