By Arnie Leshin
They are down to the nitty gritty on the New Mexico high school football field.
Excluding the conclusion of 6 and 8-team ball, five state classes was the opening number, and last Friday night it became four when 2A wound down with undefeated top-seeded visiting Jal turning back once-beaten 2nd-seeded Texico 41-31, for the Panthers initial state title since 1999, and their ninth overall.
Now it all comes to zero time, trophy hoisting time on Saturday afternoon when the other champions will be determined, and with all scheduled kickoffs set for 1 o’clock starts.
3A: Ruidoso, the 2nd-seed versus 4th-seeded St. Michael’s at Ivan Head Stadium in Santa Fe. Both the Warriors and Horsemen are 11-1, Ruidoso arrives with a 10-game win streak and St. Michael’s has won its last six. Sounds like an even-steven match-up. Both comprise a run and gun offense, both are rapid and quick on defense, and both have size, speed, experience and depth.
All-Star names are plenty, with the Warriors sporting senior quarterback Cooper Pritchett, senior running back Kaden Sago, senior receiver Logan Sandoval, and senior two-way end Dalton Trapp, all of 6-foot-7, 250 pounds. On the Horseman side, there’s senior quarterback Zach Martinez, senior running back Marcus Abeyta, receiver Creed Chavez, talented two-way senior Andy Dang, and senior two-way end Taven Lozanda, who goes 6-3, 220.
Semifinals: Ruidoso 21, Raton 20
St. Michael’s 14, Socorro 7
PICK: Ruidoso 27, St. Michael’s 20
4A: You’ve got No. 1-seeded Silver City at 2nd-seeded Bloomfield. The home side, Bloomfield (11-1) here. has been aggressive on defense before its huge turnouts, while the Fighting Colts (11-1) have been hi ho silver when it comes to their run and gun offense on any surface.
Semifinals: Silver City 24, Lovington 7
Bloomfield 45, Taos 13
Silver would have been better served with the home field advantage, but it will take the final on the
road with a 24-21 triumph PICK.
5A: No. 1-seeded Artesia (12-1) has won more state football championships in the state and is even tougher at home, but now the Bulldogs are going to play on a neutral field, Farmington Hutchinson Stadium hosted by No. 3 seed Piedra Vista (11-2).
Does it matter? Maybe yes, maybe no. True, Artesia has been almost unbeatable at home, but it’s also been also tough on the road, and now Piedra VIsta has to see if it can beat the Bulldogs to yet another championship trophy. The Panthers have been red-hot of late, but for Artesia it’s been a steady impressive season.
Semifinals: Artesia 49, Deming 12
Piedra Vista 13, Roswell 7
How’s about PICK Artesia 19-14?
6A: It’s the clash of the large schools, with No. 1-seeded Rio Rancho Cleveland at 10-2 taking on 2nd-seeded Albuquerque La Cueva (12-1) on the neutral field at Albuquerque Wilson Stadium. That doesn’t make a difference, both have played there before, but while the Storm has played perhaps a tougher schedule, the Bears have been playing well all season.
No storm expected, weather forecast looks good, so it could well be one of those down to the final whistle, and both come well prepared.
Semifinals: Rio Rancho Cleveland 47, Albuquerque Volcano Vista 24
Albuquerque La Cueva 42, Las Cruces Centennial 35
No doubt it could go either way, but let’s stay with Cleveland winning the close ones, this time 28-23 PICK for Cleveland.
. . . My picks should not go into buying a house, and remember, there’s always surprises, so don’t blame me.