FOOTBALL

Farmington High School football holds off Carlsbad in first-round thriller

Steven Bortstein
Farmington Daily Times

FARMINGTON — Quarterback Trel Griego threw for four touchdowns and ran for another as the Farmington High School football team advanced to the second round of the Class 6A state football tournament, narrowly prevailing 34-33 over Carlsbad on Saturday afternoon at Hutchison Stadium.

Griego's five scores were just enough to withstand a furious Cavemen rally, which came up just yards short of pulling off the victory when a potential game-winning two-point conversion came up short in the final minutes of the game.

Greigo connected with Josiyah Archuleta twice in the first half as the Scorpion offense managed to pick apart the Carlsbad defense with a variety of short and medium-range passes as well as a running game that kept the Cavemen defense on their heels.

Carlsbad's offense was led once again by running back Eli Asay, who scampered for nearly 300 yards and three touchdowns, but also coughed up the ball four times, resulting in two Scorpion takeaways that led to a pair of touchdowns in the first half.

Farmington quarterback Trel Griego gets into the end zone and scores against the Carlsbad defense in the fourth quarter of the 6A first-round playoff game on Saturday at Hutchison Stadium.

"We take a lot of pride in our defensive speed, and (Asay) is faster than anyone we have, but we were ready when we needed to make a stop," said Scorpions coach Jeff Dalton. "Hats off to the Carlsbad run game because they can pop one off at any time, and they did a few times, but our defense stayed calm and got ready for the next play."

The Scorpions took a 20-12 lead into the locker room at halftime thanks to a last-minute strike from Griego to Jevon Smith from five yards out.

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"(Griego) really emerged as a great leader today," Dalton said after the game. "He's been there for us all year to throw the ball and run the ball but he made a lot of good play checks and smart decisions today."

Griego was picked off twice in the second half, the first of which came early in the third quarter and resulted in another touchdown run from Asay, which trimmed the Farmington lead to 20-18.

Asay, who came into the game with nearly 1,300 rushing yards this season, was a dominant force throughout the contest, carrying the ball 26 times for 285 yards and catching a couple of passes out of the backfield.

"(Asay) is a heck of a player," said Carlsbad coach Oliver Soukup. "I wish I had 11 of those guys on either side of the ball. That's how hard-nosed he is."

With the Scorpions leading 34-27 after Griego scored his fifth touchdown of the game by running the ball himself from eight yards out, the Cavemen came right back. Asay made a spectacular play after nearly being brought down in the backfield before weaving his way through defenders for an 80-yard touchdown run that trimmed the Scorpions' lead to 34-33 with 1:38 left to play.

Farmington middle linebacker Deacon Stowell (83) tackles and forces a fumble on Carlsbad running back Eli Asay (3) in the first quarter as Jevon Smith (11) and Isaac Foutz (41) look on Saturday at Hutchison Stadium.

Opting to go for the win with the two-point conversion, Carlsbad quarterback Dane Naylor handed the ball to Ulysses Mendoza, who was stopped at the 1-yard line, preserving the Scorpions' lead before running out the clock.

Carlsbad was unsuccessful on all five point-after tries in the game, going 0-for-4 on two-point tries and missing on an extra point early in the contest.

"We didn't travel eight hours to put it up for a tie and then play extra minutes," Soukup said in defending the two-point conversion try late in the game. "We felt we had the momentum and that's what our team is built on."

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Carlsbad's season comes to an end with a record of 5-6 and having lost each of their last two games. The Cavemen finished 2-3 in District 3-4/6A with wins over Organ Mountain and Las Cruces.

"I'm really grateful for these guys," Soukup said. "It's something that's beautiful about high school football is you get to be around these guys for a short amount of time and they completely change your trajectory."

Farmington, who entered the tournament as the No. 7 seed, improves its overall record on the season to 6-5 and will get ready for a rematch Friday night against No. 3 seed La Cueva at Wilson Stadium in Albuquerque. The 9-1 Bears are coming off a 62-19 throttling over the Scorpions in the regular season finale last weekend, which was the only District 2-5/6A loss suffered by Farmington this season.

"I think one of the main differences we saw today from last week was we didn't make any special teams mistakes," Dalton said. "That really got the ball rolling for La Cueva a week ago, and we revisited some things this week to fix those things. You have to win in all three phases and we can't get behind like we did last week."