FOOTBALL

Panthers, Bobcats hit the road to keep perfect seasons intact

Steven Bortstein
Farmington Daily Times

FARMINGTON − One of the biggest games of the high school football season will take place Friday night at the Wool Bowl where Piedra Vista tackles Roswell in a battle of the two top-ranked teams in Class 5A.

Meantime, with both Farmington High and Navajo Prep on a bye this weekend, local fans will have a chance to see if Aztec can stop a three-game losing streak when they visit Taos, or to catch Bloomfield as they look to extend their perfect season in Class 4A when they travel to Bayfield.

Here's a look at Friday night's local and area high school football matchups.

Piedra Vista (6-0) at Roswell (5-1), Friday, 7 p.m.

The buildup to this showdown between the top two teams in Class 5A was intensified even more after both Piedra Vista and Roswell posted blowout victories last weekend.

Roswell topped Clovis by a score of 49-0 last Friday night and have outscored their last two opponents by a margin of 96-6, while Piedra Vista blanked Valley by a final of 48-0 last weekend and have outscored their last two opponents by a margin of 95-29, including a 47-29 win over Goddard, one of Roswell's biggest rivals.

The top-ranked Panthers will make the longest road trip of the season (nearly 380 miles) to face the Coyotes at the Wool Bowl in what may well be a preview of a postseason battle later this season. Both teams come into the game as the top two teams in Class 5A polling, according to both MaxPreps and the New Mexico Coaches Association.

"They're the top-ranked team in the state for a reason, and when you look at who they've faced, they've done all they need to do," said Roswell head coach Jeff Lynn. "This is going to be one of our biggest tests of the season."

Piedra Vista will be looking to minimize the potential playmaking ability of Roswell junior quarterback Manny Fuentez, who's proven to be a threat with his legs as well as his arm.

"He's a real talented quarterback and he's been a real asset to what we do on offense," Lynn said. "That said, we know that Piedra Vista's defense will do what they can to keep him in check."

Roswell quarterback Manny Fuentez, shown here during throwing drills, will be one of the main offensive playmakers during their game Friday night at the Wool Bowl against top-ranked Piedra Vista.

The Coyotes defense will be charged with slowing down a Panthers rushing attack that features several of the state's leading backs, including running backs Jacob Ramsted and Josh Mora-Dotson, as well as versatile quarterback Logan Howell.

"They run the ball well, and they're extremely well coached," Lynn said. "I expect it to be a real battle for us and it may not be the only time we have to face them this season."

A Panthers victory at Roswell would give the team a real chance to go undefeated during the regular season. Their final three opponents, all representing District 1-5/5A, have a combined record of 6-10 on the season and have surrendered nearly 450 points, while Piedra Vista has allowed an average of only 15.3 points per game this season.

"These last few games, you can see where it's starting to come together for us on the field," said Panthers coach Jared Howell. "But there's always another test and another obstacle to come along. That's why it's important to stay focused on what's right in front of us and we can control."

Aztec (2-4) at Taos (4-1), Friday, 7 p.m.

The Aztec Tigers will be looking to end a three-game losing streak when they hit the road Friday night to face Taos, winners of four straight games and currently ranked seventh in the latest MaxPreps polls.

Taos is led by a pair of strong offensive stars, including quarterback Daemon Ely and receiver Favian Cordova, who teamed up to lead Taos to a 21-6 victory last weekend on the road at Bernalillo. Ely threw two scores to Cordova and ran for another touchdown in the win over the Spartans.

Taos also features sophomore running back Mateo Salazar, who has scored a pair of touchdowns on the season and averaging a bit more than four yards per carry.

Aztec's Justin Bixler looks for running room away from a tackle attempt by St. Michael's Jacob Katko during a football game, Saturday, Sept. 24 at Fred Cook Memorial Stadium.

Aztec, despite coming off a tough home loss last weekend to St. Michael's, comes into Friday night's game ranked eighth in the state at Class 4A in the most recent coaches poll. Quarterback Marcquis Henry has thrown nine touchdowns this season, but has also given up nine interceptions. Senior receiver Tristen McNeal and junior wideout Baylor Seabolt have combined for more than 700 receiving yards and seven touchdown this season.

Bloomfield (5-0) at Bayfield (0-4), Friday, 7 p.m.

Bloomfield head coach Mike Kovacs knows there is no such thing as an easy game, even in spite of what appears to be a mismatch this Friday night when the Bobcats travel to face winless Bayfield.

The Bobcats, who come into the game as the top-ranked team in the state of New Mexico according to both MaxPreps and the New Mexico Coaches Association, are winning by an average margin of 49-10 this season while the Wolverines have scored a total of 36 points in four games.

"There's always something we can do better, something we need to work on," said Kovacs. "We don't ever want to get into the mindset that we deserve anything, because that's what gets you in trouble."

The Bobcats appear to be running on all cylinders through the first five games of this season. Quarterback Ryan Sharpe is in the midst of a spectacular season, throwing 19 touchdowns against only three interceptions this season, while Jesse Seitzinger, George Rascon, Jr., and Drew Perez form an elite tandem of playmakers who have combined for more than 1000 yards of total offense and 20 touchdowns.

A win Friday night sets up a showdown on the road next weekend against Silver, currently ranked third in the state in Class 4A.

"One game at a time is what we continue to tell the kids," Kovacs said. "We just have to focus on the next game on the docket, the next challenge. The rest will take care of itself."