ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — A capsule look at this weekend’s state semifinal games in Class 5A, 4A and 3A:
No. 2 La Cueva (10-1) at No. 6 Mayfield (8-4), 5 p.m. Friday, Field of Dreams: The number for the day is 464. As in, the number of rushing yards the Bears had when they beat the Trojans 45-12 in Las Cruces on Oct. 2. “It’s good to have a second opportunity,” Mayfield coach Michael Bradley said. But, he added, only if his team shores things up on defense and tackles better. Ronnie Daniels and Stan Sedberry had field days in the first meeting, while the Trojans were held to one offensive TD by a swarming La Cueva defense. Physically, the Bears will want to wear the Trojans down again, which makes this as much about pride as anything else for Mayfield. Tailback Brandon Betancourt is expected to play for the Trojans. To what extent, Bradley said he didn’t know.
No. 4 Las Cruces (10-1) at No. 1 Manzano (10-1), 2 p.m. Saturday, Wilson Stadium: This could, and should, be a riveting shootout. It would be a shock if it wasn’t. The Monarchs need to clean things up a bit after some mistakes last week against Carlsbad, and one thing they have working in their favor is their record in games decided by four points or less (4-1). Two very balanced offenses here. QB Jeremy Buurma and tailback Xavier Hall are tremendous playmakers for the Bulldawgs who squeaked past Eldorado last week to earn this semifinal appearance. Las Cruces defends the run pretty well, which puts some pressure on Monarchs’ QB Ryan Trujillo who is as slippery as they come when he takes off. Kevin Reaves had back spasms and was largely a nonfactor against the Cavemen last week, but Manzano coach Aaron Ocampo said he’s feeling better. Las Cruces’ defense must try and disrupt Manzano’s offensive rhythm.
No. 1 Goddard (11-0) at No. 4 Artesia (7-4), 1 p.m. Saturday: Talk about two teams who have no secrets. The defending state champion Rockets are led by outstanding tailback David Anaya, who had five scores last week in the quarterfinals against Valencia, and underrated QB Ryan Greene. The Bulldogs were held to 20 points when they played Goddard five weeks ago in Roswell, a 39-20 win for the Rockets. Artesia was plagued by turnovers, red-zone troubles and Goddard’s superior blocking. Artesia has weapons, led by QB Josh Houghtaling (2,807 yards), running back Andy Lopez (1,512 yards) and receivers Koby Caton and Dakotah Watts.
No. 3 Belen (11-0) at No. 2 Aztec (11-0), 1 p.m. Saturday: The best pure contrast in styles of any game this weekend — Aztec’s highly efficient passing game, led by QB Brycson King — against Belen’s often-dominant ground game led by Steven Contreras and Danny Jaramillo who have combined for over 2,500 yards and 40 TDs. King has thrown for 3,400 yards and 43 touchdowns, including five last week in the quarters against St. Pius. Belen is coming off its best showing of the year, a 54-0 whitewash of Los Lunas, and the Eagles’ defense, as was the case last year, isn’t getting enough run for how sturdy it has been.
No. 4 Robertson (9-2) at No. 1 Lovington (9-2), 1:30 p.m. Saturday: Can the Cardinals manage the clock and dictate tempo in their running game with Nick Archuleta, Dalan Abreu and Daniel Martinez? And what happens if they can’t? The less Robertson’s offense is on the field, the more Lovington quarterback Jacob Jameson is. Jameson had nearly 400 all-purpose yards as he threw for four touchdowns and ran for two others as the defending state champions outlasted St. Michael’s 42-26 in the quarterfinals.
No. 7 Raton (9-3) at No. 2 Abq. Academy (10-0), 1 p.m. Saturday: The Tigers led 14-0 against Academy on Sept. 24, but the Chargers rallied to win 28-21, largely due to the clutch passing of Academy QB Brandon Branch who is also the Chargers’ leading rusher. Raton probably has more balance between run and pass than it did two months ago, although Tigers’ QB Dustin Walton has over 3,400 yards and 42 TDs, so the aerial option remains the primary focus for the Chargers’ defense. Academy is looking for its first berth in a football final since 1977.