Roswell, Deming, Silver City, Bloomfield, Raton, Socorro and Texico are hosting state football playoff games this weekend around New Mexico. It is the semifinal round in 3A-5A, and championship Friday for Jal and Texico in 2A.
CLASS 5A: No. 3 Piedra Vista (10-1), then undefeated, lost 32-14 at the Wool Bowl on Sept. 30, and the Panthers return to Roswell to face the second-seeded Coyotes (9-2) at 1 p.m. Saturday.
Roswell jumped to a quick 14-point lead in the first game, and Piedra Vista never rebounded.
“I feel like we can have success against them,” Panthers coach Jared Howell said. “I respect their program. We’re not afraid of them … we were more evenly matched than the score (reflected).”
Howell said Piedra Vista must get off the bus a lot better this time.
“We were challenged with some injuries, I don’t know if we overcame them or not. And we didn’t come out playing at the speed we wanted to play at,” he said. “We got punched in the mouth, but I don’t know that it was a butt kicking.”
No. 1 Artesia (9-2) and No. 5 Deming (8-4) meet at 1 p.m. Saturday in Deming.
When these teams played two-plus months ago, the Wildcats never even made it to the second half as Artesia won 57-7. Quarterback Nye Estrada only had 12 completions that day for high-powered Artesia, four for touchdowns.
Deming’s defense has largely been outstanding; the Wildcats yielded 12 points a game against teams not named Artesia.
CLASS 4A: Defending state champion Lovington (5-6) is at No. 1 Silver (10-1) at 1 p.m. Saturday. The No. 2 seed, Bloomfield (10-1), plays host to third-seeded Taos (10-1), also at 1 p.m. Saturday.
The Wildcats, led by senior dual-threat QB Ashton Aranda (a combined 31 TDs), have won five in a row and there isn’t a team anywhere remaining that has been as balanced offensively as Lovington. To wit: the Wildcats have rushed for 1,932 yards, and passed for 1,932 yards. But Aranda and his teammates are up against a defense in Silver that has only given up 48 points in 11 games.
Taos has been away from home all season while its new field is installed, but this road trip will be different than most, as the Tigers run into a powerhouse Bloomfield offense (averaging 45 points) quarterbacked by Ryan Sharpe.
Taos’ Dameon Ely, at 6-foot-8 New Mexico’s tallest starting prep QB, rushed for a pair of scores in a 23-14 quarterfinal win over Albuquerque Academy.
CLASS 3A: No. 2 seed Ruidoso’s first season in Class 3A has been a strong one, as the Warriors (10-1) carry a nine-game winning streak into their road game at No. 6 Raton (9-3) at 1 p.m. Saturday.
This game features a tremendous running back matchup. Raton’s Cayden Walton has rushed for 2,968 yards and 37 touchdowns; Ruidoso’s Kaden Sago has 1,538 yards and 21 scores. Walton needs only 57 yards to break the state’s single-season all-time rushing mark.
That puts the onus on both offensive lines to establish a tone on Saturday. But it’s the Warriors’ senior-oriented defense, which has been superb, giving up fewer than 9 points a game, that is tasked with keeping Walton – who is crucial to Raton on both sides of the ball – under control.
Ruidoso lost in the 4A state final last year to Lovington.
“They remember losing the state game and that motivates these guys more than anything else,” Ruidoso coach Kief Johnson said.
No. 1 Socorro (11-0) is home at 6 p.m. Friday to No. 4 seed St. Michael’s (10-1). If you thought Ruidoso sported a stellar defense, consider that Socorro’s stout unit has only allowed 77 points in 11 games.
The Warriors’ offense is led by senior dual-threat QB Marcus Armijo, who has passed and rushed for a combined 37 touchdowns.
“He’s the one that makes them run,” St. Mike’s coach Joey Fernandez said. “Our biggest thing is to make our reads and tackle. We have to tackle well.”
CLASS 2A: No. 1 seed Jal (12-0) is looking to win its first state title since 1999, but the Panthers are on the road Friday night (7 p.m. kickoff) in the final, playing at district rival and No. 2 seed Texico (9-3). Astonishingly, the Wolverines won’t have a single senior on the field.
“It’s a pretty phenomenal group,” Texico coach Bob Gilbreath said.
These two hooked up for a terrific regular season showdown, with Jal edging Texico 41-35 five weeks ago.
“We wanted another shot at them,” Gilbreath said. “That became our main motivation.”
Run-heavy Jal is led by senior backs Alexavier Carreon and Jacob Lujan. Those two spearheaded an attack that gained 359 yards in the first meeting.