Bobcats capture Class 4A title with win over Silver, Panthers fall short vs. Artesia

Steven Bortstein
Farmington Daily Times

BLOOMFIELD − For the first time in 56 years, the Bloomfield High School football team are state champions, claiming the New Mexico Activities Association's Class 4A title with a dramatic 13-7 win at home Saturday over Silver.

Meantime, the Piedra Vista Panthers came up short in their bid for a Class 5A title, losing to top-ranked Artesia by a final of 27-13 at Hutchison Stadium.

Here's how San Juan County football teams fared in state championship games over the weekend.

Bloomfield 13, Silver 7

The Bloomfield High School football team won their first state championship in more than half a century, outlasting top-ranked Silver by a final score of 13-7 in front of more than 2,500 fans Saturday afternoon at Bobcat Stadium.

Jesse Seitzinger's third quarter touchdown catch from Bloomfield quarterback Ryan Sharpe proved to be the difference as the Bobcats defense came up with two big second-half stops to preserve the win. Bloomfield's victory also avenges an earlier defeat at the hands of the Fighting Colts, who rolled over the Bobcats on Oct. 7 by a final of 45-6.

Bloomfield's Ryan Sharpe is brought down by Silver's Mason Lockett (45) after gaining enough yards for a first down during the first quarter of the Class 4A state title game, Saturday, Nov. 26, 2022 at Bobcat Stadium.

"This is such an enormous win, not only for our fans and our kids, but for this town and this entire area," said Bloomfield head coach Mike Kovacs. We've endured a lot as a team and as a school in these situations and we finally got over the top."

Bloomfield's victory give the Bobcats their first championship since beating Jal in 1966. The Bobcats had lost each of their last five trips to the championship game, most recently in 2018 to Taos and 2019 to Portales.

The Bobcats trailed 7-0 early in the first quarter after Silver took the opening kickoff and scored on a Mason Lockett 11-yard run in the first five minutes of the game. Lockett, who ran for more than 150 yards in the game, was a constant presence on the field, often shedding tacklers at the line of scrimmage and carrying tacklers for multiple big plays.

"(Lockett) was a beast for sure," Kovacs said. "But we came up with a number of big plays when we needed them."

Bloomfield answered back on the opening play of the second quarter, tying the game when Sharpe took a quarterback keeper into the end zone from a yard out. Sharpe, who overcame a rocky start and was sacked several times in the first half, remained confident that the team would find their offensive rhythm.

"We just kept finding ways to make plays, looking for ways to keep them guessing defensively," Sharpe said after the game.

The Bobcats nearly got the lead going into the locker room at halftime. Receiver George Rascon, Jr., appeared to have a step past defensive back Anthony Rico on a deep pass that would have given Bloomfield the ball near the goal line with less than a minute to go before halftime. The pass play was called back for offensive pass interference, negating a Bobcat scoring threat.

Both teams came up with big defensive plays to open the second half, with Silver recovering a Seitzinger fumble deep in their own territory early in the third quarter. The Colts managed to move the ball out of the shadow of their own end zone, but eventually punted the ball away, setting up Bloomfield's game-winning score.

Seitzinger got open over the middle of the field when Sharpe connected with him. The junior running back/outside linebacker shed a couple of tackles and outsprinted defenders to the end zone for a 71-yard score. Bloomfield failed to convert on a two-point conversion but had the lead with less than five minutes to go in the third quarter.

On their ensuing drive, Silver again turned to Lockett, who wreaked havoc on the Bobcats defense, picking up chunks of yards on multiple carries. With the Colts driving to the Bloomfield 30-yard line and facing a fourth down, Seitzinger again made his presence felt, breaking through the Colts offensive line to bring down Lockett behind the line of scrimmage, turning the ball back over to the Bobcats.

"Everything we've asked him to do for us this season, he's been able to do that and more," Kovacs said of Seitzinger. "He never ceases to amaze me when he comes up with a big play for us."

The Colts surrendered a chance to take the lead early in the fourth quarter when quarterback Adan Jacquez's pass was picked off by Eli Meador, allowing Bloomfield's offense to run the ball and drain the clock.

The Colts had one final possession in the game's waning minutes, but the drive came to a halt when an apparent fourth-down pass completion was overturned due to an illegal man downfield penalty. The Bobcats were able to assume the victory formation with one minute remaining as coaches and players began to celebrate on the sidelines.

"It's such an unbelievable thing, and something we've worked so hard for," said Seitzinger. "I'm so proud to be a part of something like this."

The Bobcats finished the season with a record of 12-1, and earned postseason victories over Moriarty and Taos on their way to the state title.

Artesia 27, Piedra Vista 14

Quarterback Nye Estrada threw a pair of touchdown passes as the top-ranked Artesia Bulldogs won their 31st state championship, beating Piedra Vista 27-14 for the Class 5A title on Saturday at Hutchison Stadium.

Estrada threw scoring passes to Julian Rodriguez and Cayden Joy after trailing early in the game. The Bulldogs scored 27 unanswered points to secure the victory and their first state title since 2017.

Piedra Vista's Jacob Schreuder (82) intercepts a pass intended for Artesia wide receiver Cayden Joy (19) in the end zone during the second quarter of 5A State championship game at Hutchison Stadium on Saturday, November 26.

Piedra Vista opened the scoring on their first possession with a 6-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Logan Howell to Paul Brown. The Bulldogs answered back on their first drive when Diego Wesson scored on a running play from three yards out to tie the game.

Before the first quarter came to an end, Estrada threw the first of his two scoring strikes, a 24-yard pass to Rodriguez that gave Artesia a lead they'd never relinquish.

The Bulldogs added to their lead midway through the second quarter with a 19-yard scoring run from Peyton Greathouse to give them a 21-7 lead heading into the locker room at halftime.

Artesia opened the second half on offense and immediately took command of the game, with Estrada's second TD pass, a 34-yard completion to Joy that sealed the deal. Meantime, the Bulldogs were clamping down defensively, limiting the Panthers running game and keeping them out of the end zone for the majority of the contest.

Piedra Vista did get a score early in the fourth quarter when Jacob Ramsted scored on a running play from three yards out, trimming the Bulldogs lead to 27-14. That was the last score of the contest as Artesia was able to run down the clock and secure the win.

Artesia finishes the season with a record of 11-2 and with an eight-game win streak that included playoff wins over Valley and Deming.