Commentary: Crownpoint loss ultimately dashed Navajo Prep's 3A playoff dreams

Matt Hollinshead,
Navajo Prep's Skylar Tortalita fights for extra yards against Crownpoint on Thursday, Sept. 12 at Eagle Stadium in Farmington.

FARMINGTON – The Navajo Prep Eagles had 3A playoff football aspirations, but one demoralizing night ultimately dashed those dreams.

Prep’s offense couldn’t get going against Crownpoint back on Sept. 12, which somehow pulled ahead in the final moments and won 16-14.

Prep took the loss hard.

And rightfully so.

Prep blew a golden opportunity to conclude a four-game home stand strong, and the toughest part of the Eagles’ 2019 schedule was still to come.

The Eagles were playing great defense behind their zone blitzing schemes. The offense was also doing enough to where it wouldn’t fall squarely on the defense to bail them out.

The season was showing plenty of promise, until that fateful night on Sept. 12.

Prep didn’t have the momentum needed bracing for that final stretch, and the Eagles were backed into a corner.

Prep responded to a 26-point loss at Española Valley, marking consecutive losses, by beating 3A foe Tohatchi on Homecoming night.

That kept even the slimmest of playoff hopes alive, but that immediately evaporated with back-to-back losses against Escalante and Hope Christian.

Navajo Prep's Kyler Clitso fights to stay on his feet against Tohatchi during Prep's homecoming football game on Thursday, Sept. 26, 2019 at Eagle Stadium in Farmington.

Had Navajo Prep beaten Crownpoint, it wouldn’t have dealt with the strain of merely trying to get back on the right path. Consecutive defeats are already much to overcome when you’re trying to build a postseason résumé.

Had Navajo Prep beaten Crownpoint, its season could’ve extended to the second week of November.

Coach Rod Denetso desired it, and he worked to instill that extra mental toughness in his players, to have them be ready to step onto a field come the second week of November.

It was difficult to see the last bit of 2019 unfold the way it did, because the Eagles’ goal of returning to the playoffs for what would’ve been the first time in four years was a reasonable, realistic talking point.

It’s tough, if not impossible, to look past the Crownpoint loss as to what had ultimately undone Prep’s 2019 campaign.

Circumstantially, it was devastating on multiple levels.

Circumstantially, Prep (5-5) had what it took to return to the playoffs.

Matt Hollinshead covers sports for the Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4577 and on Twitter at @MattH_717.