FOOTBALL

Playoff push begins with regular season football finales Friday night

Steven Bortstein
Farmington Daily Times

FARMINGTON − The final weekend of the regular season in high school football comes complete with district matchups, as well as potential postseason implications and more.

Piedra Vista and Bloomfield High School football teams are looking to earn first round byes and district titles in their respective matchups, while Farmington, Aztec and Kirtland Central are fighting for playoff berths in their regular season finales.

Here's a glance at what to expect under the Friday night lights.

Belen (2-7) at Piedra Vista (8-1), Friday, 7 p.m.

The Piedra Vista Panthers, currently ranked third in the state in Class 5A will be looking to finish their District 1/5-5A campaign with an unblemished mark when they host Belen Friday night in the regular season finale for both teams.

With a win, the Panthers would earn the district title and likely have a bye week heading into the playoffs. Piedra Vista will be playing at home for the first time in 41 days after playing on the road in each of their last four games. The Panthers opened a four-game road stretch last month with a win over Valley before losing at second-ranked Roswell, followed by back-to-back district victories over Miyamura and Highland.

"We learned a lot about road and travel discipline, and hopefully that will be a lesson that serves us well when if and when we have to go back on the road in the playoffs," said Panthers head coach Jared Howell. "We have to stay focused and disciplined and still have to take care of business at home first."

Belen, with a 1-1 record in district play this season, can still work their way into the playoffs with a win over Piedra Vista. They beat Highland earlier this month before losing last weekend at home against Miyamura. Offensively, the Eagles are led by juniors Diego Avila and Derian Rodriguez, who have amassed more than 1100 rushing yards and 13 touchdowns on the ground.

Defensively, sophomore Manuel Marquez and senior Jesse Vazquez have combined for 67 tackles and a pair of sacks. Vazquez has a pair of fumble recoveries and an interception this season as well to lead the attack.

The Piedra Vista vs. Belen game will be the Daily-Times featured game of the week, with live coverage beginning shortly after 6 p.m. on our website at daily-times.com.

Farmington (5-4) at La Cueva (8-1), Friday, 7 p.m.

The Scorpions and Bears will put their respective winning streaks on the line Friday night when the district rivals face off in the regular season at Wilson Stadium in Albuquerque.

Farmington has won each of their last three games and brings an unblemished record in District 2-5/6A into the game while La Cueva, winners of seven straight games and ranked third in the state in Class 6A, is looking for their second straight district title. Last season, the Bears advanced to the Class 6A semifinals as the three-seed before losing to eventual state runner-up Rio Rancho.

La Cueva has outscored their three district rivals this season by a margin of 207-103, with the majority of those points coming in a shootout earlier this month in an 89-62 shootout over West Mesa. The Bears are led by senior quarterback Aidan Armenta, who has thrown for nearly 2800 yards and 31 touchdowns this season. Armenta has already signed a letter of intent to play football next season for the University of New Mexico.

Seniors Gabriel Buie and Miyuh Robertson have rushed for more than 950 yards and scored 13 rushing touchdowns, while senior Ian Sanchez has caught 68 passes for nearly 1,200 yards and 15 touchdowns.

Farmington has faced its share of explosive offensive talents this season, including West Mesa quarterback Elijah Brody, who threw for four scores and ran for a pair in the Scorpions 48-41 win over the Mustangs. Prior to that, the Scorpions faced Cibola quarterback Aden Chavez, who threw for five scores and ran for another in a 41-36 win at Hutchison Stadium.

Farmington will counter with an aggressive passing game that has allowed the team to score an average of more than 40 points in each of their last six games. Quarterback Trel Griego has thrown for a dozen scores against district competition this season and will have an array of weapons to throw to this weekend, including receivers Michael Beck as well as Josiyah Archuleta and Jevon Smith.

"(La Cueva) has a good, explosive offense, and I think we do too," said Farmington head coach Jeff Dalton. "I think our season has prepared us well for this. We've played a little bit of each of these teams all season long. Now we're facing all of that on one team. We're going to have be a lot more efficient than we have been."

Defensively, sophomore Mason Posa and senior Hunter Roswold have combined for 94 tackles and 10 sacks this season, while Robertson and senior Colt Mangino have combined for nine interceptions.

The winner of this game will win the district title and may well earn a first-round bye in the Class 6A playoffs, which is a giant step forward from where it appeared the Scorpions were headed after entering the district campaign with a record of 2-4.

"When we were sitting at 2-4 earlier this season, even when we were struggling, I think people saw what we could do," Dalton said. "I think we've shown that progression over the course of the last few weeks, and I'm excited for the challenge of heading down there and playing for a district title."

Gallup (0-9) at Bloomfield (8-1), Friday, 7 p.m.

The Bloomfield High School football team will be looking to finish their regular season on a winning note Friday night at Bobcat Stadium when they face winless Gallup.

The Bobcats, ranked third in the state in Class 4A according to MaxPreps, are coming off a 48-0 blowout win at home last weekend over District 1-4A and crosstown rival Aztec while Gallup continues to struggle this season, coming off a 43-6 loss at home against Kirtland Central.

The Bobcats are averaging more than 42 points per game this season while the Bengals are allowing 44 points per game. A Bloomfield win will likely earn them a first round bye in the state Class 4A postseason and a home game in the second round.

Bloomfield's Andres Gordo looks for running room between Aztec defenders in the first quarter of their football game, Friday, Oct. 21, 2022 at Bobcat Stadium.

"Those are all nice things, but we still have to go out there and take care of business," said Bloomfield coach Mike Kovacs. "No matter how well you win a game, you can always go back and look at things that need improvement. We'll be ready to tackle those areas this weekend."

Senior quarterback Ryan Sharpe, who has led the Bobcats for much of the season, is likely to not see action this weekend while he recovers from an injury sustained in the first half of their victory over Aztec. Sophomore Blake Spencer, who has filled in admirably for Sharpe on several occasions this season, is expected to start for Bloomfield.

Pregame ceremonies will begin at 6:30 p.m. to honor United States Military veterans, including a special tribute to World War II Army Veteran Walter Ernest Dorman.

Veterans attending the game will receive free admission to the game and will have designated seating for the pregame ceremonies.

Kirtland Central (4-4) at Aztec (3-6), Friday, 7 p.m.

With a likely playoff spot on the line, the Kirtland Central and Aztec High School football teams will be looking to end their regular season with a win when they face off Friday night at Fred Cook Memorial Stadium.

The Broncos and Tigers have identical 1-1 records in District 1-4A. Kirtland Central routed Gallup last weekend 43-6 while Aztec beat Gallup 52-0 earlier this month. Kirtland Central comes into the game ranked 10th in Class 4A with Aztec ranked sixth according to MaxPreps.

Kirtland Central will be looking to show off their running game Friday night, led by sophomore Bryle Matthews and junior Demusico Edcitty. When the Broncos rush for more than 200 yards in a game, they are 4-0 on the season.

Aztec's Tristen McNeal goes for the ball while defending St. Michael's Taven Lozada during a football game, Saturday, Sept. 24, 2022 at Fred Cook Memorial Stadium.

Aztec will be looking to bounce back from an error-filled game last weekend on the road against Bloomfield, in which the Tigers committed eight turnovers, leading to three Bobcat touchdowns.

The Tigers offense will lean on playmakers like Baylor Seabolt and Tristen McNeal, who have combined for 12 touchdowns and nearly 1,300 all-purpose yards.