Panthers roll over Farmington in high school football season opener

Steven Bortstein
Farmington Daily Times

FARMINGTON − The Piedra Vista High School offense, led by dual-threat quarterback Logan Howell, overcame an early 6-0 deficit before storming past crosstown rival Farmington 53-31 in front of an enthusiastic crowd Friday night at Hutchison Stadium.

Howell ran for three touchdowns and threw a pair of scoring strikes in the opening game of the season for both teams. Howell connected on touchdown passes to Bryce Joshlin and Dax Vigil as Piedra Vista earned not only their first win of the season, but also snapped a three-game losing streak to the Scorpions dating back to 2019.

The victory also has significance in the rivalry between the two programs. Friday's meeting was the 23rd time the two football teams have played against one another since the year 2000. The Panthers win is the 12th time they've beaten the Scorpions.

"It means a lot to win the opener, especially against a well-coached team like that one," said Piedra Vista coach Jared Howell. "These kids have all played with or against one another for a long time now, so a win like this has added meaning."

Piedra Vista's Hunter Schwartz sheds off a tackle from Farmington's Scot Fishburn during the first quarter of their season opening football game, Friday, Aug. 19, 2022 at Hutchison Stadium.

The game also comes with a trophy, the unofficial prize which goes to the winning team. The Milk Jug, which had been in Farmington's possession over the last three seasons, will now go back to Piedra Vista.

"It means a lot to the kids, and to the program," Howell said. "It's something they work for and take pride in."

The game started off on a sour note for the Panthers, who watched as Farmington's Michael Beck took the opening kickoff 91 yards for a touchdown. That touchdown was immediately followed by a successful onside kick for the Scorpions, who appeared poised to put the Panthers away early.

The ensuing Scorpions drive stalled, and the Panthers struck back with a strong drive that ended with the first of three touchdown runs from Howell, this one from 17 yards out around the left side of the line. That gave the Panthers a lead they'd never relinquish.

"It took a couple minutes to regroup after the opening kickoff, but we always talk about not wanting to be too high or too low, the game is going to have a lot of ebb and flow," Howell said after the game. "How we respond to adversity really matters."

The Scorpions offense, led by quarterback Trel Griego, struggled in the first half. On back-to-back plays midway through the second quarter, Griego had open receivers on corner routes in the end zone, but both passes missed their mark, resulting in a turnover on downs.

Piedra Vista quickly converted that opportunity into another touchdown when Howell found Joshlin wide open down the sideline, extending the Panthers lead to 21-6 late in the second quarter.

The Panthers scored again before the halftime break when Vigil grabbed an errant throw from Griego, returning the interception 60 yards for a back-breaking 28-6 edge at the half.

"(Vigil) did a great job for us on both sides of the ball," Howell said after the game. "The kid is just a playmaker and he doesn't want to lose."

Piedra Vista's Logan Howell outruns Farmington's Santiago Gonzalez on his way to the end zone on a first quarter touchdown run during the Panthers 53-31 win over the Scorpions, Friday, Aug. 19, 2022 at Hutchison Stadium.

The Scorpions closed the gap a bit in the third quarter as Griego found his rhythm in the second half, throwing a pair of touchdown passes. Trailing 35-12 midway through the third, Griego made his best throw of the night, finding Josiyah Archuleta sprinting down the far sideline for a score.

Griego connected again for a touchdown just minutes later, this time finding Jevon Smith who was coming out of a slant route on the far side for another Scorpion touchdown that narrowed the Panthers lead to 35-24 with less than four minutes in the third quarter.

"That's the whole offense getting more mature and getting smarter," said Farmington head coach Jeff Dalton. "We were a little immature early and we got better as the game went on."

The positive momentum for the Scorpions was quickly erased on the ensuing Panthers drive. Howell completed a pair of big passes, first on third-and-long to Manuel Montelongo to get out of the shadow of their own end zone, then later taking advantage of a blown coverage by the Scorpion defense on a 52-yard touchdown strike to Vigil right before the end of the third quarter.

The Panthers scored twice more in the final quarter. Jacob Ramsted pushed his way into the end zone for another Panther touchdown before Howell scrambled for his third rushing touchdown of the night as the celebration was beginning on the Panthers sideline.

"It feels good to get a win, not just the first win of the year, but a win like this, especially when you've been on the other side of it for a bit," Howell said. "Wins are going to be tough to come by this season, and we're going to have to scrap for all of them."

The Panthers (1-0) will face off against Class 6A opponent Sandia Friday night at Hutchison Stadium. The Matadors opened their season over the weekend with a 59-37 win over Atrisco Heritage Academy. Farmington (0-1) will be looking for their first win of the season this weekend when they visit Durango for their season opener.

Aztec pulls clear of Miyamura

The combination of Marcquis Henry and Tristen McNeal connected for four touchdown passes as the Aztec High School football team rolled over Miyamura 27-7 in a season-opening win for the Tigers in head coach Hank Strauss' debut.

Henry threw four touchdown passes in the win, finding McNeal on all four of them before the end of the first half.

"Those two have been playing as a dynamic duo for a few years now, so it was good to see them find their old rhythm again," Strauss said.

Strauss, a former player at Aztec High School, was named the team's coach following the resignation earlier this spring of former coach Eric Stovall.

"It was good to get that first win, but it's more about the way we did it," Strauss said. "The kids are all learning to play as a team and it was a good overall team victory."

The Tigers (1-0) will be on the road again next weekend when they face Montezuma-Cortez in their opening game of the season. Miyamura (0-1) will be on the road next to face Silver, who rolled over Kirtland Central by a final of 52-0.