Previewing Classes 2A through 5A prep football playoffs - with our predictions - Albuquerque Journal

Previewing Classes 2A through 5A prep football playoffs — with our predictions

Los Lunas’ Devin Gallegos ) runs up the middle for a score against Goddard in September in Los Lunas. The two teams play in a rematch on Saturday in the 5A semifinals. (Roberto E. Rosales/Journal)

Class 6A football has the stage to itself Friday night. Classes 5A-2A fill up the schedule on Saturday afternoon.

A preview of Saturday’s seven playoff games:

CLASS 5A: Farmington (11-0) is at Bulldog Bowl to face No. 4 Artesia (8-3), while No. 2-seeded Los Lunas (11-0) is home to No. 6 Goddard (7-4). Both games kick off at 1 p.m.

Los Lunas beat visiting Goddard 17-14 on Sept. 24, the Tigers’ lowest point output of the season. They won on a late field goal by Kaden Bell. The teams barely combined for 400 yards of total offense.

Goddard is coming off a 14-3 quarterfinal win over Roswell.

“I feel good about the way our defense is playing. That really is the strength of what we do,” Goddard coach Chris White said, adding, “(Los Lunas) is a high-powered offense. Certainly they have the premier quarterback (Paul Cieremans), maybe in any classification.”

The Rockets have only given up 33 total points over their last three games. Los Lunas averages over 40 a game and blanked Belen 31-0 in the quarters.

The Los Lunas defense will see a different Goddard quarterback than it did in September, as starter Adrian Vega recently returned to the lineup for the Rockets.

“He runs hard, he’s shifty,” Tigers coach Greg Henington said. “And he’s a little more accurate throwing the ball. I’m sure they’ll try some more play-action and stuff like that.”

Cieremans has been a terrific dual-threat QB. He’s rushed for 1,049 yards and 15 touchdowns, and he has thrown for 1,232 yards and 18 scores.

And the Los Lunas defense has been every bit as stingy as Goddard’s, as the Tigers have only surrendered 79 points in 11 games.

Farmington, defensively, has been even more statistically dominant than Los Lunas, with the Scorps having yielded a meager 51 points.

“One thing people have not been able to do against Farmington is finish drives,” Artesia coach Jeremy Maupin said. The Bulldogs overcame three turnovers last week in a 35-21 quarterfinal win over Mayfield.

No New Mexico team has put up more than 13 points in a game against Farmington.

“It’s no secret that our defense would carry the torch and that our offense would play a supporting role,” Farmington coach Jeff Dalton said.

But the Scorpions are equally potent on offense, a unit that is run by QB Brandon Furbee, and whose top targets include seniors Patrick Shay and Chance Carrillo.

“I don’t know that I’ve ever had better receivers,” Dalton said.

CLASS 4A: Possibly the most compelling contrast of styles anywhere Saturday can be found in Lovington, where the top-seeded Wildcats (8-3) face No. 4 Moriarty (7-2) at 1 p.m.

Lovington has an outstanding crop of receivers. Adam Aguilera, Isaac Hinson and Tayten Hilliard have combined for 121 catches and 30 touchdowns. Ondalis Cardenas, a freshman, has emerged as Lovington’s top running threat and had 96 yards in a 14-7 first-round win over Silver.

The Fighting Pintos know all about the ground game, as their Wing-T is responsible for 375 running plays, versus just 21 pass attempts in nine games.

“We have to play great defense on first and second down,” Lovington coach Anthony Gonzales said. “That’s gonna be the biggest test for us. We’ve got to get them playing behind the sticks.”

Moriarty will rotate in a handful of running backs, including Cayden Dunn, Kenneth Poyner and Erik Wolf. Poyner had 132 yards rushing in a 20-14 quarterfinal win over Albuuqerque Academy, while Dunn scored two TDs.

“We started a little slow, but our team has bought into the idea of running the ball,” Pintos coach Gabe Romero said.

No. 6 Ruidoso (7-5) is at No. 2 Bloomfield (10-1) at 3 p.m. Saturday in the other 4A semi. The Warriors pounded third-seeded St. Pius 33-8 in the quarterfinals.

Bracxton Hall rushed for 132 yards and a pair of scores in the win over the Sartans, but the Bobcats also are going to have to account for senior Griffin Hooker, who rushed for 121 yards and a TD last week. That duo has combined for over 2,100 rush yards and 22 TDs.

“Our kids, they’ve got the momentum, and really have the hunger,” Ruidoso coach Kief Johnson said. His defense pitched a shutout vs. St. Pius, whose only touchdown was on a kickoff return.

“Tell you what, they’ve got so many great athletes,” Bloomfield coach Mike Kovacs said of Ruidoso. “You have to figure out how to either get through them or around them.”

Junior QB Ryan Sharpe, who had been injured most of the regular season for the Bobcats, did play some against Valencia in the quarterfinals, and Kovacs, without revealing his full hand, said that would probably the case again on Saturday.

CLASS 3A: District 2-3A has three of the four semifinalists. No. 1 Raton (11-0) goes to Santa Fe to face No. 4 St. Michael’s (8-3), and third-seeded Robertson (9-2) is home to No. 2 Socorro (9-1), both at 1 p.m. Saturday.

The first time the Horsemen played the Tigers, Raton won 14-0 on Oct. 30. And the Horsemen defense limited the Tigers to just 164 total yards.

“They were shooting ‘backers, trying to make a mess of everything, which they did a really good job of,” Raton coach Tory Giacomo said. “They put us in a tough situation.”

Junior running back Cayden Walton had 116 of those yards, and both TDs, three weeks ago. He has 1,809 yards and 24 rushing scores this season.

“You get beat by somebody, that sticks in your head,” St. Mike’s coach Joey Fernandez said about Saturday’s second meeting against Raton. “It’s getting them over that hump (in the rematch).”

The other semi, in Las Vegas, pits two game-changing dual-threat QBs in Socorro junior Marcus Armijo and Robertson senior Matthew Gonzales. Both teams’ backfields involves a prominent running back brother of the QB, with freshman Jesse James Gonzales and senior Jordan Armijo.

“They get in open space, and we don’t have anybody to match that,” Robertson coach Leroy Gonzalez said of the Warriors. “That concerns me.”

Socorro coach Damien Ocampo had high praise for the Cardinals: “Robertson is the best team we’ve played so far,” he said. “They’re loaded with great players.”

CLASS 2A: Lea County rivals Jal (10-1) and Eunice (8-3) meet at 1 p.m. Saturday in the championship game as the top-seeded Panthers host the third-seeded Cardinals.

On Oct. 8, the Panthers overcame a two-touchdown deficit and took a wild 40-38 decision over Eunice. Quarterback Jacob Lujan threw for three scores and ran for two others for Jal. His counterpart, Conagher Pierce, accounted for six TDs, four on the ground, for Eunice.

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