ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Happy Thanksgiving, everyone. Prep football fans can stuff themselves silly today and gorge on prep football Friday. As it should be.
Some thoughts on the couple of days ahead …
5A FORECAST: There are a pair of regular-season rematches in (Black) Friday’s quarterfinals – La Cueva-Eldorado and Rio Rancho-Volcano Vista.
The only thing better than a rivalry game is a rivalry game in the playoffs. The first Bears-Eagles game was a study in contrasts. La Cueva dominated the first half, 28-7. Eldorado had a fierce rally in the second half.
The Eagles were inside the La Cueva 10-yard line in the final minute before Eldorado quarterback Zach Gentry was intercepted. La Cueva held on for a 35-27 victory. And remember, Gentry had a run that put the ball at the 1 on that drive, but a holding penalty cost the Eagles dearly.
There remains a question about how healthy La Cueva tailback Michael Rose (hip pointer) will be come Friday afternoon. He rushed for 281 yards in the first matchup. If he doesn’t play, in my mind this is close to a tossup.
If he does play, I would imagine the Eldorado defense will come after Rose very hard. Nothing like trying intentionally to hurt him, mind you, but that doesn’t mean the Eagles won’t try to tackle him where it hurts.
La Cueva can surely advance without Rose, but the Bears’ offense suffers when he’s absent.
I’ll take La Cueva 28-24.
♦ Rio Rancho-Volcano Vista was the most competitive and entertaining regular-season game I saw this year. The Rams won 37-34 with a TD pass to Tristen Foley with 20 seconds remaining. I may be wildly off base, but I like the Rams much more convincingly in Round 2.
The Hawks scored touchdowns on a fake field goal, a flea-flicker and a kickoff return. Volcano Vista had some success with its base offensive packages, but it would be a stretch to think the Hawks could trick things up and fool Rio Rancho again to that degree.
Volcano Vista made believers of a lot of people about the direction of its program, but I’m going with the Rams 41-21.
♦ Sandia-Mayfield is in some ways the game that fascinates me the most. Here’s how things have flip-flopped – the Matadors earned a first-round bye, while the Trojans managed to grind through a first-rounder with Manzano. Ordinarily, it’s the other way around.
Sandia would appear to have all the advantages. The Matadors are rested, got to scout Mayfield intensively last week, have the better defense and are the more confident team.
But – you knew there was one coming – it is a dangerous business indeed to underestimate or write off a Mayfield team in the playoffs. Trojans coach Mike Bradley will surely have a few surprises in store, perhaps in the form of new personnel packages or formations.
Still, let’s call this one 24-16 for the Matadors.
The last quarterfinal, at the Field of Dreams, pits Clovis against Las Cruces. The Bulldawgs and Wildcats are scrimmage partners, and Las Cruces devoured Clovis back in August.
The Bulldawgs are still the better team. What can they do to slow down Clovis tailback Kamal Cass, who not only is the player of the year in New Mexico but is special enough to keep this one close on his own? I think Las Cruces’ size will be an issue. Let’s call this one 33-19 for the Bulldawgs.
I don’t necessarily like going chalk, but I like all four of the top seeds to advance. I’m more confident in Rio Rancho and Las Cruces than I am La Cueva or Sandia, however.
GOING WAY BACK: The dual playoff games at Wilson Stadium on Friday is not without precedent. I can’t say exactly how many times before one venue hosted two postseason games in the same day. I can only vouch for one such occurrence myself. And what a great day that was.
Roswell and Highland met in the 1986 Class 4A state championship game at the Wool Bowl in Roswell. That was in the afternoon, a really dismal, gray Saturday in December. That was the first title game I ever covered for this newspaper.
In the evening, Lovington and Ruidoso – the Warriors were then coached by Cooper Henderson – took the field, a rare neutral-site championship.
POTENTIAL SEMIFINAL SITES: I thought I’d throw out some possibilities for the 5A playoffs. On Rio Rancho’s side of the bracket, if the Rams play Mayfield in the semifinals, the game is here. If it’s Sandia, it’s a coin flip. Volcano Vista has never played Mayfield or Sandia, so it’s a coin flip.
On the other side of the bracket, if Las Cruces and La Cueva meet, they’ll play at Wilson Stadium. If it’s Clovis and La Cueva, the Bears will travel.
If it’s Eldorado and Las Cruces, the game is in Albuquerque since the Eagles played at the Field of Dreams in 2010. If it’s Eldorado and Clovis, the Eagles will hit the road.
FAMILIARITY: When Hope Christian travels to St. Michael’s on Saturday in the 3A quarterfinals, it will represent the fourth meeting between the private schools in the past two seasons.
The Horsemen beat the Huskies 12-7 on the final day of the regular season, but it came with an asterisk. St. Mike’s coach Joey Fernandez benched a few of his starters for a team rule violation.
Hope is the healthiest it has been all season, coach Darrel Kindig said. The Huskies were kind of a mess the first half of the year. There were injuries, true, but it went deeper than that. They looked a bit disoriented, lackadaisical, and surprisingly ineffective.
— This article appeared on page D1 of the Albuquerque Journal