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St. Michael’s will head for 3rd-seeded Robertson

By Arnie Leshin 
After the top-ranked New Mexico high school football teams took care of business Friday night to again match up No. 1 Rio Rancho Cleveland versus No. 2 city-rival Rio Rancho High for the 6A championship, the first state title went to Eunuice over Jal in the Saturday afternoon 2A final.
Friday first, the undefeated Storm became 12-0 in returning from 5th-seeded Clovis Las Cruces with a 42-24 romp. The same night, it was the 9-1 Rams surviving a 35-34 triumph over visiting, 3rd-seeded Albuquerque La Cueva.
That set up the defending champion Cleveland at Rio Rancho High Saturday afternoon for the state title as well as a rematch of the 2-point Storm victory earlier in the season when the Rams were hanging in there as No. 1 and missed a game-winning field goal as time ran out.
Then at top-seed Jal, 3rd-seeded Eunice won its 16th state championship, its fourth straight, by outplaying Jal, 28-15, to conclude at 9-3, and wind the Panthers down at 10-2.
The Cardinals, coming off a 45-6 mercy-rule rout of previously undefeated, 2nd-seeded Tularosa, picked up a pair of touchdown passes from Conagher Pierce to sophomore Ashton Thompson, and Micah Tippert added a 15-yard touchdown run on the initial play of the fourth quarter for a 14-point lead.
It also avenged the 40-38 regular season loss to Jal back on Oct. 8. Meanwhile, the Panthers were in quest of a 12th state title and eliminated 4th-seeded Texico, 52-12, in the semis.
Then there were the remainder of the Saturday-after encounters.
In 3A at Christian Brothers Athletic Complex, St. Michael’s took on unbeaten, top-ranked Raton, avenged a 14-0 loss at home to the Tigers, and held on to a solo touchdown and extra point scored in the second quarter to oust the visitors, 7-0, on senior Devin Flores’ 19-yard touchdown pass from junior quarterback Zachery Martinez.
Displaying a stout defense, It put the Horsemen at 9-3 and sent the Tigers home via the 3-hour, ride up I-25 North with their first defeat in 13 outings.
Next, they again match up with arch-rival, 3rd-seeded Robertson playing host Saturday afternoon to St. Michael’s after coming from behind against visiting, 2nd-seeded Socorro, 38-25, to advance to 10-2 while the Warriors finished at 10-2.
Earlier this season, the Cardinals were home and sent the Horsemen
leaving with a resounding 45-6 defeat.
For Robertson on Saturday, it was sophomore receiver Mareo Contreras reeling in two third-quarter TD passes from versatile junior quarterback Matthew Gonzales after the Cards trailed by 12 points at the intermission.
Thus, it became an all-District 2 Final Four that again brings St. MIchael’s to  Robertson in Las Vegas after playing host back-to-back.
In 4A, 6th-seeded Ruidoso shocked the 2nd-seeded Bloomfield supporters by heading home with a 35-22 victory. Bracxton Hall’s short touchdown scamper with two seconds left in the first half put the Warriors ahead 21-14. and they maintained it until the final whistle. One big burst was when Ruidoso scored 28 straight points and the Bobcats never recovered to finish at 10-2.
Next stop for the rejuvenated Warriors will be at their home Wool Bowl versus top-seeded Lovington, 9-2 and blowing away 4th-seeded Moriarty, 54-12, after the Pintos (7-3) had played back-to-back home games.
Home field should be an advantage for underdog Ruidoso, but it must contain Lovington’s Alec Holquin, who ran for a pair of touchdown and caught another in the back of the end zone, and then there’s Tayton Hilliard who rushed for two TDs, plus Issac Hinson blocking both a PAT and a punt as the Wildcats led through out and seeks its 33rd state football title.
In 5A it was where underdog, 4th-seeded Artesia with already a state-high of 35 championships, do what it usually does at the Bulldogs Bowl, and that’s win, this time playing its second-straight tilt there and stunning undefeated, top-seeded Farmington, 57-14.
Now, though, it has to hit the road to 2nd-seeded, unbeaten Los Lunas, which struggled with visiting, pesky 6th-seeded Roswell Goddard before winning 26-21 for its 13th straight success.
As for Farmington, it did strike quickly when quarterback Brandon Furbee went long with a 70-yard touchdown play to Ethan Thomas and the point-after kick was good.
But back came the 9-3 home side behind its quarterback Nate Taylor. He began a six-touchdown passing day with a 53-yard sideline throw to Julian Rodriguez, he followed by finding Kory Watson with a 20-yard pass into the end zone, and the first two PAT boots were good to put Artesia in front, 14-7, after one quarter.
Then the Scorpions again scored quickly, with Furbee tossing an 8-yard pass to Julian Gomez in the corner of the end zone and it was now 14-14 after the PAT. But that was it for Farmington in the scoring column.
Taylor took over with a 22-yard touchdown pass to Kory Watson, followed by a 19-yard sideline pass to Zaden Lopez, who sped into the end zone for a 27-14 lead after one point-after failed.
It became 34-14 when Payton Deans carried the ball 1-yard to score and the PAT was good, and his team actually scored 13 points in just 69 seconds of the second quarter, one coming on a 95-yard touchdown when Phillip Finley picked off a Furbee pass and tallied the rest of the way almost untouched.
Taylor wound down by connecting with Peyton Greathouse for a 19-yard touchdown, and concluded by finding Rodriguez again with a toss of eight yards that brought a 55-14 advantage, and then came the final score when the home sweet home Bulldogs tallied on a 2-point safety, and Farmington lost for the first time in a dozen starts.
At Los Lunas, also a strong side at home, had a tough tussle with Goddard, which surprised city-rival Roswell High, 19-3, in the quarterfinals at the Wool Bowl.
The Rockets (7-5) in fact scored first, when on their initial possession, Jon Silver motored 55 yards to pay dirt and the PAT was good. Not long after, Goddard struck again when quarterback Adrian Vega connected with Elijah Romero on a 35-yard scoring pass. Again, the point-after by David Renteia was good, and the stunned home crowd took a collective deep breath as it was now behind 14-0 after one quarter.
But in the second quarter the Tigers scored twice to force a 14-14 halftime tied, the first coming on Kevin Munoz’ 1-yard tumble into the end zone, Kaden Bell’s PAT kick was good, and next came quarterback Paul Cieremans running the ball nine yards to score, but the 2-point try via the pass was not good.
The third quarter was scoreless, but in the fourth, it was Silva again tugging the ball, this time for 21 yards and the PAT was good. But Los Lunas did the rest of the scoring, with Cietemans runnning four yards to tally, but the pass- try for two points failed, and then he found Fabian Trujillo on a 37-yard pass play and the attempt for two again failed, but the Tigers were still up six points and that’s the way it ended.
Next stop for the winners will be for state championships. Home field for the finale will belong to Robertson in 3A, Ruidoso in 4A, Los Lunas in 5A, and Rio Rancho High in 6A, which should draw the largest turnout.

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