FOOTBALL

Tradition, titles and a new trophy on the line as Bloomfield hosts Aztec

Steven Bortstein
Farmington Daily Times

BLOOMFIELD − Friday night's district football clash between Bloomfield and Aztec will feature a battle for far more than just an advantage in the standings or a run at a potential postseason berth.

For the first time in the history of this crosstown rivalry, a trophy will be presented to the winning team.

A concept of both Aztec High School and Bloomfield High School athletic directors Bryan Sanders and Ben Tensay, both teams decided to have a trophy created and presented to the winner of the annual showdown.

The Aztec vs. Bloomfield game will be the Daily-Times featured game of the week, with live coverage beginning shortly after 6 p.m. on the web at daily-times.com.

The rivalry, which dates back to 1959, will be played out for the 57th time when the teams meet at Bobcat Stadium with both teams coming off blowout wins in their most recent outings. Aztec has won the rivalry matchup 34 times, while Bloomfield has won 22 times including each of the last four meetings. Last year, the Bobcats edged Aztec by a final of 20-17 at Fred Cook Memorial Stadium.

Friday's clash will be the first time since 2018 the teams have met at Bobcat Stadium. Due to scheduling conflicts between the schools in recent years, each of the last three games between the schools have taken place at Fred Cook Memorial Stadium.

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.

"There's so much that goes into the game, whether you're a coach, a player, a fan, it has a lot of meaning around here," said Bloomfield head coach Mike Kovacs. "I've been a part of some great rivalry games as a player and a coach and I can tell you, it's exciting to see everyone involved in the game get so fired up. The trophy is just the icing on the cake."

For both Bloomfield and Aztec, a chance to win the District 1-4A title is on the line Friday night. The Bobcats are coming off a 58-8 beatdown over Kirtland Central last weekend while the Tigers clobbered Gallup by a final of 52-0. Bloomfield (7-1) enters this weekend ranked third behind Silver and Portales in the most recent MaxPreps poll in Class 4A while Aztec (3-5) is ranked sixth.

"That's what makes the game so much bigger, is that there's something really on the line," Kovacs said. "Getting that district title is a big deal and we're going to have be at the top of our game."

Bloomfield's Aaron Johnson dives into the end zone and scores a touchdown against the Kirtland Central defense in the closing minutes of the fourth quarter on Friday, October 14, 2022 at Bill Cawood Field.

Leading Bloomfield at quarterback on Friday night will be senior Ryan Sharpe, with nearly 25 touchdown passes and more than 1,500 passing yards on the season. Sharpe will have his usual array of weapons to get the ball to, including junior receivers Drew Perez and Javon Williamson as well as Jesse Seitzinger, who have combined for more than 12 touchdown grabs on the season.

The Tigers will be led on the offensive side of the ball by senior receiver Tristen McNeal and junior wideout Baylor Seabolt, who have combined for more than 65 catches and nine touchdowns on the season.

Here's a look at some of the other prep football games happening this weekend across San Juan County.

Eldorado (2-6) at Farmington (4-4), Friday, 7 p.m.

The Farmington High School football team will be looking to improve to 3-0 in District 2-5/6A when they tackle Eldorado Friday night at Hutchison Stadium.

The Scorpions offense has been on a roll of late, scoring 40 or more points in each of their first two games against district rivals West Mesa and Sandia. Quarterback Trel Griego has made good use of his downfield weapons, including receivers Michael Beck and Josiyah Archuleta, who have combined for seven touchdowns in those two games.

"The offense found its rhythm, and the defense has come up big for us as well," said Farmington coach Jeff Dalton. "We were able to take advantage of some situations where we got other teams off the field and could put our game plan in place."

Eldorado is coming off a win last weekend, having defeated Sandia by a final of 42-39. The Golden Eagles are led by junior quarterback Brandon Olivas, who has netted more than 1450 passing yards and 17 touchdowns on the season. Among his favorite targets have been juniors Joshua Jackson and Josiah Mitchell, as well as senior Damien Lucero, who have combined for more than 1300 receiving yards.

The Eldorado win snapped a two-game losing streak, including a blowout loss on the road last month against district rival La Cueva. The Golden Eagles have a 1-1 record in District 2/5-6A and face a must-win situation to have any chance to compete for a district title.

The Scorpions come into the game as the ninth-ranked team in Class 6A according to MaxPreps, while Eldorado is ranked 15th in the 22-team classification. Both teams trail La Cueva, who enter this weekend as the third-ranked team in New Mexico in Class 6A.

Kirtland Central (3-4) at Gallup (0-8), Friday, 7 p.m.

Both Kirtland Central High School and the Gallup High School football teams will be looking for their first win of the District 1-4A campaign this weekend when the Broncos travel to Gallup to face the winless Bengals.

Kirtland Central opened the district campaign last weekend with a 58-8 blowout loss at home to Bloomfield, while the Bengals were hammered by Aztec last weekend in the Tigers homecoming game by a final of 52-0.

The Broncos are hoping to end a two-game losing streak in which they've been outscored 107-16, both times at home at Bill Cawood Field. The Bengals have been outscored 353-25 in their eight games this season.

Piedra Vista (7-1) at Highland (5-2), Saturday, 1 p.m.

The Piedra Vista High School football team will look to keep their position atop the District 1/5-5A standings intact Saturday afternoon when they travel to Albuquerque to face Highland High School.

The Panthers enter the game tied for first in the district race with Belen, who have an overall record of 2-6. Piedra Vista, currently the top-ranked team in the state in Class 5A according to MaxPreps, have outscored their combined opponents by a margin of nearly 2-1 this season and are coming off a 48-21 win last weekend on the road over Miyamura.

Piedra Vista is playing their fourth consecutive game on the road, and are 2-1 on this current streak of road contests. Their only loss in that time came three weeks ago at the Wool Bowl, losing to Roswell by a final of 32-14.

"I think what we've learned a lot about is how to travel, and how to have that travel discipline," said Piedra Vista head coach Jared Howell. "That could go a long way once we get to the postseason, but we have to take care of the business in front of us first."

The Hornets have a two-tiered rushing attack, led by sophomores Alex Lopez and Amiri Mumba who have combined for nearly 800 yards and 11 touchdowns. Lopez has also thrown for nearly 350 yards and a pair of scores this season and has been a catalyst on defense, leading the team with 41 tackles.