Bobcats, Panthers prepare for prep football semifinal matchups

Steven Bortstein
Farmington Daily Times

FARMINGTON − Both the Piedra Vista Panthers and Bloomfield Bobcats need one more victory this weekend to advance to their respective championship games in high school football.

Piedra Vista, playing on the road at Roswell for the second time this season, need a win over the Coyotes to play for the Class 5A title. Meantime, Bloomfield will host Taos for the right to play in the state's Class 4A title game.

Here's a glance at both semifinal matchups happening on Saturday afternoon.

Taos (10-1) at Bloomfield (10-1), Saturday 1 p.m.

The last time Taos faced Bloomfield on the football field, it was for the Class 4A title in 2018 at Taos High School. Taos won that game by a final of 14-7 as the Tigers shut down an explosive Bobcat offense that had averaged nearly 30 points a game that season.

Nearly four years later, and the parallels are pretty similar. Bloomfield enters this weekend's Class 4A semifinal showdown averaging 45 points per game, while Taos comes into the game with one of the most stubborn defenses in the state, surrendering an average of only 10 points per game.

The major difference between 2018 and this weekend is the location, with Bloomfield hosting Taos for the right to face the winner of the other Class 4A semifinal between top-seeded Silver and fourth-seeded Lovington.

This is the 20th meeting on the football field between the two schools, with Bloomfield leading the series 15-4. Bloomfield has won 10 of the 11 games played at Bobcat Stadium. On the flip side, the schools have played in four postseason contests with Taos coming out on top in three of them. 

Bloomfield has won 10 of the 11 games played at Bobcat Stadium.

"It's a big deal to be at home, not just for the players but also for our fans and everyone here," said Bloomfield head coach Mike Kovacs. "We get to sleep in our own beds, we get the comforts of our fans being as loud as they can be, and with all that's on the line, that makes it a really big thing."

Taos' Mateo Salazar scores a touchdown against Moriarty during a game, Friday, Oct. 28, 2022.

Bloomfield's offense will feature a multitude of weapons, particularly in the running game where seniors Andres Gordo and Aaron Johnson will team with junior Jesse Seitzinger for the bulk of the work. Senior quarterback Ryan Sharpe also has some solid weapons in the receiving game, with juniors Drew Perez and George Rascon, Jr. coming off big efforts in last weekend's quarterfinal blowout win at home over Moriarty.

"This was a real good game on all sides of the ball," Kovacs said. "We're hitting our stride on offense and making the plays needed on defense and special teams to give our offense an edge."

Taos has been fairly prolific on offense as well, averaging nearly 40 points per game, but their strength may come from their defense. Seniors Favian Cordova and Diego Alvarez have combined for 96 tackles and 12 sacks this season. Junior Noah Washington has picked off four passes this season to lead the Tigers.

Senior quarterback Dameon Ely, who scored a pair of rushing touchdowns in last weekend's 24-19 quarterfinal win against Albuquerque Academy, is a threat both inside and outside the pocket. He has thrown for more than 10 touchdowns this season and has also scored 10 rushing touchdowns.

Sophomore Mateo Salazar is also a threat out of the backfield, having scored more than six times this season.

Coached by Art Abreu, the Tigers suffered their only loss this year in their season opener on the road at St. Michael's. They have won 10 straight since, including a non-district victory at home over Aztec on Sept. 30. Bloomfield, which competes in District 1-4A with Aztec, blew out the Tigers 47-0 last month.

The Tigers and Bobcats share two other common rivals from this season. Bloomfield edged Albuquerque Academy 17-14 earlier this season, while both Taos and Bloomfield rolled over Grants. The Bobcats hammered the Pirates 56-6 in the third week of the season, while Taos shut out Grants 44-0 in a non-district match last month.

Piedra Vista (10-1) at Roswell (9-2), Saturday 1 p.m.

The only loss on Piedra Vista's schedule this season occurred on Oct. 30 when the Panthers traveled to the Wool Bowl to face Roswell. The Panthers fell behind early and never recovered, falling by a score of 32-14.

Piedra Vista will have a chance to erase that loss, and at the same time play for a chance to compete for the Class 5A state championship when they return to Roswell to face the Coyotes.

"We know we didn't play our best game that day, and we know we can do better," said Logan Howell. "We've got a lot of confidence going into the game."

Roswell’s Bryce Sanchez (22) runs through the Piedra Vista defense during a Sept. 30 game at the Wool Bowl.

That confidence is well-founded after the Panthers rolled to a 42-7 win at home last weekend in their Class 5A quarterfinal victory over Mayfield. Howell threw three touchdown passes in the win, giving Piedra Vista their fourth straight victory.

"We've gotten into a good rhythm with the running game and that's helped us open things up down the field," said Piedra Vista coach Jared Howell.

Roswell, which has outscored their last three opponents by a combined margin of 144-21, will be led offensively by running back Bryce Sanchez, who scored three times in last weekend's playoff win over Gadsden. Quarterback Manny Fuentes threw for three scores in last week's win and has several downfield weapons like Abey Toscano, Sebastian Mendoza and Malachi Mitchell at his disposal.

The Panthers will look to slow down the game with their strong running game, led by Logan Howell, in addition to Jacob Ramsted, Bryce Joshlin and perhaps the return of Zach Mora-Dotson, who is returning from an injury suffered earlier this season.

The winner of this contest will advance to the state championship game and will face either top-seeded Artesia or fifth-seeded Deming.