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Prep football: University Stadium to play host to 5 games

There are those that believe New Mexico ought to centralize its high school football championship games and bring them to Albuquerque in much the same way the Pit is used for the state basketball tournament.

Next week’s prep football schedule could prove to be a useful trial balloon along those lines.

The New Mexico Activites Association on Saturday night released its schedule for Week 5, the final week of this shortened spring season.

A juicy showdown in Class 6A between powers Cleveland and Las Cruces headlines the weekend, but only partially because of the attractiveness of the matchup.

The game will be played Saturday at 4 p.m. at University Stadium.

And, it’s just one of five games to be played next week at that facility.

And more than that, the five games include one elite matchup from each of the five, 11-man classes.

The Journal interviewed five of the 10 coaches who will be taking part.

“I think it’s exciting for our kids to be playing in a Division I football stadium,” said Mayfield coach Mike Bradley. His Trojans will face Farmington at 6 p.m. Friday in a Class 5A contest. “It does create a different type of excitement.”

Bloomfield and Lovington are the Class 4A game, Thursday at 5 p.m. That will be preceded Thursday at 1 p.m. by 3A powers Socorro and Dexter.

“I think it’s pretty cool,” Socorro coach Damien Ocampo said. “I think it’s cool the kids get a chance to play in a big stadium, on a big stage.”

Eunice and Texico from Class 2A meet at 2 p.m. Friday at University Stadium, ahead of Farmington-Mayfield. Cleveland and Las Cruces, arguably 6A’s two best teams, end the five-game sequence on Saturday.

“We thought we would, during this unique year, give every class a chance to have one game at (UNM),” NMAA executive director Sally Marquez said Saturday night. “We thought it would be a nice gesture.”

During the shutdown, Marquez said she had discussions with the Lobos about possibly having “as many championships as we could” at UNM.

And UNM, in fact, is going to be a new host venue for both the state volleyball finals next week (the Pit), and the state soccer finals the week after that at the Lobos’ complex.

But to have a burst of prep football at University Stadium, with five games over three days, is unique.

“We were pretty surprised,” Farmington coach Jeff Dalton said. “We thought we might end up somewhere in Albuquerque, but not UNM.”

No coaches interviewed said he had advance notice of being paired at UNM.

“For this year, it’s really exciting for what we have right now,” Las Cruces coach Mark Lopez said. Lopez is against a regular centralization of state title games in football. “Because these kids haven’t been able to travel.”

Cleveland coach Heath Ridenour’s team will have the shortest distance to travel.

“It’s something cool to end the season on,” he said. “I’m excited.”

OPTING OUT: Dusty Young, the NMAA’s associate director, said 23 schools opted out of playing a Week 5 football game.

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