If the divisional round of the NFL Playoffs is regarded as the most exciting weekend of football for the guys who earn checks, then the quarterfinals in the upper divisions of the New Mexico prep playoffs amount to roughly the same thing at this level.
A preview of the matchups in Classes 3A-5A:
Friday’s quarterfinals: No. 9 Volcano Vista (6-5) at No. 1 Rio Rancho (9-1), 7 p.m.; No. 5 Mayfield (7-4) at No. 4 Sandia (7-3), 7 p.m., Wilson Stadium; No. 11 Eldorado (5-5) at No. 3 La Cueva (9-1), 2 p.m., Wilson Stadium; No. 7 Clovis (6-5) at No. 2 Las Cruces (8-1), 7 p.m., Field of Dreams. Higher seed on upset alert watch: La Cueva Sizing up the quarterfinals: RR-VV — Look for junior Jordan Lara to continue to get the lion’s share of the carries for the Rams. Strangely enough, both teams feel the need to avenge their performances from four weeks ago when Rio Rancho won 37-34 — the Hawks because they lost in the final minute, the Rams because they felt they allowed Volcano Vista to hang around longer than it should have. Volcano QB Reid Hendricks (2,223 yards, 16 TDs, 15 Int.) didn’t have his best day throwing the ball in a first-round win over Valley, and will need to be sharper tonight. The Hawks have five receivers with at least 20 catches. Rio Rancho QB Easton Bruere (3,036 yards, 20 TDs) has been steady all season, and has a great collection of receivers led by favorite red-zone target Tristen Foley (51 catches, 11 TDs). … MAY-SAN — The Trojans rotate quarterbacks (Andrew Serna, the passer, and Kavika Johnson, the runner), and have an excellent back in Marcus Inglemon. The Matadors, on the whole, defend the run better than the pass, as do most teams. Sandia’s bye week was beneficial as the Matadors got some dinged-up players some extra time to heal. Key for Sandia is finding offensive balance; in that regard, Mayfield will zero in on QB Craig Coffman (1,845 yards, 18 TDs), RB/WR Aaron Smith and WR Brenden Barker (8 TDs). Remember this, too — two years ago, Mayfield entered the playoffs at 6-4 and then ran the table with four victories in the playoffs to win the state title. … ELDO-LA CUEVA — Eldorado must get off to a quicker start this afternoon than it did in the regular season against the Bears. La Cueva tailback Michael Rose (hip) is a game-time decision, coach Ed Lucero said. Cliff Kindred will get the start if Rose (1,015 yards, 11 TDs) sits, and the onus will switch a bit to the Bears’ passing game, led by QB Zach Silva (1,900 yards, 22 TDs) and featuring dangerous receivers Chris Thompson (54 catches, 10 TDs) and Jarrick Sharp. The Eagles’ QB, Zach Gentry (1,392 yards, 14 TDs), went over 400 yards in the first meeting, although most of that was in the second half. He is a dual threat. Eldorado has a fine collection of WRs. … CLOVIS-LAS CRUCES — Wildcats’ junior Kamal Cass has 2,457 rushing yards and 35 touchdowns, and certainly the Bulldawgs’ big, strong front seven are looking to stifle his effectiveness first and foremost. Las Cruces’ top RB, J.J. Granados (22 TDs), doesn’t have Cass’ explosiveness — aside from La Cueva’s Rose and Cleveland’s Romell Jordan, no one really does — but he’s very effective. And Bulldawgs’ QB Jonathan Joy (1,990 yards, 20 TDs) has had a terrific season.
Quarterfinals (today and Saturday): No. 5 Deming (9-2) at No. 4 Belen (8-2), 7 p.m. today; No. 8 Moriarty (8-3) at No. 1 Goddard (9-0), 7 p.m. today; No. 6 Aztec (6-4) at No. 3 Artesia (8-2), 1 p.m. Saturday; No. 7 Piedra Vista (9-2) at No. 2 Los Lunas (10-0), 7 p.m. today. Higher seed on upset alert watch: Artesia Sizing up the quarterfinals: DEM-BEL — The Eagles and Wildcats had a close game (14-7 for Belen) to start the season, and Belen needs to contain the Deming ground game led by Ismail Garrett (1,278 yards). But the Eagles probably run it even better, led by Xavi Armijo (1,132 yards, 18 TDs) and Wyatt Robinson (561 yards, 13 TDs). … MOR-GOD — Rockets’ QB Anthony Ornelas makes that high-powered Rockets’ attack go, but Goddard has multiple weapons. Moriarty must try and be physical and athletic against Goddard’s defense, as it did last week against Farmington in the first round. … AZTEC-ART — Tigers’ QB Adam Lucero (2,700 yards, 30 TDs) and WR Brad Hardin (60 catches, 13 TDs) pace the offense for Aztec. Lucero’s counterpart is Bulldogs’ QB Trevor Eulenbach (2,411 yards, 29 TDs). Artesia has at three receivers with at least eight TD receptions. These two last met in the 2010 finals with the Bulldogs winning 45-34. Aztec is the defending 4A state champion. PV-LL — QB Isaiah Valdez and WR Bryson Martinez are playmakers for the Panthers, and they better be sharp because Los Lunas’ stern defense has surrendered only 52 points all season, and 28 of those came in the season opener against Aztec. QB Chris Wisneski (17 TDs) and RB Jalen Chavez (1,176 yards, 15 TDs) pace the Tigers’ highly efficient offense.
— This article appeared on page D3 of the Albuquerque Journal