Tigers hunger for elusive district title

Aztec boys soccer team tired of registering second-place finishes

Matt Hollinshead, mhollinshead@daily-times.com
Aztec's Angelo Lucero scores during Thursday's game against Miyamura at Fred Cook Memorial Stadium in Aztec.
  • Aztec leads the district race and is on the cusp of capturing the championship.
  • The Tigers are 8-7-2 overall, 6-0 in district play.
  • The Tigers can clinch district outright by beating Gallup and Kirtland in their final two district matches.

AZTEC — Aztec’s hunger for a district boys soccer championship has grown insatiable after three frustrating years of the Tigers being in Farmington’s shadow.

Aztec has had the district title in its sights the past few years, but couldn’t quite surpass the Scorpions. The Tigers had to settle for second place in 2015, 2016 and 2017, finding themselves just a few games back of FHS in the final standings each time.

“It was frustrating for everybody. We just never were able to get over that hump,” coach Stephen Parks said.

This year, however, Aztec no longer must deal with the Scorpions in district play. Farmington remains in Class 5A, but the Tigers moved down to 4A. 

Aztec now is primed to capture the district championship, the prize that has eluded the squad for the last three years. The Tigers (8-7-2, 6-0) lead Kirtland Central by one game for first place, and they want to get into the playoffs via automatic bid this time.

“It was so close (to happening before), but it just didn’t happen,” forward Francisco Villegas said. “We really want it bad.”

Aztec is feeling a sense of urgency about accomplishing the task this season, as many of the program's key players will graduate in 2019 and 2020.

“If you can continue that momentum, if you get that district (title) and you can keep that rolling, it just creates an atmosphere that kids want to be a part of,” Parks said. “Absolutely, we want to continue that pattern. You want to get that first one, and then you want to encourage those kids to hang onto it.”

Villegas, a junior, said winning district now will show the younger players how good the program can be and what it takes to win district year after year.

Villegas also said winning consecutive district titles for years to come would put the program on the map.

The reality of being on the doorstep of a district title excites the Tigers, but the team is keeping its guard up at all times on the pitch. Now that the final week of the regular season is approaching, Aztec players understand that their district title hopes could be squashed, just like that.

That’s why every goal off a quick cross pass really matters, why every big defensive stop is so important. Aztec is determined to finally be crowned a district champion.

The Tigers can clinch district outright by beating Gallup and Kirtland in their final two district matches. One more victory and one more Kirtland loss would also give Aztec the district title outright.

“We’re (now) in a position where we can win district, and they’re ready to do that. They want to do that,” Parks said.

Matt Hollinshead covers sports for the Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4577.